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CROSS Safety Report

Architectural panel acting as barrier

Report ID: 927 Published: 6 April 2023 Region: CROSS-UK


Overview

A reporter came across a scenario on site where an architectural decorative panel was acting as a barrier during the construction stage without being designed to act as one. 

Key Learning Outcomes

For the construction team:

  • Joint risk assessment reviews by designers, contractors and others as appropriate can help identify all areas that require fall protection measures during the construction stage
  • Consider appointing a competent temporary works coordinator (TWC) on site who can ensure all temporary works are carefully considered and planned
  • If you come across a situation on site where there is a risk of fall during the temporary construction stage bring it to the attention of the site manager 

For civil and structural design engineers, and architects;

  • If cladding or a decorative panel system acts as a barrier in the temporary or permanent condition it should be clearly highlighted on the design drawings. This will allow for them to be designed for the required barrier loading or for alternative protection measures to be provided. 

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On a recent project a reporter’s firm was commissioned to undertake a structural check on an aluminium lattice decorative panel to be fixed to the window frame behind, covering one part of the glazing. In addition to the normal checks for the frame and fixings, they became aware that the window behind the panel was fully openable during the construction stage (to 90 degrees with a side hinge), creating the possibility of someone falling out of the window, particularly as the level of the window frame being lower than code requires for an effective barrier.

This therefore opened the possibility of the decorative panel acting as a barrier, in the nature of a balcony balustrade. The panel was not sufficient to resist any type of balcony loading. When the issue was raised and explained, there was one comment of 'we hadn't thought of that'. The issue was then dealt with at the design stage. However, the comments raised in the process made the reporter question whether other designers and installers of such panels were regularly checking for cases where such decorative panels may be required to act as barriers, even in temporary states, such as during construction.

There appears to be little in the way of guidance on this issue. As the arrangement was a window with a cill in front it complied with BS 6180 (Barriers in and about buildings - Code of practice) in the permanent case. However, BS 6180 does not apply during construction states the reporter, in which case BS EN 13374 covers edge protection, but the situation is not really a standard edge protection situation, due to the presence of the window and cill. The reporter therefore saw the need to raise this issue and start a discussion, as they are sure this situation would not be unique.

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