New Scaffold System Takes Safety to the Next Level

New, innovative scaffold products aren’t exactly a common occurrence. Scaffolds have been around for centuries and certainly have seen modifications that have broadened their application-scope, made them safer, more efficient, and so on; but as far as scaffold innovations that have really rocked the boat? Not since the system scaffold hit the market and really did revolutionize the industry, has there been a product that deserved serious fanfare.

What has impacted the industry greatly are OSHA’s scaffold regulations that wholly changed the way the industry approached safety on a scaffold and laid the foundation for a safety first culture within it.

But despite the scaffold standards being in place for some time, the industry still tops the shortlist when it comes to OSHA violations, workplace injuries, and death. Additionally, the motorized access industry has gained significant momentum in some sectors as the equipment of choice when possible, as big general contractors, with lots of dollars dropped into marketing zero-incident safety records, become more comfortable spending dollars up- front in order to have what they consider a safer work platform and less possibility for a fall.

There is also buzz in the U.S. industrial market—the bread and butter for so many in the scaffold industry—about 100% tie-off making itself known and prevalent, perhaps even standard in the U.S. As that buzz gets louder, U.S. owners with extraordinary and growing potential liabilities, armed with the knowledge that 100 % tie-off is possible, are apt to start seriously weighing the risks and rewards of above and beyond safety measures—regardless of when the standards catch up.

The Possibility of Fall Prevention

So what if there was a scaffold prod- uct that actually prevented a worker from falling—not fall protection, but fall prevention built into the scaffold?

The Story

Based in Dublin, Ireland, Pyrascaf Safe Solutions Ltd., led by directors Alan Barry and Acquelino Deaton has developed a scaffold system across the pond that may just be the start of something revolutionary for the near and far scaffold industry and its safety reputation.

Combined, Barry and Deaton have 50-plus years of experience in the construction industry—both starting as HVAC engineers. One January morning in 2008 over a cup of coffee, both witnessed a scaffold being assembled badly on a construction site—something they’d both seen too many times before.

“That day I looked at Acquelino and told him I had an idea that would solve that problem, and he told me he had some funds to make it happen, and that morning we decided to do something,” says Barry. “After getting the drawings ready for the prototypes we headed to the patent office and applied—every- thing snowballed from that point.”

Barry and Deaton ended up working on four prototypes for their scaffold system that were tested and retested with a production model ready in early 2010.

Barry says: “It took us nearly two years to get the production model American-ready and that timing happened to unfortunately coincide with the economic slump that’s been lingering for five or so years. So we established a baseline of customers in Ireland first, and have now moved to the UK to do the same.”

By somewhat of a coincidence, Barry and Deaton met Dan Zarletti, president and CEO of Ill.-based risk management/safety consulting firm, Sustainable Safety Solutions, Inc. Zarletti saw major potential for the product in the U.S. market.

“Pyrascaf has joined the strength and durability of T-6 aluminum with a design that incorporates an access ladder as it is being built from the ground and a fully compliant access point, while eliminating the fall exposures associated with scaffold erection—providing confidence and security to the erector,” says Zarletti. “The aluminum design also significantly minimizes the exposures to strains and sprains common while lifting and erecting scaffolding. The Pyrascaf mobile towers will take the construction industry by storm as it becomes more appreciated with every use.”

Today, Barry and Deaton’s scaffold system is about to break through the slowly but surely recovering U.S. market. “Our hope and intention is that by the 2013 SAIA Convention in July the deal will be completed and we will be introducing our new American partners at the show.”

The Product

What Barry and Deaton had developed was a new way to erect a supported scaffold—a mobile working tower specifically, with three elements that work to prevent a fall.

The Pyrascaf mobile working tow- er is built from the ground using  lifting bars that eliminate the need to climb the structure while it’s being built, thus eliminating the opportunity to fall during erection.

A fall arrest system is then attached to a central harness point built into the scaffold and lowered along the ladder as each new section is put in place. Once the scaffold is completely erected, the user harnesses to that centrally located system and is able to climb the scaffold without fear of falling—again, tied off 100%.

Barry says: “The harness point provides a tie-off point for use above and below the deck; below for climbing and above for working. If you use the system the way we designed it, falling off is impossible.”

The third component of the Pyrascaf system is the working platform that utilizes a stainless steel rotating harness point attached to a mast at the scaffold’s center of gravity. The user can move 360 degrees around the platform with- out moving the harness point. If a fall occurs, because the user is connected to the scaffold’s center, the system will not topple over—the difference be- tween a minor and serious/fatal injury.

“On a standard mobile platform a harness point doesn’t exist. I’ve seen workers attaching to the aluminum components of the scaffold—ladder rungs and cross bars—neither of which would be of any benefit should the worst happen,” says Barry.

Additionally, on a standard scaffold workers move around attaching and reattaching their harness on a rectangular platform; the Pyrascaf system has a square deck profile that provide equal strength on all sides.

Safe with Efficiency Still in Mind

Barry says that erecting and dismantling a 15 ft. Pyrascaf system takes 15 minutes total. “We have built a 30’x6’x6’ high deck in less than 30 minutes that gives the user access to 12 ft. services.”

Configurations and Applications

According to Barry the possible configurations for the Pyrascaf system are nearly infinite and exponentially growing as they continue to manufacture scaffolds to suit their customer’s needs.

“If the system we have doesn’t work for the client, we simply modify it until it does. If we put a 6’x6’ deck alongside another joined together by joiner boards now you have an 18’x18’ deck. Anyone that sees this can’t believe it hasn’t been thought of before – it’s so simple.”

The sweet spot market for the system at the moment is the blue chip industry; however, applications for it range from providing access to a guy painting the side of his house to major construction with Barry indicating that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of applications and markets in which the system can be utilized.

“The scaffold is built to suit; it’s a usable tool because it’s adaptable to any construction environment including the industrial markets—gas and oil, nuclear—it’s applicable to them all,” says Barry. “If the U.S. industrial markets makes 100% tie-off standard, this is the product they’re going to need.”

Barry and Deaton intend on rolling out their mini scaf- fold—suited for low level, interior access jobs—at the 2013 SAIA Convention. Barry says, “These scaffolds go straight through a door; and once inside can be adjoined together to create a long ‘train’ platform at one access level that can be used to do low level maintenance.”

Crossing the Pond

With established customer bases already in Ireland and the United Kingdom, the Pyrascaf system is on its way to the U.S. with the actual manufacturing set to take place stateside ver- sus in order to keep costs down and delivery efficient.

There are so many options for us in the U.S. market. We’re going to bring it over and let our American partners run with it,” says Barry.

Several U.S. data firms are already onboard with the pos- sibilities the new system offers as an alternative/solution to tasks MEWPs aren’t suited for – now with the same safety ability of an MEWP.

Winston Dennis Brown, project manager with Daifuku America, says that after working with the Pyrscaf scaffolds on a new prefabrication install in Ireland, his team was so impressed with the system, they wanted to see them in U.S.

“The guys requested them for a stateside prefab job and they weren’t here,” says Brown. “So I met with Barry and Deaton and we started working on getting them here. The 100% tie-off is huge; but their mobility, low weight, and quick setup are major advantages and are a cheaper access solution to a MEWP that can’t be used in all applications.”

While U.S. users may be concerned about the costs as- sociated with the product, Barry says that it’s more economi- cal considering the time saved in erection and performing the work without having to reattach repeatedly to a harness point. The system also doesn’t have diagonals and horizon- tals, often lost on a jobsite that cost the contractor at the end of a project. “The components cannot be removed from the system, so we don’t lose poles; and that means no cost on the back-end,” explains Barry.

Thinking Ahead

“The industry has to get beyond the old perception of a scaffold’s potential,” contemplates Barry. “We have developed a 100% tie-off solution, that is faster to erect, and doesn’t have to be disassembled to move around the project. It may cost more upfront, but the companies we deal with have made safety a priority and are willing to pay the 10% to 15% more to ensure their employees safety.”

Barry says that he anticipates the reaction by the industry to the Pyrascaf system to be mixed. “We’re about to bring something into the market that is really going to shake things up,” contemplates Barry. “This scaffold is going to save lives and I believe dictate the direction the scaffold industry heads in terms of safety innovations.”

Patents are pending on the three new innovations, and as far as their American partners go, once the final business agree- ments are done the system will be unveiled to the U.S. market.