If you work in the scaffolding industry, you’ll be very familiar with the gin wheel.
It’s a simple pulley device that connects to a scaffold and uses a long rope to lift or lower equipment and materials. Most scaffolds require a method of raising materials to the upper reaches of a structure or lowering them back down to ground again. Gin wheels are without doubt the method of choice for this use, mostly thanks to their cost-effectiveness, ease of use and perhaps a ‘we’ve always done it this way’ attitude.
And let’s be clear, when the right safety processes are in place and the device is used correctly it’s an effective hoisting device. But don’t let its simplicity deceive you… gin wheels must be handled with the utmost care and when they’re not, things can go wrong very quickly.
Gin wheel safety – what are the risks when using a gin wheel?
If you are lifting or lowering equipment via a gin wheel there are many ways accidents can happen. Some of the risks include:
- A hoisting rope without a proper safety hook or knot at the end
- A worn hoisting rope that is no longer fit for purpose
- A load that exceeds the gin wheel’s weight capacity
- A lack of worker training
- An unsecured load
- An improperly lashed item
- Improper use of the gin wheel
- Poorly fitted or maintained gin wheel
- Lack of planning
- No exclusion zones
- Lifting items that are unsuitable for lifting
Yet many of these risks are commonly overlooked. Workers and members of the public are being injured because of this. There must be a safer way to lift and lower materials.
Endangering workers and the public
In November 2017, three tradespersons were working on a roof refurbishment project in London. The team was tasked with dismantling a decommissioned air conditioning plant and lowering it from the roof in high winds. Unfortunately, as a section of the plant was being lowered, it became detached from the rope and hook. It fell to the ground and struck one of the workers on the pavement below.
There were many cited failings in this operation by the courts. Only a basic manual gin wheel was used for this complex operation; nobody was assigned to supervise the activity; and none of the workers had any formal training on carrying out lifting operations or slinging loads. The result was a fractured left femur for the worker, and fines amounting to £364,000 for the companies involved.
Furthermore, in July 2018, a mother was pushing her daughter in a buggy in Brighton. As they passed a scaffold structure erected on the pavement, a length of timber being lifted by a gin wheel fell ten metres onto the 3-year-old girl in the buggy, who suffered life changing injuries as a result of this devastating accident.
The consequences for the builder in control of the work were severe, including large fines and a prison sentence. The consequences for the 3-year-old girl and her family were of course far greater.
There is another option - the BIGBEN Braked Pulley
TRAD Scaffolding was one of many scaffolding and construction contractors becoming increasingly concerned by the safety of gin wheels and alternative pulleys. Its team approached Leach’s for a solution to this problem. As a business that prioritises safety, they were determined to find a better way to lift and lower equipment that improved worker and public safety. That’s how the BIGBEN® Braked Pulley was born.
The revolutionary and award-winning BIGBEN Braked Pulley ensures the safe raising and lowering of goods on scaffolds and construction sites. Loads are lowered automatically at a controlled speed to ensure ultimate safety, even if human error occurs and users accidently let go of the rope. Since its recent launch, the device has improved safety standards on construction sites around the world for workers and the public and also reduced the risk for management from potential injury claims. It’s a win-win, but of course it’s more expensive in initial outlay, typically £665 for a single unit.
Safety is the priority
Improving the safety of workers and public isn’t just about specifying different products, but also improving the culture and training around height safety. Protecting those at risk must be the first consideration when planning a project. Ask yourself, “How can we do everything we can to keep everyone as safe as possible?”.
As an industry, we can make safer products and businesses can ensure they are specified for a project, but the planning, implementation, use and maintenance of these systems must be prioritised in order to prevent any more accidents and injuries.