Australia, WAHA

The Kerrect way to work at heights

If you don’t work in the construction industry and you hear that a building is going to be wrapped, you might picture a building with a pretty bow or the French artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude who have been responsible for wrapping some of the world’s most iconic buildings. Kerrect, however, has brought wrapping buildings into the mainstream to help protect those working at heights.

Established over 20 years ago, the team at Kerrect has always had a passion for height safety, striving to deliver forward-thinking products.

Beginning in the rope access industry, the company has gone from strength to strength – always looking to the future when developing and introducing new products.

For Craig Rowland the company has been his passion and he has been proud to improve safety on sites throughout Australia.

“In the early 2000s we introduced safety netting systems to the Australian market, and it has become a much-used practice to secure against falls and dropped objects,” Rowland said.

“Our background in heights and rope access, coupled with our product range, gives us the capability to provide solutions to any height-related problem. The combination of services we provide were not something that really existed in Australia back in 2000, and there were many unaddressed risks associated with work at height.”

Whilst the awareness of working safely at heights has grown hugely in the construction sector, incidents and falls occur all too frequently and these continue to involve workers or their tools.

Kerrect safety nets comprise one or two layers; the first designed to catch persons falling from height and the second, much finer, layer designed is to catch tools and smaller objects or materials that might be dropped or become dislodged from a building.

This approach not only provides an extra level of safety for the workers at height, but also provides overhead protection to those below, allowing activities in those areas to progress safely and unhindered.

Rowland explains how the netting was introduced and what role it plays on work sites for those at height.

“We introduced it for overhead protection – initially – because the construction techniques already had a built-in degree of safety, particularly around roofing,” he said.

“By introducing safety netting, it means that we can not only carry out work safely at height, but we can make the surrounding environment safe for people carrying out work, as the two-layer netting system also makes it safe for people in the area below where the work is being carried out,” Rowland said

At the beginning of the new millennium, the team at Kerrect stopped and considered where the future of height safety was going and saw the benefit of netting.

“But what we saw for the future was different. The types of roof construction that were being introduced into the market meant that permanent safety mesh wouldn’t feature in that construction methodology because it is viewed as aesthetically ugly,” Rowland said.

“It took a while for the construction sector to become comfortable with alternative systems and it took even longer before they were recognised within any of the codes of practice as a practical method of fall protection.

“Today, our safety netting solutions are used on many work sites and recently we installed what is probably the largest system in the southern hemisphere, close to 50,000 square metres,” he said.

“The flexibility and adaptability of our safety netting systems are unlimited by size, shape or configuration, and can be used to capture or contain in any scenario. The only true limit is imagination. We soon realised that overhead protection doesn’t just have to be horizontal to catch things as they fall, but logically could be vertical, or really any shape, to encapsulate and contain before the fall takes place…. in other words prevention, rather than cure.

This led us to start ‘wrapping’ buildings and structures with engineered containment netting systems.” 

The wrapping of buildings has become an important addition to Kerrect’s height safety offering, providing numerous solutions.

The wrapping, or containment netting, is similar to the safety netting but is a finer mesh, which will contain objects or even parts of the building itself, to prevent them causing damage or injury by falling from heights.

The wrapping of buildings is not simply for new construction but older buildings in decay can also benefit from it.

“When you conduct building inspections on older buildings, as we do, it can be alarming to see the degree at which they are falling apart. Often elements are loose and at risk of dropping off, if they haven’t already dropped. Whether it’s tiles, concrete, steel sheets, steel beams, nuts, bolts, you name it, anything on an old building will deteriorate over time and has the potential to fall off, and this is where the wrapping comes in,” said Rowland.

“In many cases, we found that the building owners didn’t have a budget to solve a problem in the initial instance. 

“They also didn’t have a plan to solve those problems either, they were really just arranging inspections every 12 months, or as often as their budget allowed, and removing any loose items in the process. What happened in between these inspections was basically left to the gods. 

“So, we suggested we could wrap the building with nets, just to contain it. We would do it with a particular mesh size so that it’s not too visible, but to secure the building until the owner knew what they wanted to do with it,” he said.

Rowland recalled one of Kerrect’s first projects when it wrapped a former power station in Sydney.

“That was a hell of a challenge in itself, right from the get go,” Rowland chuckled.

“We wrapped the whole thing up with an engineered system and it gave it five years of extra time whilst the owners decided what to do next. That’s sort of typical of any of these situations, essentially it buys time for the client so that they can decide what to do next,” he said.

Whilst the awareness of working safely at heights has grown hugely in the construction sector, incidents and falls continue to occur.

“Once they know what they want to do, they can work sequentially. We can take sections off, and then they get in and work on that section or they can tackle the whole building at once, depending on their risk management process,” Rowland said.

The team at Kerrect are firm believers in high quality training to deliver the best service to those in the construction industry.

“All the crew are individually trained, they undergo formal training to get their installer certificates, and then new crew always works alongside existing crew to gain experience, so we maintain a strictly controlled training regime throughout the process,” Rowland said.

“They’re not only trained to install, but also to think outside the box and understand what they’re installing and why they’re installing, as it is so that often you get to site and conditions have changed,” Rowland said.

Kerrect’s bespoke height safety, rope access and safety netting services have become a pivotal aspect for the company to ensure those working at height are doing so safely.

“With height access work, the first question to arise is how to get up there safely to do the job. That’s where we install access systems such as anchor points, safety lines, and rail systems,” Rowland said.

As manufacturing companies developed lighter and stronger access and height safety products, Kerrect began installing these high-quality products.

“We also set about consulting with our clients, including architects in the conceptual phase, about the original design of buildings and devising access solutions that they can incorporate into the design of the building. Combine this with retrofitting systems onto existing buildings and ongoing certification of anything that’s been installed, and you’ve covered all the bases,” Rowland said.

Rowland and the team at Kerrect see the role they can play in the industry as one that is two fold.

“It’s not just from the point of view of height safety, it’s the access it provides as well. It opens up more opportunities for buildings to be maintained as opposed to being torn down when issues begin to arise,” he said.

“By doing that it ultimately creates more opportunities for architects to get crazier with the designs of their buildings, and everyone loves to see this.”

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