The Workplace Report: 10,000 EUR is a lot of money. But if it makes a difference between life and death then this sum seems rather paltry. The fact that today’s high-tech, internet-connected construction machines do not have safe cabs is simply impossible to understand.
Bengt Nilsson, MD and co-owner of Hammerglass AB, succeeds in maintaining a schoolmasterly calm when he talks about the company’s products which can secure and protect all the country’s machine drivers. It is actually incomprehensible that he is not more agitated. How is it that not all machine manufacturers adopted safe cabs as standard a long time ago? Now, of course, Bengt is a party to the action, as they say, but this is what he has to say:
– Yes, so … if I had a son working in the industry, I would never let him drive around at his place of work in a machine in which he was unprotected. And of course, it isn’t just in quarrying or blasting where the risks are high. Reclamation, scrap handling, demolition, rock-breaking ... yes, in many of our machine drivers’ commonest workplaces there’s a fairly high risk of material of some sort being flung against the cab, says Bengt Nilsson.
In the Swedish Work Environment Authority’s Statute Book (AFS2010:1), which applies to rock drilling and blasting and mining, there is clear advice to the effect that unbreakable screens in the cab are the safest way of satisfying the requirements. Grilles, for example, do not provide sufficient protection in the event of duds exploding. Pressure waves alone can force the screen behind the grille into the cab. And stones can enter through the gaps in the grille.
Hammerglass windscreens have undergone the following tests:
It is not long before one sees that Bengt is right. The world’s machine drivers are, in actual fact, working in quite dangerous workplaces protected only behind material which is usually regarded as being ‘as fragile as glass’. And yet the cabs are otherwise often fitted with a rear-view camera, AC and stereo system as standard ... yes, even mug holders are regarded as being more important.
But now, things are not looking quite as bad. One machine manufacturer has recently taken a decision to supply three machine models factory-fitted with Hammerglass unbreakable screens. Several other machine suppliers are seeing a fairly large increase in interest. This may lead to the well-known ketchup effect. After all, what manufacturer will ultimately allow a competitor to stand alone and say that it is the only manufacturer that offers safe cabs fitted as standard.
“What we are in fact talking about is a ‘nanocoated’ polycarbonate sheet which is 300 times stronger than glass.”
– I think, too, that now that the machine manufacturers have invested such enormous sums in getting the engines to reach stage 4, there will probably be a newly-awakened interest in investing in a safe work environment. After all, a safe work environment for machine drivers is something that just cannot be deprioritised any longer. The customers demand it. And Skanska is now demanding it, for example, and many will learn to follow suit, says Bengt Nilsson.
Hammerglass AB, with its headquarters in Förslöv in Scania (province in southern Sweden), appeared on the radar around ten years ago. Development started however as far back as 1993 with Hammerglass’ predecessor, Metallfasader, which worked with the City of Gothenburg insurance company Göta Lejon to reduce the costs of glass damage. Often, what was involved was broken windows in schools. The business was a success, and the lessons learned at that time provided both the energy and ideas which led to new products and solutions.
– I came across this company at the Elmia Property Trade Fair in 2005. I was there with a view to meeting customers on behalf of the advertising agency I was working with at the time. After a few discussions I was able to arrange a meeting with them, because I was deeply impressed and foresaw many opportunities.
The rest is now history. One thing led to another, Bengt Nilsson eventually sold his share in the advertising agency and became part owner of what would later become Hammerglass. When it was time to recruit an external MD, it was Bengt Nilsson who the owners felt was best suited for the post. Up until 2009 Hammerglass focused purely on products for the property sector. But in that year the business area ‘Vehicles’, or ‘Automotive’ as it is now called, was created. The work involved in producing solutions for construction machinery is the most complex and time-consuming. Hammerglass also feels that the process is unnecessarily expensive, having invested no less than 1.5 million EUR over the years on internal development work to propel itself into the construction machinery market.
– What makes it extra difficult is that no manufacturer will share its drawings for the machines. This means that every time we have to take in the machine type in question and scan the shape and design of the cab in 3D before we can design a CAD model which allows us to build the steel frame that the panels will then sit in. There are an awful lot of different models out there, observes Bengt Nilsson, and for the first time he actually begins to look a little tired. Sometimes the going has been heavy. This situation means that it can take up to six months to come up with a solution for a particular machine model for the first time. Consequently, manufacturers ought perhaps to fit unbreakable glass screens in selected models in the factory. Or maybe in all models, actually.
How good, then, are these screens which are adapted to fit construction machinery?
Since this is uncharted territory for machine manufacturers (unlike helicopter manufacturers, for example), Hammerglass has, in collaboration with the Swedish Work Environment Authority and the Swedish Rock Materials Industry (SBMI), developed an appropriate standard – the so-called RABS classification. The whole document is rather technical, but in simple terms the screens should be capable of withstanding 200 kg of dynamite being detonated at a distance of 14 metres, exposure to chemicals and the impact of 227 kg rocks falling from a height of at least five metres. That is to say, they should stand up to the difficult and dangerous situations to which a machine driver risks being exposed. A machine driver working in a noisy environment should also be able to reduce the noise level in the cab by 25% with screens of the highest security class installed.
Is there a downside?
– Some are concerned that the driver’s view is poorer, that there may be scratches caused by the windscreen wipers when the machine is operating in a dusty environment, and that the extra steel frame is not aesthetically pleasing. Some people say it can feel a little bit like being in an armoured car, says Bengt.
And that is true. It may get scratched. But Hammerglass supplies so-called ‘sacrificial screens’ which can be replaced after a certain time at a cost of 250 EUR. But this line of argument sounds rather hollow when it comes to choosing between a safe cab and serious injury.
– Unfortunately, there is still something of the ‘Texas mentality’ prevailing in the industry – a feeling that one should be prepared to put up with some things, as it were, and not be afraid. Minor risks have to be tolerated, so to speak. But this attitude now seems quite out of date, I feel.
“An employer cannot, you see, expose an employee to just any risks.”
But this attitude is in no way reflected in Skanska’s subsidiary Schakt & Transport, where requirements are now imposed to ensure satisfactory personal protection in work where there may be a risk of the machine driver coming into contact with undetonated explosives. And they impose the same requirements on their subcontractors that are recruited for such jobs.
– An employer cannot, you see, expose an employee to just any risks. There must be adequate personal protection to ensure that we satisfy the requirements applicable to this type of work, says Anders Cederwald, Regional Director and MD of Schakt & Transport.
Sweden’s largest supplier of construction machinery, Swecon, observes that there is increasing interest in this aspect. More and more customers are asking for security glass.
– I can talk about what we are doing here in Eskilstuna, and of course we cover the area around Stockholm/Mälaren. We are fitting quite a lot of screens like this now, and it’s probably due to the fact that there are now requirements stipulating that this protection should be present when personnel are working in certain environments. And those at risk from glass splinters during quarrying work would also like to have it, says Ove Eriksson, Equipment Manager at Swecon in Eskilstuna.
Pon Equipment, which sells Caterpillar in Sweden, is also currently observing a marked increase in interest, which according to Kristian Johansson, Product Manager at Pon, has risen sharply since last summer.
– We, too, have now started to see how things are shaping up. We have a supplier who is going to make the frame for us. This policy is now in hand for diggers from 20 ton to 90 ton and for wheel loaders from 12 ton to 55 ton. After all, it is the customer who decides what he wants, and so it is clear that we have to supply it.
Pon has also seen the positive side-effect of security glass.
– It is clear that safety is in the driving seat here, but we are also aware that we can reduce the noise level even further with these solutions, and that is also of interest to those working in an environment that requires this, says Johansson.
“When we exhibit at trade fairs and machine drivers tell us what they have been through, we are sometimes scared out of our wits.”
Hammerglass dominates the market here in Sweden at the moment, but it is clear that they will have competition if the trend grows and becomes more global. Hammerglass has a vision which is based on working globally. And preferably with the machine manufacturers. A safe work environment is a trend that is on the increase, and is presumably necessary if it is going to be possible to recruit machine drivers in the future. There will always be machines, and since 80% of the country’s machinery contractors are now thinking that recruiting machine drivers is the biggest obstacle to expansion, then the value of a machine driver is absolutely crystal clear. The company’s most important resource is not the machines, but the drivers.
– Interest has increased. But when we exhibit at trade fairs and machine drivers come by and tell us what they have been through, we are sometimes scared out of our wits. The risks which machine drivers are exposed to in their day-to-day work would never be accepted in industrial production. There is already law on extra protection where there is a risk of duds and large rocks, but in my opinion security glass ought to be fitted in all machines, says Bengt Nilsson.
Text: Micael Appelgren
Photo: Martin Olson
Published in Maskinentreprenören 17.10.2017
For the newbuilding of police stations, schools, shops and the like, Hammerglass panes are provided in ready-made frame solutions from window and door manufacturers. When it comes to the reinforcement of existing property, the panes are fitted outside or inside the existing window glass – like an invisible grille. The company’s solutions already protect more than 20 police stations in southern Sweden, in addition to the thousands of other properties which since 1994 have been protected with Hammerglass.
Many exposed premises have previously been protected with safety film which is applied to the inside of the glass pane. This film provides protection against objects being thrown and may also protect against explosions to a very limited extent (max class ERP1). But today’s threat looks different. A car bomb with several hundred kilograms of explosive will force in windows within a radius of several blocks. Hammerglass has been tested with explosive charges equivalent to 100 kg TNT detonated at a distance of 14 metres. The weak point then becomes the actual mounting of the frame within the property concerned. With the aid of window frame anchors and strength calculations, however, there are solutions for most façade types. The protection itself consists of a 12 mm Hammerglass pane which only weighs 14.4 kg/m².
A normal Hammerglass pane will withstand gunfire from simpler hand weapons. Where the threat is more serious, Hammerglass is available in a laminated, splinter-free version which also protects against high-velocity weapons (protection class BR6-NS).
Over the last 5 years Hammerglass screens have been fitted in hundreds of ambulances which are in service right across Scandinavia. As a result of a unique co-operation scheme with the defence group Hutchinson we offer to retrofit vehicles...
The vehicles will be used both as emergency vehicles and as private security vehicles for politicians, business leaders, embassy personnel etc. It is also possible to retrofit all or parts of the protective equipment on existing vehicles.
Hammerglass AB has won its biggest order so far from Africa. The exclusive residential area of Hoda Village in Accra, Ghana, has chosen to install 12 mm Hammerglass (heat-reducing) IR-panels in sliding partitions and side windows in a major residential area. The order is worth close on 3 million SEK and will be delivered during the second quarter.
– Together with our agent in Ghana we’ve been working on this project for over a year now, so it feels good to finally make it like this, says Hammerglass Export Manager Ingrid Timmermans. Security issues are high on the agenda in many African countries, and our products have been shown to work really well in the locations where they have been installed. In addition to our glass-clear panels we also offer green- or grey-tinted Hammerglass IR, which reduces solar heat radiation by about 50%, so as well as the customer getting an unbreakable glazing solution there’s also a marked reduction in the cooling requirements of the property in question.
Torbjörn Timmermans is Business Manager for Hammerglass Property, the property installation division of Hammerglass AB, and along with the local agent he has been in dialogue with local property owners, window suppliers and building firms in Ghana.
– It’s been very important for this project to have mutual understanding and close co-operation between the parties involved. As we’re going to make the order to specification here in Förslöv, everything has got to tally exactly – dimensions, mounting technology, transport solutions, customs clearance and local freight handling. As luck would have it, we’re beginning to acquire a bit of experience of ingenious export solutions – if you haven’t got that experience, it’s easy to suddenly find yourself in difficulties when you least expect it. In total, it will be a few tons of Hammerglass that are eventually shipped out, so it will take a little while to get through that with our production facilities.
In recent years, Hammerglass Property has really extended its reach on the export side and already has a number of prestige projects in Kuwait, England, Canada, the USA and Cyprus in the bag. Its investment in Canada and the USA is expected to show strong growth in the next few years, and at the moment a lot of money and effort are being expended on certification and local approvals in those countries.
–Where export solutions are concerned, we have learned to respect time horizons. It is not unusual for us to be working 2 or even 3 years on a project before it actually comes to fruition. We’re aware, though, that Sweden has a very strong brand, and that it inspires confidence when we can combine the appeal of our own brand with the fact that both production and product development all take place in Sweden. We’ve got a 4-man strong Engineering Department, and the fact we can produce ready-to-use, strength calculated solutions that are also drawn in 3D makes things a lot easier. It makes communication a lot simpler, and adds further weight to that sense of trustworthiness that we need to project as a small company operating in a global market, concludes Ingrid Timmermans.
The public transport system in Liverpool is continually affected by vandalism in bus shelters and travel centres. A decision was therefore taken on the use of long-term solutions for both rebuilds and newbuilds. When Kirkby Bus Station was to be rebuilt, the architects contacted Hammerglass AB for assistance with the choice of materials, design and fixing solutions.
The project was budgeted at over 300.000 € and Hammerglass panes were installed by the co-operation partner, the Wilde Group, which operates across large areas of the United Kingdom. The Wilde Group has specialised in shell protection and works largely within the public sector. 12 mm Hammerglass sheets were used for this project. As the architects wanted glass-clear edges, all sides of the panes had to be bevelled and diamond-polished. The panes were manufactured to size in Förslöv and then shipped over to Liverpool for installation.
– For our part, we at Hammerglass hope this will prove to be just the first of a series of projects in Liverpool, says Hammerglass AB Export Manager Ingrid Timmermans. We’ve done a number of jobs both in England, Scotland and Ireland, but this is the first time we’ve been so heavily involved right from the start of the project. Here, we’ve been relied upon for both design solutions, strength calculations and simulation models. Many of the earlier supply contracts have been for unbreakable insulating glass destined for what is referred to in the UK as ‘social housing’, that is to say apartment complexes for society’s most vulnerable groups. Because we’re holders of a ‘Secured by Design’ certificate, which is the system used by UK police forces for approved and recommended safety solutions, we receive a lot of enquiries from areas where our glass and our competence are in demand, continues Ingrid Timmermans.
Ulf Bergström, the Hammerglass Infrastructure Division Manager, participated in the project as an expert and was able to bring to it his experience from similar travel centre projects in Sweden.
– We’ve been able to bring with us lessons we’ve learned from installations we’ve carried out in Växjö, Stockholm, Täby and, most recently, Älmhult, says Ulf Bergström. The fixing solutions are important, because it shouldn’t after all be possible for unbreakable panes simply to be kicked out of their mountings. And it’s just as important to be able to produce precise measurements for bevelled panes and to map out in advance where we might experience problems with fitting the panes into the steel structures. The Kirkby Bus Station project all ran very smoothly, and the customer appears pleased, so we’ll see what the future has to offer us, says Ulf Bergström in conclusion.
Hammerglass is a specially coated polycarbonate sheet – which is 300 times stronger than glass and is almost unbreakable. The unique surface is wear-resistant and makes graffiti removal easy. Thanks to nanotechnology, the panes can also be used as an insulating glass – something which is not otherwise possible with polycarbonate.