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
Hammerglass Automotive continues its journey in the European construction world and the next stop on the road towards safer driving environments and better operating economy is Germany.
Swedish glassmaker Hammerglass is now continuing its expansion and has during the early autumn established itself with subsidiaries in Germany. Hammerglass Automotive, which is the market leader in the construction machinery segment, already exists with its own companies in Sweden, Norway and Denmark and included within the expansion plans are additional countries in Europe and the rest of the world.
Responsible for the business development in Germany will be Oliver Afsah, who left his position at the company Thyssenkrupp in early September to land at Hammerglass GmbH's Nuremberg office. Already today, Hammerglass is established in Germany as a product, but without its own sales organization. Although Hammerglass glass systems are available for most brands and models, there are still gaps in the range.
– Hammerglass' goal is to be available to all machine manufacturers shortly - either as an option when the customer buys a new machine, or in the aftermarket when a screen is broken or if you need to secure the machine for tougher workouts, says Oliver about the investment in Germany.
Oliver will be responsible for the German operations and is currently in an intensive phase of product training and marketing planning. Oliver will put a lot of energy into building relationships with Hammerglass partners and as a German speaker, communication will be easier.
– It will be a great advantage that I am both where the customer is geographically and also has the language as a mother tongue, says Oliver.
What are your biggest challenges with Hammerglass Automotive in Germany?
– To make the market aware that there are no alternatives to Hammerglass, Oliver concludes with a smile.
Around Europe, a lot is happening on the driver's safety front. Earlier this spring, the Norwegian State Roads Agency introduced new tough rules for the protection standard that applies to the construction machinery used on their construction sites. More countries are expected to follow in the same tracks as risks in the machinists' work environment are at the center. The protection standard used in Norway and Sweden is called Protection Class 3 - RABS and is a collection standard consisting of several different European sub-standards and standards. Nothing new then, just a new combination requirement. Hammerglass is one of the few companies that meets the tough requirements and that welcomes more standards in the field.
Bengt Nilsson, CEO of Hammerglass AB comments on the RABS requirements:
– It is good for the industry if there are clear requirements and standards that regulate what is the right protection. This makes it easier for contracting companies to create a safe working environment”, says Bengt Nilsson.
In addition to Safety Class 3 - RABS being a protection for the individual machine driver, Hammerglass protection solutions also offer several financial advantages for construction machine owners. With Hammerglass in the cab, downtime in production is limited or avoided as window replacements are made less frequently. Machines that do not run in high-risk environments also benefit from the Hammerglass system, especially with an add-on Sacrificial Screen. When the sacrificial screen is worn by gravel wear and propelling stone chips, it is replaced without having to make more in-depth window replacements in the cab. The savings with replacing a sacrificial screen many times greater than replacing an ordinary windscreen.
Hammerglass AB has landed the company’s biggest order in years with a request for bullet-proof and explosion-proof windows and doors worth 1.8 million EUR. The order was received by Hammerglass Property and confirms the company’s leading position within the area of security glass.
– Unfortunately, the very strict secrecy requirements mean that we cannot disclose the identity of either the customer or the risk object, but I can confirm that installation will be carried out during Q3 and Q4 this year, and that it involves upgrading a property in Sweden, says the Head of Hammerglass Property, Torbjörn Timmermans.
– We have for a long time offered ballistic-resistant solutions which, thanks to the characteristics of Hammerglass, are much thinner and lighter than traditional bullet-proof panels. Because we are also able to manufacture bullet-proof insulating glass, a lower weight and thinner glass package are of extra significance.- Besides supplying complete window and door systems, we can also handle everything from fixing solutions to turnkey installation. In consultation with the customer we establish the relevant threat level, make a thorough risk assessment of the risk object (Security Assessment) and finally present the customer with a solution.
– There are still many that believe it is enough just to have a protective film on the inside of the pane in order to withstand terror attacks. Unfortunately, both experience and testing demonstrate that not even films of the right protection class can help to any significant extent. What is more, in 9 out of 10 cases it is not possible to attach the film to the window frame in the correct way, which means that the entire glass package is forced into the room in a violent attack. We live in a world where the risk of terrorist attacks is constantly on the rise, and more and more understand the importance of having the right type of protection in case anything should happen.
Bengt Nilsson, MD of Hammerglass AB in Förslöv, now sees that further investment is needed in both production equipment and personnel in order to cope with the increased demand.
– We increased our turnover by 80% from 2016 to 2017 and by the end of February this year we had already reached our projected turnover for 2018, says Bengt Nilsson. This is of course extremely gratifying, but we’ve been laying the groundwork for this over many years and that is what has made our current market presence and volume increase possible. Exports account for around 40% of the turnover, and even though our business in Sweden is growing, we can still see that the primary potential for increases in sales of our products lies in exports. And we are not just active in the Property division, but also in Infrastructure and Automotive. These, too, are showing excellent growth, which means that the question of taking on new staff will arise during the year, says Bengt Nilsson in conclusion.