Welcome to Glass and Window blog. This blog has had weekly entries since April 2010, making it one of the largest, longest, and most verbose blogs ever, with specialist focus on the glass and window industries.

The Glass Racking Company, a specialist supplier of glass and window factory handling and transportation solutions, with customers across the globe. Over time we have enjoyed working with clients to create solutions for them which save time, reduce rework and hence costs, and address health and safety requirements.


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Glass and window safety training

Safety – Training

As my old boating friend used to say "Fishing is like life. You don't have enough time to learn all the mistakes yourself, so you may as well learn from others". Most safety training stems from showing workers a way to use equipment which will avoid an injury or potential safety situation which was experienced by someone else.

Why is it that all large items of factory handling equipment (like DGU lines, edging equipment, and toughening plants) come with full instructions and training and have a focus on worker safety, yet other factory handling equipment does not?

A press release following a death in the glass industry stated "The Labour Department says this was an horrific (accident) but entirely avoidable had proper steps been taken to manage heavy loads." I assume that "proper steps" would include training by the provider of the equipment being used.

Another one read "The man who died had only been working for the company for two weeks and had received no formal training, instruction on how to unload the glass, nor any supervision while he was unloading." If this is a fair representation of what happened then it's simply not good enough!

From my experience, there are more injuries created while loading, moving and unloading trolleys and other basic items of factory handling equipment than the more complex or expensive factory equipment as this is a time when staff are actually touching the glass products. Anecdotally I'd suggest that many of these injuries could be avoided by using a better choice of trolley (see previous weeks Blogs) or by better staff safety training. 

At the Glass Racking Company we've taken responsibility, and done something about it. We've loaded a series of videos into the "On-line training" section of our website. You can view them HERE, and they are ideal for showing at staff meetings and training sessions. This section will grow over time as we load more videos, so please let us know if there's anything you'd specifically like to see in this section.

We also supply written user guides for all our major products including vehicles and factory handling equipment. If you use our equipment and would like copies of any of these documents please email me HERE.

Let's all take part in ridding our industry of unnecessary injuries. Life's too short to make all the mistakes ourselves.

Christmas is now only a few days away so I wish you, your family, your colleagues and friends all a very merry Christmas. I'll be celebrating Christmas with my inlaws, then holidaying locally and briefly away from home with my family and some friends. We'll be watersking, tramping, hunting, diving, and fishing.

Glass and window transportation safety part 2

Safety – Transportation Part 2

Further to last weeks blog, this weeks topic is safety issues relating to loading and securing glass to a vehicle. 

Loading
The process of placing the glass item onto the rack on the vehicle has inherent safety challenges. Several things are to be considered here from a safety perspective. Firstly the position where the glass is being placed needs to be clear, clean, and agreed by those involved. If the staff carrying the unit are not clear and where and how it will be placed there is greater opportunity for fatigue and injury.

The placing typically involves the unit being lowered which involves some lowering or bending action by the staff.  Bending knees if good, bending backs is not. Staff very rarely get injured or fatigued when they load vehicles with their backs, shoulders and arms kept straight. 

Securing
My book will have a chapter on this topic! The key elements of any securing system need to have the following characteristics from a safety perspective :

1. The system needs to be easy to use
2. The system needs to have training provided (see next weeks blog)
3. The system should be the same for all vehicles in the companies fleet, whether they are large or small
4. The system should secure the glass perpendicular to the direction of travel so that the units are safely held in place and not allowed to "settle" into position. Pole systems do this. Straps and ropes don't.
5. The system should hold the outer layer of glass items at multiple points.
6. The system should be strong enough to support the glass load in a collision. There should be a safety system to protect the vehicle and other road users if the primary retention system frails in a collision. 
7. The system should be self contained and not have protruding parts which could create safety challenges in the factory or on the road. I recently viewed a van rack with unprotected aluminium extrusions protruding past the ends of the rack, which I consider to be dangerous and should be illegal.

Some other considerations for transportation safety :

1. Buy quality vehicles from specialist providers (just as you do for your double glaze lines). Choose partners which create and innovate rather than those who copy as their product, service, and ongoing support will typically be better.
2. Maintain and update your vehicles
3. Choose the right vehicle for each job
4. Understand the vehicles abilities, and don't overload it or use it for something other than what it was designed for
5. Don't be afraid to scrap an old vehicle and start again
6. Train your staff
7. Retrain your staff
8. Treat glass transportation as an opportunity to create a competitive advantage to you as an employer and to you as a supplier

Glass and window transportation safety

Safety – Transportation

As my old boating friend used to say "Most boating accidents happen on the boat ramp, not at sea". The same is true for glass. The process of loading and unloading provides more safety challenges than the actual transportation itself.

This section is particularly relevant to me. I have a damaged vertebrae in my back caused by a completely avoidable boating accident, which impacts on my ability to do physical work in my job. Sadly this will be the case for the rest of my life, and this is all too common amongst my friends and family, and those in the glass and window industries.

So what are the safety challenges when loading vehicles? For the purposes of this article I have assumed that the vehicle being loaded is a traditional flat glass transporter (such as a van, pickup, or truck) rather than a transport trolley style vehicle which crates of glass are loaded onto.

In this blog I've covered lifting. Next week I'll cover loading and securing with some other stuff at the end that didn't fit into any of the other sections. Finally the week after I'll cover training, and that will end this epic on safety.

Lifting.
The three most common options for lifting glass units re sucker banks, manual grips (such as the Carrymate), or hands. The Glass Racking Company supplies a freestanding crane system with capacity from 500kg to 1000kg of lift. These crane systems operate underneath the main gantry crane and are positioned around the factory at places like truck loading. They provide a simple and low effort means of lifting, moving, and placing units and are ideally suited to vehicle loading. Provided a quality sucker system with warning system is used, most of the safety issues relating to vehicle loading are addressed. See HERE for a video of such a system. 

Manual grips are a mechanical tool which grips onto the unit and provides a simple handle for the user to lift with. When used properly they allow the operator to keep their back, shoulders and arms straight and in a position less likely to fatigue and injure. Training is the key here, more on that in a later  blog. See HERE for a video of our CarryMate product.

Both the sucker banks and manual grips lifting options can be impacted by water or other liquids or contaminants on the units.

Lastly is the most common form of lifting for vans, pickups and sometimes for trucks. This is one or more men picking up glass units, moving them, and loading them onto the vehicle. This is fraught with error, and is the reason so many staff in the glass and window industries suffer from fatigue and injury later in life. Safety for lifting needs to be viewed from both a short term (avoiding an injury on this particular lift) and equally importantly long term (how repeated lifting with affect that operator during their career and life). Health and safety policies, providing the right tools, and making sure staff use them is key. 

Lifting needs to be done with the legs bent, and the back, shoulders and arms all straight. Furthermore there are limits that we should all work to, and we should ask for help when we need it – something that many males are poor at!

We recently supplied a set of CarryMate lifters to a window fabricator. On a return visit to the site some weeks later the owner told me that the units had failed as the staff refused to use them. Later in the meeting we toured the factory and found an older staff member using the Carrymate lifter. When he saw us he tried to avoid us – he was embarrassed to be seen "needing" a mechanical device to help him lift and carry units. That's a culture that needs to change!

Glass and window safety - trolleys

Safety – Trolleys part 2

Following on from last weeks blog about trolleys and carts wearing out, this week I look at securing of glass onto trolleys and carts. Also following on the theme of my old boating friend, another of his quotes is "You can lead a fisherman to water, but you can't make him catch fish".

Glass falling off a moving trolley is clearly a health and safety issue and there are plenty of industry examples of operators being injured from this type of accident. Retention systems for trolleys fall into several groups :

1. No retention system. The glass leans against an A-frame or L-frame structure and the weight of the glass plus the lean of the frame provide the only security for the glass. This is very common and also the most dangerous.
2. Gladwrap. Stretchy plastic film is used to wrap the glass load while it's transported around the factory. The film takes time to wrap and unwrap but it does do the job. In these green times the wastage can be an issue. In some countries this product is only legally allowed up to a maximum weight of glass when used for transportation.
3. Poles. Some systems use glass retaining poles such as those used for transportation. These are typically engineered for transportation and hence a little overengineered for factory movement, but they do the job, albeit at a cost.
4. Safety Arms. These are simple low cost arms which retain the glass onto the trolley or cart. They are simple to load and unload and have no moving parts to wear. They stop the load from starting to fall. Tests we've done with loaded carts where the load is retained with The Glass Racking Company safety arms have shown that they retain the glass load very effectively. See videos of this product HERE.
In most cases retention systems implemented into factories are a new initiative for a company which has traditionally used point one above, no retention system. As with all change there will be resistance from staff. Policy and procedure which can be effectively managed is key. For this reason when The Glass Racking Company supplies our safety arms they are provided with a user guide for management to use in teaching the operators how to use the arms, and also to document the new process and procedure. To aid with adherence we colour the safety arms orange so that they can easily be seen retaining the glass loads, or not as the case may be. Its then up to management to make sure that the new process and procedure is used. 

"You can lead a fisherman to water but you can't make him catch fish", but you can provide him with all the right equipment and show him how!

Glass and window safety - trolleys part 1

Safety – Trolleys

Thanks for some of the supportive feedback on last weeks blog which suggested that safety isn't a dry topic, and that thoughts and ideas on how to create safer work environments are always worth a read.

This week the target is trolleys (or carts as they are sometimes called). This section follows last weeks blog on unloading glass, so we are working our way through the factory. I've divided this section into "Poor designs" and "Wear".

Poor designs

Safety issues can arise from poor designs of trolleys. Some examples I've seen are :  

1. Poor choice of castors. For the castor to allow the operator to roll the loaded trolley across a factory floor the castor needs to be of the correct diameter and design. Also see the section below on wear.
2. Poor mounting of castors. Many castors require a castor plat to be fixed to the trolley which the castor bolts too. If the castor plate is poorly mounted then this becomes and weakest link and can fail under load, creating a tipping safety hazard.
3. Wrong use of fixed castors, turning castors, turning braked castors, and foot brakes.
4. No provision for securing the load when being moved. See details on The Glass Racking Company safety arms HERE.
5. Using the wrong sized trolley for the job. The most common error here is having glass items sticking out the ends of the trolley which staff can walk into.
6. Using the wrong trolley for the job. Harp trolleys for example are designed for either single glaze or double glaze. For this reason all factories need surplus trolleys to ensure sufficient trolleys of the right design are available at all times.
7. No easy to use handle for pushing the trolley, which encourages staff to push on the load rather than on the trolley.
8. Using transportation trolleys (which typically have a product lean of 5 degrees) for factory work (where trolley should have a lean of 7 degrees). Some form of retention should be used.
9. Using trolleys which have removable castors. Pinned castors allow a trolleys castors to be easily removed for transportation on a flat bed truck. The safety of the operators is reliant on pins not failing, and being used correctly. I believe this to be an unsafe practise and poor design. 
10. Lastly is unsafe factory flooring. This includes broken concrete, too much debris left on the factory floor, and sloping floors (often where two buildings with different level floors have been joined). We need to make it easy to roll trolleys loaded with glass around our factories.

Wear

An old boating friend of mine once said "Everything on this boat will eventually wear out. They key to safe boating is to know the items life expectancy and replace it before it fails". Factory handling equipment such as trolleys is a great example of this. These key items in a glass factory are subject to wear and parts will need replacing.  

The most common points of failure for trolleys are the bearing surface for the glass, and the castors. The bearing surface commonly used is stick on foam rubber tape. General factory use will cause this to wear and peel off over time. It's easy to replace and is more a management issue to make sure that it is replaced. Likewise for trolleys which use timber bearing surfaces.

An alternative product that we use on the bearing surfaces for The Glass Racking Company trolleys is our purpose designed polymer insert which slides into our role formed steel sections and aluminium sections. This is a very long life product designed for supporting glass and has many benefits. If it wears out, and from our experience in the last 10+ years it rarely needs replacing, it can be replaced by sliding out of the old polymer and sliding in the new polymer. Easy.

Castors are more of a safety issue. Trolleys used for movement of glass need to have castors rated for the weight of the load. For a standard 2 metre trolley this load carrying could be as high as 2 tons. Cheap castors which are not rated for this level of load will eventually fail in either the bearings, or worse still in the arms which support the wheel. Both types of castor failure can cause the trolley to tip over which is a very real safety issue for the operators.

As with the advise of my old boating friend, understanding the life expectancy is key.  By using a castor which is rated for the load, predicting the life expectancy is far simpler. Each castor should be checked annually and replaced if showing any signs of wear. The Glass Racking Company uses a range of 6 inch 150mm diameter castors which are rated for 460kgs each. At times we supply these as retrofit items for customers trolleys which have been built with castors which were either unfit for purpose, or have failed.

For trolleys which have a lower quality rated castor predicting the life expectancy is far more difficult and that in itself creates a safety risk.

"Everything on this boat will eventually wear out. They key to safe boating is to know the items life expectancy and replace it before it fails."

Glass and window safety

Safety

An old boating friend of mine once said "When at sea you can survive any one thing going wrong, but not two". What he meant was if your engine fails you'll survive. If you're anchor fails you'll survive. If you're engine fails and you're anchor also fails then you have a real problem on your hands. Factory safety issues are very similar to this. It's multiple simultaneous issues which will most likely cause safety risks, and is why we need to plan to prevent them.

This week I'm starting a blog series on safety – I know it's a dry topic, but its also one that most glass and window companies tell me that they should be devoting more time to. Customers also tell me that they need to have health and safety initiatives underway to keep their board members and their government officials at bay, and also to ensure they have an audit trail. So the need for health and safety projects and solutions is often three fold. This is not a bad thing! This series will focus on safety issues and solutions that our customers have implemented and will hopefully be thought provoking and lead to improvements.

Firstly glass arrival at the factory. For glass companies this usually means bulk or stoche glass arriving in a Floatliner truck or container, packed as either crates or packs. The process of getting the glass from this vessel into fixed storage is a huge health and safety issue and in my home country there was a death during this process within the last six months, and a near miss during the aftershocks of the recent Christchurch earthquakes. The safety risk is very real.

The first step of unloading an open top container is removal of the canvas or tarp top cover. A useful item of factory handling equipment is a work platform on castors to allow easy access to the top of the container for removing canvas and tarp covers. Many factories use ladders and existing off-the-shelf equipment rather than purpose built access systems. 

Once the unloading of the container has begun, the biggest safety risk is avoided if staff are not under the glass while its being lifted, or positioned so that broken glass can fall out and onto them. This may seem obvious and simple but is not always easily practical, especially if using older lifting equipment and techniques. The Glass Racking Company Packlifters are designed for lifting packs of glass out of containers and storage systems. The operator is always either behind the Packlifter or at the end of the pack of glass – never underneath and never in front of the glass. Their design means that the glass is fully supported using a steel frame, and the rear of the Packlifter is engineered to minimise the likelihood of broken glass falling out the back of the pack onto the operators. These simple design features, when compared to using traditional straps, is a no-brainer once you see it used. Our Packlifters are supplied with a full set of user instructions to ensure that the product is used in a safe way, and also to provide management with a training document and audit trail. Checkout www.theglassrackingcompany.com to see videos of The Glass Racking Company Packlifters being used.

Most companies have health and safety procedures for working around glass lifting equipment. Two good rules which I like are "No walking backwards" and "Clear all packaging and broken glass immediately, before proceeding with the lifting". These avoid most tripping hazards. 

And finally if you're wondering what the earthquake aftershock safety risk was, imagine a pack of glass swinging in an earthquake while being unloaded from a container. The safety issues for the staff were of being crushed between the swinging glass pack and a stationary object (such as the container), and also of the glass swinging into a fixed object, breaking and falling in a position or angle that wouldn't normally occur. Thinking about my old boating friends story, imagine a scenario where two things went wrong. If an operator had of tripped on some packaging debris at the same time as the pack swung in the earthquake he could have had been killed. He didn't and he wasn't, which is good.

If anyone ever suggests you're taking your health and safety precautions too seriously try telling them that story! 

Weird

A weird thing happened last week. An announcement was made that a high profile prisoner was going to be released after 20 years in prison. One of the conditions of his release was that he had to admit that he is an alcoholic, and agree to alcohol counselling. What I find weird about this is that someone who's been behind bars for 20 years can be an alcoholic. What do they do in prisons nowerdays? Clearly I'm out of touch.

More importantly from a work perspective it reminded me of the importance of getting out of the office to see customers in their facilities, and understanding their businesses. Customers businesses change, and the best way to understand the changes and the resulting opportunities is to go there. On Wednesday last week I visited 5 glass and window customers, met 2 business owners, and made 2 sales. Interestingly the history of making sales to those 2 customers has always been when I meet them on their sites. The follow-ups, emailed quotes, faxes and phone calls have never resulted in signed purchase orders.

A few years ago when I worked for a large corporation we calculated that the cost for a salesperson to visit a customer site was $250. At first glance the benefit of the customer visit might be to make sales with greater than $250 profit, but the real benefits are much more significant for the company. Visits to customer sites allow the salesperson, and hence the company, to understand what's happening in the market, what changes are taking place, and where opportunities and threats lie. It's this information which drives innovation, product development, change, and improvement in our business.

There's nothing weird about that.

Movember 2010

It's that time of year again. Time to grow a moustache in support of Movember, to raise awareness and funding for research into men's health.

Last year I went for a full head shave and grew a new head of hair (make that "part" of a head of hair) plus a beard and moustache. The result was a very grey growth that made me look like a cross between a biblical figure and someone more akin to shovelling coal into a steam engine. Someone meeting me for the first time estimated my age at 65, over 20 years older than my actual age. Not a good look, but it got lots of laughs, and that's what Movember is really about.  

255,000 moustaches were grown in Movember 2009, and we raised over US$40 million through sponsorship.  

If you want to have a laugh and support a worthy cause checkout www. Movember.com.

Please let me know if you grow a mo, buy contacting me here.

Charlies rifle v2

Evolutionary design

Last week I wrote about my sons rifle. Some feedback I received was that I was mad and should have bailed on the cheaper option earlier rather than persisting with a solution that would either continue to perform poorly, or would take too much time, effort and cost to perfect. My decision to not bail cost me time and money, and with the benefit of hindsight, I made poor decisions.

Very humble Barx.

I liken this scenario to a product I saw recently which astounded me. It had the same "evolutionary design" where the initial componentry was poor but the customer had done just as I had done, and persisted with enhancements until it eventually worked.

It was a system for retaining sheets of product to a frame for transportation. The retention system had started off with webbing straps. The straps were vertical and secured the product at the top but were on sliders at the bottom. The straps easily slid in and out, allowing the product to move while being transported. Clearly the straps were not doing their job of retaining the product.

The users had added another strap horizontally to assist with securing the load. When the combination of vertical and horizontal straps weren't holding the product in place properly a third retention system was used. This was pieces of 100mph tape to secure the tops of the load.

The system now worked but had many components and many points of failure. Furthermore the ease of load and unload which the initial system would be expected to provide had been compromised, and the 100mph tape would likely mark the product.

Just like me with Charlies rifle there needs to be a point where we bail-out of evolutionary design and start again. Looking at Charlies rifle, the final product is not a logical solution to meet the initial requirements. It might do the job but better options exist. 

I like to do things right.

Ebay. Rifle for sale. Hardly used. Cost $1700. Sell $500. 

Charlies rifle

Charlies rifle

This weekend my 12 year old son and I and a friend and his similarly aged son travelled to a high country sheep station to hunt wild game on the back section of the farm. The terrain is steep and rugged and challenging for kids of this age, which is all part of the experience. 

My goal for the weekend was to get my son Charlie to shoot accurately and confidently with a high calibre rifle I bought him over 8 months ago. Until this weekend the rifle had been inaccurate with neither Charlie or I confident that Charlie could successfully hunt with it. 

A bit of history. The rifle was a low cost unit which I purchased second hand. All of my equipment has been bought new, but with budget restraints and some resistance from his mother, I reluctantly agreed to the lower cost second hand rifle for Charlie. In the time between then and now we have found the suppressor to be faulty and replaced it, and the telescopic sites to be faulty, and replaced them. In sighting the rifle in at a retailer (not who we bought the rifle from) we found their sighting equipment for this calibre of rifle to be faulty. To cap it all off we had a bad experience at a rifle range where Charlie and I were humiliated in front of a group of seasoned shooters.   

No wonder Charlie was not confident that he could knock over animals with this rifle!

This weekend was different. Everything came together as it should. Charlie beat the three of us at an accuracy competition shooting targets, then with his confidence up, proceeded to knock over several small game animals at 80-100 metres range. His shooting accuracy was every bit as good as mine.

For an extra $400 of expense 8 months ago we could have avoided all the hassles, bad experiences, additional costs, and time wasting. In hindsight I would have happily paid far more than the extra $400, and should have. I've learned a lesson, and sadly its not the first time I've learned that lesson.  

From time to time we see our customers businesses learning similar lessons. For some of our solutions there are cheaper options available, mostly with less features and componentry, or a lower quality build. In addition our solutions are provided with user guides, training, and the benefit of the experiences that our staff have with the product. Our solutions work, they do what we say they will. In the rare occasion where a solution doesn't work for the customer then we sort it out quickly with minimal hassle to the customer using the skills and experiences of our team.

This is why I've been so frustrated with the process of getting Charlie and his rifle to shoot accurately. I haven't had a partner that I can rely on to help me. And its my fault – I took the cheap option.

Like hunting, oh how much easier and more enjoyable business can be with a quality solution and the right partner to supoport it!