Access by the seaside

FALL protection specialists MSA Safety have been involved in an access project beside the seaside, atop the famous Blackpool Tower.

The tower houses the SkyWalk tourist attraction, a glass-floored viewing platform 380 feet above ground, which looks out across the Irish Sea and the Blackpool Promenade.

The underside of the five-centimetre thick floor requires cleaning at least twice a year to ensure the views maintain their full effect.

MSA was enlisted to assist installer Eurosafe Solutions in specifying the correct system. The project presented several challenges including the height at which the installation team would be working, putting safe working practices in place in terms of securing the tools used on the project, and the angular steelwork of the tower, which is modelled on the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The installation team could only access the walkway via the passenger lift, which was only in operation during low wind speeds.

“Blackpool Tower contacted Eurosafe Solutions to come on site to facilitate a risk assessment on the requirements to clean the underside of the glass viewing platform,” explained James Sainsbury, fall protection sales leader for the UK with MSA Safety.

“Up until that point the working method hadn’t been fine-tuned. It included roped access with strapping on the steelwork, so they called on MSA to implement a safe, more efficient system of work. In principle, they wanted an attachment process whereby workers could clamber down outside of an access hatch, get onto a very small gantry on the other side of the viewing platform, and traverse over to the underside of the glazing area to carry out the work.”

Blackpool Tower utilised MSA Safety’s overhead line system in conjunction with its V-Series range of PPE equipment. The V-FIT harness, V-Gard 900 helmet and V-FORM energy absorbing lanyard also provided a “highly reassuring level of PPE” for maintenance workers on the SkyWalk, MSA claimed.

Eurosafe installed a single 10-metre long overhead line directly below the glass walkway. The system utilised heavy-duty end anchors and navigated the existing structure using intermediate brackets. The system was fitted in a single day, with a second day for all relevant safety checks to be carried out.

James explained that the cable system was a “tried and tested engineered solution”, adding that the PPE used allowed “freedom of transport”.

“Once an operative is connected to the system, it’s hands-free. Once connected, workers can operate in a completely safe environment and carry out their work with no further risk associated with using the system.”

James added, “We’re always educating end-users and contractors about the hierarchy of risk and striving to up-skill. We understand that there’s always a risk with any project. That’s why, as a competent manufacturer, we look to reduce that risk by correctly specifying the right solution, rather than what may just be the cheapest. It’s always down to assessing and understanding what our customers need to do.

“To get to the underside of the glass, Blackpool Tower could have chosen a rope access method but to make its team even safer, they used a cable system which further reduced their risk.”