Choosing between fibreglass and steel, and performance versus cost can be bewildering when it comes to installing floor gratings. Frequently, the decision is cost-driven, which can pose a serious threat to safety on site and therefore to employees.
Grating and handrail manufacturer Vital Engineering MD Dodds Pringle is passionate about educating the market about safety in relation to the design and installation of floor gratings.
The company, which manufactures mild steel, stainless steel and fibreglass gratings, is the first South African gratings, hand railing and expanded metal manufacturer to obtain International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) certification for ISO 9001 or design accreditation, which it has held for over 19 years.
“. . . the choice of [grating or flooring] should not be driven by cost, but by multiple factors, with safety above all,” Pringle maintains adding that the market lacks adequate knowledge about gratings.
As a specialist in its field, Vital Engineering has decided to provide practical advice to industry on issues of safety, quality, and design specifications when it comes to the choice of gratings customers should make.
One of its initiatives to improve safety awareness is to distribute a CD to customers detailing the correct gratings installation and performance specifications. The CD provides installation guidelines for the customer, and has been used in the construction site context for induction purposes.
“There needs to be some education to prepare the market for the transition between steel and fibreglass products . . . these products are not able to take the same load, [and] each has [its] own advantages,” says Pringle.
Although fibreglass gratings have increased in popularity, there is considerable uncertainty about its strength, notes Pringle. This is where design specifications come in, which demand proper research into specific South African Bureau of Standards (or SABS) requirements and performance requirements, based on factors such as load and environment.
“While steel offers more strength than synthetic products, fibreglass is a very robust, low-maintenance product, which reduces the maintenance cycle considerably. These products are best used, amongst other areas, on conveyor walkways, taking into considering the load-bearing requirements and ensuring that the product is in line with all relevant industry specifications,” says Pringle.
The risk with purchasing gratings according to cost lies in quality and safety specifications not being adhered to, he emphasises, adding that this can result in other related costs such as on site injuries and downtime.
Despite the rising input costs of steel manufacturing in South Africa, Vital Engineering remains committed to sustainability in the industry by refusing to compromise on a quality output, and retaining safety as its focus. The ongoing challenge is the competition the industry faces due to lower prices in the international market.
Vital Engineering strives to find the most economical solutions for it customers which provide value and quality in the long run. Value-added services include lowering cost of installation while increasing maintenance efficiencies. “Our input materials are 350WA grade, which offers greater strength than those in a commercial grade material,” says Pringle.
In offering to be a part of the customer’s design process, Vital Engineering runs full checks on load requirements, according to the client’s drawings, in order to ensure compliance from a performance safety point of view, and in relation to SABS requirements.
“While the trend is towards cost-driven decision making, as the largest manufacturer and supplier of mild steel, stainless steel and fibre glass gratings in this sector in South Africa, Vital Engineering considers it of paramount importance to educate the market about the importance of prioritising safety and performance above cost advantage only,” Pringle concludes.