Flooring companies need to consider the safety of people before they consider the price of a product when deciding which material to use for floor construction, says floor gratings, stair treads and safety hand rails manufacturer Vital Engineering MD Dodds Pringle.
“The choice between fibreglass and steel, and considering performance versus cost can be bewildering when it comes to installing floor gratings. More often than not, the decision is cost-driven, which can pose a serious threat to safety on site and, therefore, to the human assets of a company.”
Pringle adds that his company takes the safety of people seriously, which is why Vital Engineering was the first South African gratings, hand railing and expanded metals manufacturer to obtain an international ISO 9001 design accreditation, which the company has maintained for more than 19 years.
Pringle highlights the risk involved when buying lower-price gratings, as this does not ensure that quality and safety specifications are adhered to. This can result in additional costs, such as on-site injuries, which lead to downtime.
Meanwhile, Pringle says that, despite the rising input costs of steel manufacturing in South Africa, Vital Engineering remains committed to sustainability in the industry by not compromising on the quality of the output and retaining safety as its focus. “The ongoing challenge is the competition the industry faces as a result of lower prices from the international market,” he says.
Nevertheless, Vital Engineering strives to find the most economical solutions for its customers that provide long-term value. Pringle says that the value-adds offered by Vital Engineering include lowering installation costs while increasing maintenance efficiencies. “Our input materials are 350WA grade, which offers greater strength than products manufactured with a commercial-grade material,” he adds.
To ensure compliance from a performance safety point of view, Vital Engineering runs full checks on load requirements as part of the customer’s design process. These compliance checks also comply with South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) requirements.
“We hope that our efforts in this regard will help increase awareness about safety on site, and that looking after human capital should take precedence over cheaper gratings materials of inferior quality, which could prove more costly on a number of important levels in the long run.”
He adds that one of the initiatives that the company has taken to create safety awareness is to distribute a compact disc to customers detailing the correct gratings installation requirements, including the performance specifications and installation guidelines, which has also been used on construction sites for induction purposes.
Steel Versus Fibreglass
Pringle believes the market needs to be educated to prepare for the transition between steel and fibreglass products. “These products are not able to take the same load and each has its own advantages.”
“While fibreglass may recently have become a popular choice in gratings, there is considerable uncertainty about its strength. This is where design specifications come in. This demands proper research into specific SABS and performance requirements, based on factors such as load and type of environment.”
He adds, however, that, while steel offers more strength than synthetic products do, fibreglass is a robust and low-maintenance product, which greatly reduces the maintenance cycle. Fibreglass products are best used on conveyor walkways, among other applications.
Pringle reiterates that its load-bearing requirements need to be taken into consideration, ensuring that the product is in line with all relevant industry specifications.