Safe As Houses

Leading roof truss manufacturer and supplier,donaldson timber engineering makes the delivery of your trusses safer


As accidents at work in the construction industry continue to make for alarming reading, Donaldson Timber Engineering (DTE) has been focused on improving the safety of one of industry’s biggest risk areas – unloading roof trusses.

Since dedicated work on improving this hazard began in 2008, DTE has put a number of significant safety measures in place, including: the introduction of colour coded systems to ensure that drivers know how to safely unload batches; adding safety messages onto vehicles, and developing systems to remove the need to get onto the lorry – a system which has been acknowledged as best practice by the Health and Safety Executive.

DTE’s ultimate objective is that their safety methods become an industry standard and that consequently such measures are applied by all sites across the UK. Mark Murphy, Integrated Systems Manager for Donaldson’s and until recently, Chairman of the TRA Safety Committee explains:

 “Offloading trusses can be very dangerous. In the past, drivers had often found the easiest way to offload the batch was by getting onto the lorry, which is not only unsafe, but is in breach of working at height regulations. This hazardous procedure has resulted in a number of serious accidents in the industry.”

The alternative system proposed by DTE is a simple but effective one, as Mark explains:

“We’ve been working hard to combat offloading malpractice and to improve the safety of our drivers. Our system enables us to supply our trusses pre-slung with sacrificial (one-way) slings. This makes it possible for the trusses to be lifted from the lorry directly onto the roof or storage area, and no-one needs to set foot on the back of a lorry.

“As well as fitting the trusses with slings, we also operate a two colour banding system – blue colour to band the trusses together, and white to band the trusses to the lorry – to ensure the driver knows which colour to cut when unloading. Plus, all of DTE’s drivers are provided with a set of telescopic cutters, so the bands can be cut from the ground.”

Haulage drivers are one of the most at risk on a building site, and unfortunately are often the most overlooked. Drivers often have limited knowledge of the product they are delivering, and do not feel confident enough to advise customers on the best and safest methods to unload.

DTE involved members from the TRA and the UKTFA in the scheme so that they could all work together to tackle the issue industry-wide; this led to the idea of training lorry drivers. Together, DTE, the TRA and the UKTFA have managed to secure the backing of the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) and City and Guilds.

It is hoped that lorry drivers will soon need to complete workbooks training them in practical skills to improve their knowledge of how to safely unload roof trusses with a variety of unloading equipment.  This will make the driver more aware and, with their qualifications, more confident in being able to advise the client of the safest way to unload.

Another plus for this development is that this scheme can also benefit the haulage company, as the training can count towards the Certificate in Professional Competence (CPC) training that drivers have to take.  The major house builders are also fully supportive of the initiative, as a formal recognised training course will ensure that the driver has the necessary skills, knowledge and competence to be a valued person on site.

Mark concludes:

“All of the ideas we have proposed are incredibly simple, but if we all implement the ideas, we could make a real difference in the safety of our industry.”

As well as roof trusses, DTE also manufacture and supply: I-beams, open web joists, spandrel panels, smartroof and floor cassettes.

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