Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Post and Wire Fencing

This article aims to highlight the safe working practices to be carried out when erecting or dismantling post and wire fences only, not wooden fences.

Post and wire fences tend to be used to enclose large areas where a wooden fence would be too expensive, time consuming or too weak. These fences may have ordinary wire, barbed wire or wire mesh, depending on what the fence is intended to keep in or out.


Line wire can be made of mild steel, high tensile steel or spring steel, barbed wire and woven mesh is normally mild steel or high tensile steel, welded and hexagonal netting is usually only made of mild steel.

Spring steel is the strongest followed by high tensile steel and the weakest is mild steel. Spring and high tensile steel cannot normally be strained to breaking point manually. Mild steel stretches before it breaks. Any kinks, twists and surface damage will cause a reduction in the strength of all types of steel.

High tensile and spring steel will recoil more dangerously than mild steel when cut, broken or just released.

Personal Protective Equipment

The following PPE must be used to comply with HSE rules:
• Gloves to protect against barbed wire, splinters, cuts and scratches.
• Non-snag outer clothing appropriate for the prevailing weather conditions, in certain cases it is recommended that high visibility clothing is used.
• Protective boots with a sole giving good grip, ankle support and must comply to EN 345-1. Although not mandatory thought should be given to using boots that have a puncture proof midsole and are also waterproof.
• Eye protection safety glasses to EN 166 because of the danger of flying debris when dismantling old fences and also if there is an incidence of wire recoil.
• If using power tools then use ear protection, visors and anti vibration gloves.
• If handling preservatives or preservative treated timber where the preservative has not dried, chemical resistant gloves should be used, and depending on the product respiratory masks should be used if the safety instructions on the product specify it.
• Each person should carry a first-aid kit including a large wound dressing.
• Hand cleaning material such as waterless skin cleanser or soap water and paper towels should be available.

Many of these items appear on the Granite Workwear site under the following headings; Gloves, Safety Glasses, Respiratory Masks, Safety Boots, Forestry Clothing, and Ear Protection.

Tools and Equipment

The tools and equipment required will vary depending on the type of fencing being erected or dismantled. However the basic rules are the same whenever tools are being used, they should be appropriate to the task and they must be checked to ensure that they are serviceable.
All cutting edges should be sharp and also guarded when not in use, do not place hand tools on top of fence posts or on the ground, use an appropriate tool belt like the Dickies Deluxe Tool Belt on the Granite Workwear site.

Manual Handling

Always follow the best practices for manual handling, a very useful leaflet is INDG145 'Watch your Back', this is available from the Health and Safety Executive.

Do not try and carry too heavy or awkward unbalanced loads, it is better to make more journeys, also take into account the conditions under foot i.e. uneven, wet, or steep slopes.
Always lift heavy items using the arm and leg muscles with your back held straight.

Organise the delivery of the materials and equipment to be as close to the site where they are needed, wherever possible use mechanised unloading or ensure that there are enough members of the team to help.

Wherever possible use an All Terrain Vehicle or Quad Bike to carry meaterials to the required area.


Before starting check the proposed fence line for any underground hazards and services i.e. pipes, cables and any major obstructions.

If you are dismantling old fences look carefully at any vegetation growth that may make the wire or net unpredictable when cutting it.

If you are using a trailer to carry your materials look for a flat surface, if you cannot find one then always ensure that you unload from the top side or the rear if on a side slope.


Make sure that the material you are cutting is secured, if you are notch cutting ensure you keep your free hand clear of the saw teeth.

If you are using a chainsaw then you must take all the safety precautions that were mentioned in our article on Using a Rear Handled Chainsaw published 11th November 2009.

Manual Stake Driving

Do not support the stake by hand, you must use a stake holder, also do not adjust or test the stake by using your hand whilst the driving tool is in use.

Always make sure you have sound footing and that your legs and feet are clear of the driving tool.

When you are using a maul ensure that all other people are well away from where you are swinging the maul.

Mechanical Post drivers

Please note that this is always a one person operation, if the post driver is mounted to a tractor by a three point linkage, the tractor must be big enough to remain stable during operation.

The machine must be properly parked and the brakes applied before commencing operations. It must be fitted with a gripping device to hold the post during the operation - never use your hands or a stake holder.

There is a big risk of flying debris so ensure a suitable visor is worn to protect your whole face.

Handling the wire

Always use a dispenser when unrolling the line wires, this avoids kinking and twisting which will have a negative effect on the strength of the wire. Always ensure that the wire is kept firmly in place on the dispenser.

Ensure that one end of the line wire is attached securely to the strainer post before applying any tension.

Knots can only be used on mild steel wire, on other types suitable connectors must be used.
If you are using ratchets make sure that wire has at least two full turns on the barrel.
Ensure wire strainers are properly attached and anchored before tensioning. Never stand astride the wire whilst it is being tensioned.

Never over-tension high tensile or spring steel wire by using extra leverage or more than one person on the strainer and never use a vehicle to tension.

When cutting always make sure that the exposed ends of the wire are secured, always ensure that high tension and spring steel wire is secured on each side of the cut. Make sure that you do not spike your hands or arms on any loose ends.

Always use protective gloves when handling barbed wire and ensure that when it is being dispensed it is kept taut. Always be aware of potential breakage and recoil.
Make sure that all pieces of wire have been removed from the area and that it is disposed of safely.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Safety Footwear

It makes commonsense to wear protective footwear wherever there is danger and in fact in a workplace it is often mandatory. Damage to your feet can have a major effect on your life and may in fact cripple you.

Common Injuries

There are a number of common injuries that can occur:

InjuriesCommon Causes
Crushed or broken feet, amputation of toes or feetFeet trapped between objects or caught in a crack, falls of heavy objects, moving vehicles (lift trucks, bulldozers, etc.), working with large animals, conveyor belts (feet drawn between belt and roller)
Punctures of the sole of the footLoose nails, sharp metal or glass objects
Cuts or severed feet or toes, lacerationsChain saws, rotary mowers, unguarded machinery
BurnsMolten metal splashes, chemical splashes, contact with fire, flammable or explosive atmospheres
Electric shocksStatic electricity, contact with sources of electricity
Sprained or twisted ankles, fractured or broken bones because of slips, trips or fallsSlippery floors, littered walkways, incorrect footwear, poor lighting
Types of Safety Footwear

The most common type is the safety boot or shoe, fitted with a steel toecap and possibly a steel midsole. These are used for construction or agricultural work, and may also be needed for those involved in maintenance or manual handling. They usually have slip resistant soles, which may be resistant to oils or other chemicals.

Other footwear for specialist applications includes Wellington boots, chain saw boots, foundry boots (for molten metal resistance), anti-static footwear (which reduces the danger from igniting flammable atmospheres and gives some protection from electric shock) and conductive footwear (particularly suitable for handling static-sensitive devices, but giving no protection against electric shock).

However there are a number of products available that give protection against crushing of the toes and penetration of the midsole, but make use of composites so that they are totally non-metallic. For example see the Granite range under Non Metallic Safety on the website.


Safety footwear should comply with EN 345 Footwear with anti-static or slip resistant properties should conform to EN 347.

EN 345: Specifications on Safety Shoes for Professional Use

This standard defines the basic and additional (optional) requirements on safety shoes for professional use.

These shoes include devices to protect the user against injuries caused by accidents liable to occur in the industrial environment for which the shoe has been designed, fitted with safety toe-cap intended to deliver a protection against impacts with an energy level equal to 200 joules. This means the steel toe-cap will withstand the impact of 20kg in weight falling from a height of 10.2 metres. The protection standard in protective footwear also relates to compression corresponding to approximately 1.5 tonnes resting on the toe area. Safety Footwear is often generally referred to as EN345 but the full reference is: BS EN ISO 20345:2004

Class 1: All materials except natural or synthetic polymers

S1: Basic properties and closed back, anti-static properties, heel energy absorption
S2: All S1 characteristics plus waterproof
S3: All S2 characteristics and anti-puncture sole, studded sole
Class 2: Natural and synthetic polymers

S4 Basic properties and anti-static properties, heel energy absorption
S5 All S4 characteristics and anti-puncture sole, studded sole


The choice of safety footwear should first be made on the basis of the protection required, but comfort is a significant issue and should not be ignored. The most important factor in choosing your safety shoes or boots is how your feet fit inside them. Your safety footwear unlike ordinary shoes, should last for a long time and therefore you have to choose what you think is the best and most comfortable pair for you.

Unlike ordinary footwear that can adjust to the form of your feet over time, safety shoes do not easily and conveniently mould into the unique shape of your feet. So you need to set aside ample time in choosing your footwear before making the purchase. It is also a good practice to try the shoes wearing the socks that you will use in daily life. If you found a pair that you think fits, try walking around in it. If they still feel comfortable after leaving the shoes on for a few minutes, then you may have found your perfect safety shoes.

Resist the urge to buy bigger safety shoes, the problem with safety shoes is that they are harder and they seem inflexible unlike ordinary leather shoes. So some people tend to buy safety shoes that are a little oversized to give more room for the feet. Oversized shoes can cause injuries like sprains and even bone fractures. If your safety shoes are oversized, try wearing thick socks to compensate for too much space inside your shoes.

A choice of makes and styles may have to be offered to ensure that appropriate footwear is always worn when needed. Boots, not shoes, must be worn where ankle protection is needed.

Care should be taken in the choice of anti-static and conductive footwear; both give protection against the hazard of static electricity and anti-static footwear also gives some protection against electric shock. However conductive footwear provides no protection against electric shock and must not be used where this is a risk.


Footwear should be checked for wear or damage and replaced if necessary; certainly if the footwear has been in an impact situation then the integrity of the toecap may have been damaged.

At Granite Workwear we are fully conscious of the requirements for safety footwear and we stock products for all types of risk. We are distributors for a number of well known brands; Haix, Fortec, Dickies, Goliath and Muck Boots. If you have any questions on the best product for your needs then please contact us.

Friday, 8 January 2010

A Guide to High Visibility Clothing

We have all seen workers wearing high visibility clothing, after all that is the purpose of these products, ensuring that people working on building sites, roads, railways, airports forests etc are easily seen for their own safety.

However many people do not know the standards that high visibility clothing must achieve for it to comply with legislation and industry codes of practice.

The most common colours that are used are fluorescent yellow and orange, sometimes you will see people with matching tops and trousers and others with orange trousers and yellow tops and vice versa.


The main standard in the UK and Europe is EN471:2003, this splits down into Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3. Class 3 is of a higher standard than Class 2 as it has higher areas of material and more reflective bands. Class 1 with 0.14 sqm of fluorescent material and 0.10 sqm of retroreflective material is the lowest level and includes garments like over-trousers and harnesses, Class 2 with 0.5 sqm of florescent material and 0.13 sqm of retroreflective materials includes tabards, sleeveless waistcoats, short sleeved shirts and bib and brace trousers, class 3 with 0.8 sqm of fluorescent material and 0.2 sqm of retroreflective materials includes coats, shirts and jackets with sleeves, full body long-sleeved overalls and two piece suits. Also the regulations specify that there must be similar amounts of the fluorescent material on the front and the back of the garment.
The retroreflective bands can be inclined no more than 20°, the bands on the legs can be freely positioned from the bottom of the leg. The bands must not be less than 50mm wide

Class 2
Class 3

As an example of use; workers on dual carriageway roads or motorways with a speed limit of over 50 mph must wear class 3. Those working on other roads with lower speeds can wear Class 2.


In testing these garments to the standard the various components have to fulfil certain criteria:

Retroreflective Materials, brightness after: Rainfall, Temperature variation, Abrasion, Cold folding, Flexing, Washing and Dry Cleaning
Also if the garments are expected to be commercially laundered, the retroreflective material must be tested according to ISO 15797 Industrial Laundering Wash Test Method for 5 cycles.

Fluorescent Materials: UV exposure, Dimensional change, Water vapour resistance, colour fastness, Mechanical properties.

Selection Criteria

When choosing the correct clothing obviously any specific regulations must be taken into account. If there are none of these then the choice should take account of a number of factors; light levels both ambient and artificial, the affects of weather such as fog, snow or rain are some examples.

For some jobs only a Class 1 or 2 may be acceptable but where there is a particular risk then Class 3 will be required.

Remember PPE must always be suitable for the work; therefore you may need specialist fabrics like flame retardant, chemical resistant or anti-static as well as high visibility. Also the PPE must be comfortable for the wearer and should not restrict movement or increase tiredness through either heat build up cold.

Employers must provide the correct equipment free of charge to those employees who need it and must also provide storage facilities for clothing when not in use. They must also provide adequate information, instruction and training to allow the employees to use the HV clothing correctly. This must contain the explanation of why the clothing is needed, the risks and how and when it must be worn.

The employee must wear the clothing as instructed and also look after it, checking for any damage and reporting this to the employer.


As stated before on roads and other areas you can wear yellow, orange or a mix of colours, however this is not the case with workers on the railways.

The Railway Group Standard GO/RT 3279:2008 still requires the garments to conform to EN471:2003 but specifies that the garments must be orange in colour and also they must meet at least Class 2 levels.

The GO/RT standard also states that the visible material of the garment must not be compromised by the addition of company names or logos. Also there are limited titles or job designations allowed these are:-
• Rail Incident Officer (RIO)
• Press Officer
• Recovery Engineer
• First Aider
• Train Operators’ Liaison Officer (TOLO)

There is also a special standard for a High Visibility Mini Vest which has the requirement of 0.26 sqm of orange fluorescent material and 0.12 sqm of retroreflective material. This is below the EN 471 Class 2 level but significantly higher than Class1. The retroreflective material must be no less than 50mm wide and must have one horizontal band not less than 50mm above the bottom edge and then have one band over each shoulder connecting the front and back of the horizontal band. There is also the requirement for the shoulders and sides to be joined by means of touch and close or press stud fastenings, so that they will come apart if caught by an external object. The Pulsarail PR145 Tear Apart Vest on the Granite Workwear website fully conforms to this standard.

There is a full range of GO/RT 3279:2008 standard garments under the Hi Viz Railway (Orange) category including specialist clothing for using with Chainsaws when working on or near railways. Included in this category are a number of accessories including back packs, bags, armbands and warning flags.

Also a full range of Yellow High Visibility garments can be found in the Hi Viz Yellow category, all compliant to EN471:2003. In both categories where the testing certificates are attached to the pages so that you can be sure that the garments comply with the regulations.