Gratings, stair treads, pressed floors and safety handrails manufacturer Vital Engineering has developed and patented a new, improved angle handrailing system, after the market experienced a number of problems with cheap and undersized tubular handrail pro- ducts, says MD Dodds Pringle.
“We are constantly faced with a barrage of substandard competitive products that are synonymous with corrosion issues and resultant failures,” he says.
“We were the first manufacturers and suppliers of tubular and solid forged stanchions in South Africa, in 1939. It has, over time, however, become apparent that substandard products were proliferating, at the risk of worker safety and client reputation,” he adds.
The company immediately embarked on a countrywide survey of client issues. “We determined how we could meet industry’s needs, and simultaneously overcome its specification and cost-cutting concerns,” says Pringle.
Issues such as thinner wall tubing, thinner base plates, poor welding standards and poor coatings were among the concerns raised in the tubular handrailing market.
“Sadly, many companies were unable to tell the difference between products, resulting in all suppliers being labelled as incompetent in the event of product failure,” he says.
Vital Engineering and sister company Angus McLeod branded all their tubular handrail stanchion products to give clients the peace of mind that they were receiving a high-quality product and not a cheap substitute.
“While this did resolve some of the issues raised, a number of clients approached us for alternative systems, such as angle handrailing and the reintroduction of solid forged handrailing,” Pringle says.
The solid forged product was easily reintroduced into the company’s product range, as it has vast experience in this field. “The angle handrailing solution, however, proved to be more challenging,” he adds.
Typically, angle handrailing was welded on site and was preferred to tubular types in highly corrosive or gaseous areas, where corrosion needs to be monitored to avoid gaseous entrapment that might result in an explosion.
The cheaper tubular units were not being properly sealed with end caps and thus corroded from the inside outwards, and trapped gases, Pringle says.
“A point which we needed to deal with was that these units did, however, offer the free hand passage and uninterrupted grip that angle stanchions were not able to offer. Angle stanchions also had to be welded together on site, causing a hot area, which forces the shutting down of that section of the plant, at a resultant downtime cost to the client,” he explains.
Besides these issues, the system was very expensive, as it involved extensive site work. The challenge was to supply the client with a system that allowed free hand passage, in keeping with safety standards and easy installation, a knock-down system for easy maintenance and one that met the corrosion and gaseous entrapment requirement.
After a number of trials, the company developed and patented a ball-type angle handrail system, which met all the criteria required by clients. This innovative Maclock-branded product is competitive, as quick to install as a tubular ball system and easy to maintain, the company states.
“Solid round hand and knee rail or tubular railing can be used. A combination of both can also be catered for, together with standard fittings, bends and closures, depending on clients’ requirements. To date, the product has been widely tested in a number of projects and we have had an extremely positive response to this new product,” Pringle concludes.