(Canadian OH&S News) — Safe T Punch (STP), a product designed to allow trapped workers to emerge from mobile equipment when the primary escape hatch is not usable or practical, has received approval for use in British Columbia.
Produced in Canada by Punch Systems Inc, STP is reportedly common in the United Kingdom and several African countries, but has yet to catch on widely in North America. It consists of a red button that one installs on a window on mobile equipment, particularly vehicles used in construction. If the vehicle rolls or tips over, the worker inside can use STP as a secondary emergency exit by hitting it, breaking the glass.
Another advantage of the product is that, if installed on the outside of a window, it allows rescuers to reach a worker who may be incapacitated or unconscious.
“It’s a pretty clever device,” said Scott McCloy, director of media relations with WorkSafeBC, which approved the product for use in B.C. construction and road work in early September. “It’s an interesting idea, one that the industry brought to us.”
Product has limitations, regulator says
According to McCloy, the Council of Construction Associations (COCA) approached WorkSafeBC in June with an endorsement of STP. WorkSafeBC met with COCA more recently to confirm that the product was useful, but had several limitations.
“One of the limitations is, the window can’t be too thick, because if it is too thick, then no matter how hard you push the punch, it’s not going to break the window,” said McCloy. In addition, STP must not obscure the view of the operator and has to be installed on a certain kind of glass. “What you don’t want to do is create a secondary hazard. In other words, if you just hit the Safe T Punch, the glass shatters and a worker’s injured as he or she is trying to get out of the cab and injured by broken glass.”
Despite the limitations, WorkSafeBC decided that STP was a reasonable alternative to a main emergency exit and met section 16.17 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.
Section 16.17 requires, among other items, that any
mobile equipment built after Jan. 1, 2000 must have a clearly marked alternate means of emergency escape and that the means must meet the requirement for alternate exits from the date of manufacture. The escape means must not pose additional safety risks nor be located on the same surface as the entrance door, and a worker should be able to open it with less than 135 Newtons of force.
McCloy stressed that WorkSafeBC’s approval of STP was not meant to be seen as an endorsement of the product. But he also noted that STP could serve as an alternative to retrofitting older equipment with an extra door or hatch, which could be very expensive. “Some companies can afford to do that, others can’t,” he said. “And sometimes you can’t retrofit a cab, because the window is part of the structure.”
Much of the province’s construction industry is pleased with the product, including COCA and the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association.
“It won’t be effective in all situations,” said McCloy, “but it can be effective in certain situations, and it’s a very low-cost alternative compared to trying to install a door.”