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Design In The Safety

Published: 06th Jun 2012 in OSA Magazine

working at heightAn innovative, bespoke access solution to ensure the enhanced safety of workers was recently designed and used for the installation of soffit cladding for India’s new Formula One Grand Prix Stadium. John Boyle, director at Eurosafe Solutions, discusses the full process from the system’s initial conception, through to the project’s successful completion.

An exciting project came about when a roofing company, one of the UK’s leading cladding contractors, formed a joint venture with an Indian contractor. They were bidding to undertake the installation of the roofing and soffit cladding for the main grandstand of the Buddh International Circuit, an Indian motor racing circuit best known as the venue for the annual Formula One Indian Grand Prix at Greater Noida, New Delhi.

The biggest logistical problem they faced was installing the soffit cladding without delaying works on the grandstand below. At 540 metres long and 50 metres clear span, the grandstand is the biggest cantilever structure in India – to scaffold it would be both costly and time prohibitive.

The solution reached was to use a suspended cradle system, which would traverse the existing roof steelwork, creating a suspended working platform for the cladding installers to work above the stadium builders.

This innovative solution allowed both companies to successfully secure the project and, subsequently, to execute the project in a timely fashion.

The practical logistics

Both parties working on the project were looking for an innovative design for a suspended cradle access system, which would mean their staff could install the cladding for the stadium while maximising their safety, due to the extreme heights involved and the extensive size of the structure.

The companies had worked together before on previous international projects, and were therefore able to utilise not only their bespoke design service, but their manufacturing and installation expertise as well. This project really did, however, require pulling out all the stops to create a tailor made solution, which would mean cladding could be installed quickly and without the use of scaffolding.

The reason for commissioning the design of the suspended cradle system was because the roof structure was so extensive that the traditional method of installing soffit cladding using scaffolding would have been too time consuming. It would also have held up the work on other interior parts of the stadium, causing lengthy delays to the project.

The first Formula One race was planned to take place in October 2011, just eight months after the contract to design the suspended cradle system was confirmed, so all the contractors were working under pressure to come up with an innovative solution to ensure that the stadium could be completed on time.
The circuit itself is one of the longest in the world, at 5.141 kilometres, with a track spread across an area of 875 acres. The initial seating capacity is around 150,000, with the space to extend capacity to 200,000 at a later stage.

Interestingly, the lead architect for the project, Hermann Tilke, is a former racing driver himself and had previously designed Formula One stadiums across the world.

Safety considerations

Safety was of paramount importance in the design of the suspended cradle system. What effectively became a material handling unit which would carry up to ten workmen – plus their tools and materials – was created.

The suspended cradle system was 40 metres in length and was probably one of the largest systems of its type ever built in the world.

It was essential that the unit provided the stability for construction staff to use it as a work platform to install the cladding panels on the roof, without causing any health and safety issues.

A trolley system also had to be designed to allow the cradle to be moved manually on a pulley system which had vulcanised rubber wheels. This was no mean feat when you consider that the roof structure to be clad, which was situated above the spectator seating area, was actually 584 metres in length.
By working in partnership with Herman Tilke and the consulting engineers, it was agreed that the design of the trolley system could be integrated within the stadium’s roof structure, to further enhance safety, and once approved, the manufacturing process for the cradle system began.

Not only did the project require the expertise of design engineers, but also IRATA (Industrial Rope Access Trade Association) qualified staff. It was essential to be able to erect the cradle system onto the pulley system to enable the contractors to carry out a smooth and safe installation of the cladding system.

The work begins

Once the designs were approved, there was a mere matter of weeks to manufacture the suspended cradle system. The main framework was formed from a bespoke lattice structure, suspended from mild steel support frames.

It was then necessary to work closely with partners in India to organise the logistics for transportation to site in Greater Noida. Anyone who is familiar with this region will know that it is currently being redeveloped from a largely agricultural landscape and at the time of installation, the infrastructure and transport links were not completed.

There was another challenge for the team in delivering the cradle system to site, which involved shipping the system via container to Mumbai, and then transporting it inland by freight train, then by lorry to the site of the stadium, which is in a rural location 15 miles from New Delhi.

The support from Indian partners was also essential to avoiding delays caused by paperwork to transfer the container across borders on its journey from the port.

A team of six engineers travelled to India, including specialist IRATA qualified staff, to install the cradle and oversee its operation. The IRATA professionals were able to establish roped access, which is the most effective way to ensure that all work at height systems are fully checked.

Safety aspects

The whole project from design brief to installation of the cradle system took six months. The installation of the cradles then took six weeks on site. An appointed person remained on site to monitor the cradles’ daily movements and undertake daily pre-use checks for the duration of the project.

Once installed the cradles were accessed via a temporary scaffold access tower. The lower end of the cradle was just three metres from the central core of the stadium, while the outer edge of the cradle placed the workers approximately 50 metres above the race track.

Given such potentially hazardous heights, health and safety obviously needed to be central to operations, and we were determined to ensure the highest possible level of worker safety throughout this project. Our cradle system fully complied with British and European standards and we went to great lengths to ensure that UK construction industry health and safety rules were imposed throughout our operating areas, both on and off the construction site in India.

More specifically this meant that IRATA techniques were employed to allow an accelerated construction programme, while simultaneously maintaining safety on site. IRATA guidelines were worked to with two separate gangs operating across the stadium, each headed up by a Level 3 competent IRATA specialist from within the team.

Two Level 3 specialists were provided as good practice in the event that an IRATA engineer became incapacitated and suspended. In this case the other IRATA qualified engineer, who was trained in rescue techniques, would be able to facilitate a rescue, taking charge of the casualty and descending with him and his equipment to the ground in a safe and proper manner.

The IRATA qualified technicians also carried out a supervisory role on site to ensure all procedures were carried out correctly by their teams. Use of IRATA techniques ensured the safest possible systems of working, following specified guidelines for the rescue procedure.

IRATA safety kits were used at all times by the teams, which included sit and associated chest harnesses, rope access equipment used for the ascent and descent, as were 10.5mm in diameter semi-static ropes. The IRATA access kit allowed for the ascent, descent and traversing of exposed structural steelwork.

General overview

It took six weeks to build and install the cradle system at a height of 50 metres. A pulley system was also commissioned, installed and fully tested to ensure maximum operator safety. Once the cradle was fully assembled, it was transported to the stadium and lifted to the roof level by crane. At this point, a skilled IRATA qualified team transferred the cradle from the crane to its position in the roof of the stadium, using a sophisticated system of chain blocks and pulleys. The cradle was secured in place by being hard linked to the trolley unit.

cradle systemThe suspended cradle system ensured it was possible to install the cladding soffits within 20 weeks, rather than the several months it would have taken with traditional scaffolding methods, while the cradle system kept the workers safely enclosed and protected, giving them close access to their working area.

It also meant that their construction staff had much greater protection for work at heights, which was essential on this project, especially when the working conditions were so intense with daily temperature rising above 40° C. The fact that the job of erecting and removing scaffolding was eliminated also reduced the risks of accidents on the site. It also reduced material and construction costs and ensured a more effective system.

Once the cladding installation was completed the suspended cradle system was removed from the stadium, which was completed well in time for the first race, held on October 30, 2011.


As all Formula One fans will know, the stadium opened to massive acclaim for the first Indian Grand Prix last autumn.

The project in total cost $300 million and involved 6,500 construction workers. It is planned to spearhead the regeneration of a whole area in Greater Noida, which has been named ‘Sport City’. The aim is to create 10,000 jobs and $170 million of annual income in an area which previously provided little economic activity or employment opportunities. In that sense, it has been very satisfying to help build a better future for people in this region.

This project just goes to show that even when working under great pressure and to very tight completion deadlines, this should not mean compromising health and safety on site.

Specialist experience in the issues surrounding working at height meant that it was possible to quickly assess the requirements of the project and ensure that the design and fabrication were carried out to meet its very specific requirements.

Published: 06th Jun 2012 in OSA Magazine


John Boyle

John Boyle is the director of Eurosafe Solutions, one of the UK’s leading designers and installers of fall protection systems. The company has an international presence, with bases in Holland, Germany and Belgium and partnerships with associates worldwide. John has more than 20 years’ experience in the fall protection industry, which has included working on many of the world’s most high profile buildings in the UK, Australia, India and Malaysia. He is a qualified Quantity Surveyor and is a member of SAEMA (Suspended Access Equipment Manufacturers Association). John established a training side to the business in 2008, which now delivers approved training courses to hundreds of contractors and end users every year. About Eurosafe Solutions Since 2001, Eurosafe Solutions has offered testing and inspection services to facilities’ and properties’ managers and now the company has responsibility for managing these services for many prestigious building portfolios across the UK. Eurosafe Solutions has more than 20 years’ experience in the installation, testing, inspection and monitoring of fall protection systems. Among its customers are some of the UK’s iconic buildings, including the O2 Arena, the Millennium Stadium, Manchester Evening News Arena, Gatwick and Heathrow Airports and the Emirates Stadium. The company also provides testing and inspection services to schools, commercial and residential buildings and shopping centres across the country.

John Boyle


0870 777 6940

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