Professional Builder talks to Carobyn Products, the company behind Dura-Stilts, who are aiming to dispel some myths about stilts.
Why should I use stilts and not a platform?
It’s a personal choice – using stilts or a platform will depend on factors like accessibility, ceiling height, and how quickly you want to complete the job. Moving around on a pair of leg extensions offers better mobility and therefore greater productivity.
Working from a fixed platform restricts you and your earning potential. There is a safety concern as well as there is a risk of missing your footing when stepping onto the platform, plus the danger of over-reaching from a fixed platform is less than ideal.
Surely they’re not as safe as other methods?
Well, they’re not intrinsically dangerous either – it’s very hard to walk off the end (as is the case with platforms or boards and trestles) and the reduction in repeatedly hopping up and down all day will cause less wear and tear on knees and ankles etc.
Long term users report excellent safety stats – one London contractor recorded more than 15,000 accident free hours on stilts. It has been our experience in 35+ years that stilts are very safe – the users appreciate the care needed and use them as instructed. Proper training is the key to safe working.
They look difficult to use, can anyone use them?
Dura-Stilts are designed as a leg extension – the movement of your lower leg is transferred to the ground so you move as naturally as possible.
This is due to the parallelogram design which keeps the foot parallel to the ground and allows the ankle to move backwards and forwards. Combined with the range of adjustment to fit the individual, a correctly fitted pair of stilts are almost part of you, and it becomes second nature to walk or stand still without effort.
I know that UK regulations on falls from height and general practice are tough, am I going to be penalised by the HSE for using these on some sites?
Not if you are sensible – incorporate the use of stilts into your Method Statement and then carry out the usual Risk Assessment to make sure the site is suitable. If your site is properly managed then general good housekeeping will provide a clear work area, with no trip hazards or voids etc.
The Working at Height Regulations 2005 allow you to select equipment appropriate to the task – it is your responsibility to validate that choice by choosing the right tool for the right job.
Are they comfortable?
There’s a range of five different adjustments to accommodate different users so you can find a comfortable working set up. By following the comprehensive instructions you can fine tune the settings to your preference. We have many users who will be on stilts for hours each day, every day earning good money whilst maintaining an excellent safety record. With the Mark IV stilts comfort gets taken to new heights with the option of lamb’s wool leg band liners – perfect for shorts.
Do you see stilts becoming more common in the future?
Stilts will continue to offer a viable alternative to fixed platforms – it’s simply much quicker to walk around at ceiling height either to plaster, paint, or fix services, than hop from bench to bench. Add to that the reduction in fatigue (climbing up and down is hard work) and it’s a win-win for stilts.
In the UK stilts have been associated with plastering and ceiling fixing, but in the USA nearly every trade has a pair – painters, electricians, furnishers (hanging drapes), landscape gardeners… the list of potential users is endless.
For more information on Dura-Stilts click here.