Our director Liz was pleasantly surprised that the interview she did with New Scientist was published this month:
Don’t look down
It takes a team of 11 people a whopping three months to clean the windows of the world’s tallest building, the 828-metre-tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The task is not for the faint-hearted.
It is Liz Rickard’s job to ensure that people working at height are kept safe – although she keeps her feet firmly on the ground. “I hate heights,” she says. “I couldn’t even climb to the top of the climbing frame when I was little.”
Rickard is head engineer at Highwire, a height safety consultancy and supplier based in Manchester, UK. “We provide equipment and systems to make sure that people cleaning windows, servicing roofs or clearing gutters are kept safe from falling,” she says. After studying for a degree in civil and structural engineering, Rickard worked on ensuring that historic buildings meet modern-day safety regulations before starting her present role.
A real danger of working at height is being blown away, says Rickard. To prevent this, her team advises businesses on suitable harnesses and abseiling equipment.
But supertall buildings will require further measures. “At a kilometre high, Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia will face immense challenges,” Rickard says. “I imagine that, if you were to access the roof, you’d need to do so from a protected cradle attached to the top of the building that cannot be blown around or swung involuntarily.”
The best part of her job, says Rickard, is overcoming the challenges to create a safe, yet aesthetically pleasing, structure. “It really is very nice when you can go and look at a building and see something that looks well-designed and think ‘we did that’.”