kiernan Structural Steel Ltd (KSSL) is a family run business which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2019. It also celebrated winning a major safety award in the same year following the acquisition of a Straddle Carrier (Combi-SC) from specialist handling manufacturer Combilift. The Construction Safety Partnership Advisory Committee (CSPAC) holds annual awards to drive continual improvements in safety, health and welfare in the construction sector, and KSSL won the Innovation in Safety in Construction and Maintenance category thanks to improvements that have been achieved on site with the Combi-SC.

From humble beginnings in 1981, KSSL has grown to become one of Ireland’s largest structural steel contractors, employing over 180 people at its premises in Longford and also at a base in Middlesex in England. The company offers a wide range of services for its customers which include BIM design engineering, steel fabrication and erection and roof and floor metal decking to name but a few. It has been involved in some prestigious projects such as the St. James Gate Guinness Brewery and the Blackrock clinic.

Around 15,000 tonnes of steel are moved around the premises on a yearly basis, and KSSL wanted to reduce the risks associated with the loading and unloading of trailers, which is considered to be a difficult and potentially hazardous procedure across the industry. This traditionally entails the use of forklifts or teleporters which are required to carry out multiple lifting procedures per load, together with operatives working outside, at height, on a trailer bed to secure the individual beams. The risk of a load collapsing is an ever present danger and the time for each load is typically around two to three hours.

“We take the responsibility to protect our staff – most of whom are local and have been with us for years – very seriously,” said Managing Director Frank Kiernan. “We also follow a policy of lean management and continuous improvement, so when we looked at the Combi-SC we realised it would not only make a substantial contribution to safety but would also increase productivity and reduce costs. These three factors met the criteria for the CSPAC Award and I am in no doubt that they were instrumental in us winning it.”

Finished loads can now be prepared at ground level which has eradicated the need for working at height and the risk of collapsed loads. This also applies to the unloading of raw incoming steel. These procedures are carried out indoors so staff are not exposed to the elements any more. Once a complete load is ready it can be raised in one lift with the Combi-SC, driven across the trailer bed and safely deposited – which takes around just 15 minutes. Thanks to this time saving, there is now no need for late night loading which has significantly reduced labour costs. The Combi-SC also enabled the number of KSSL’s trailers to be halved, saving on maintenance costs and avoiding a build-up of material which used to slow down production.


“This one machine has had multiple benefits: we have improved welfare for our staff, made vast savings in terms of cost and time for improved efficiency – and we’ve won a major award. So it’s definitely one of the best pieces of equipment we have ever bought,” said John Kiernan.

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