So just what is fall protection? Fall protection is the backup system planned and systems put into place for a worker who could lose his or her balance at height in order to control or eliminate injury potential. For thousands of years man has used ropes and various knots to help or secure objects against the forces of gravity.
“When one falls, it is not one’s foot that is to blame.” Chinese proverb
From an historical perspective some of the earlier uses could be found on sailing ships, in church steeple construction and maintenance, and in tree-trimming trades. The use of ropes and some type of body belt for restraint or work positioning support found particular interest during stormy seas and above the decks of ships.
As years passed by the harness and fall protection system became more commonly used within the construction industry in order to preserve the life of the construction worker and is now commonly used on buildings for yearly maintenance of gutters, M & E services and for general roof inspection and basic works. You will often see ‘D’ ring eye bolts in tall office block buildings and hotels for window cleaners to attach to in order to protect them whilst they are going about their duties.
Fall arrest is the form of fall protection which involves the safe stopping of a person who is already falling to prevent any further injury. It is not the same as taking the necessary safety measures to prevent falls in the first instance.
There are two types of fall protection – collective and personal.
For example safety nets stop people falling to the ground that does not rely on the end user wearing equipment correctly and personal protection, which is the most common. Fall protection systems should be custom designed to fulfill and meet your requirements and design will change from site to site which is why it is very important that only qualified people design and install your systems.
Let’s say that an inexperienced operative is working on an industrial estate carrying out maintenance works to the roof. Now I hear your first cry ‘why is an inexperienced operative on the roof?’ but this is the type of issue that you have to guard against. Believe it or not we have worked on projects where the local council has had to install handrail protection to skylights in order to protect vandals or people going onto the roof to steal lead as they have a duty of care for ‘anybody’ that goes onto their roof. There have been instances in the past where children have accessed tall buildings and fallen through roof lights and suffered serious life changing injuries or a fatality and the building owner has indeed been successfully sued for negligence!! Don’t be caught out!
Due to the industrial units being built in different eras you could well find that 70% of the buildings would have ‘safe lights’ installed (roof lights that are safe to walk on) and 30% that are fragile (meaning that you would fall through if walking on them). Now imagine that the operative carrying out the maintenance works is told by the building manager that he is safe to freely walk over the roof lights on the buildings where the safe lights are installed then moves onto one of the buildings that has ‘fragile’ roof lights installed? The result is that they would now be at risk of suffering a very serious injury or even a fatality as they would most probably assume (unless specifically told otherwise) that all roof lights are now safe to walk on.
This is a perfect example of how buildings will differ from one to the other and why you cannot simply replicate one system to another property because all buildings & access requirements will differ greatly.
The five key elements of such a system are:
A – Anchorage – a fixed structure or structural adaptation, often including an anchorage connector, to which the other component the horizontal lifeline safety systems are rigged.
B – Body Wear – a full body harness worn by the worker.
C – Connector – a subsystem component connecting the harness to the anchorage – such as a safety lanyard.
D – Deceleration Device – an essential subsystem component designed to dissipate the forces associated with a fall arrest event. It is good practice and recommended that these are also included in restraint systems, in case of foreseeable misuse.
E – Emergency Planning and Equipment – a clear and effective approach should a worker need rescuing following a fall. All workers should be familiar with the site-specific plan and competent to implement it. If a suspended worker is not recovered in good time, they may suffer the effects of “suspension trauma”, which basically means that although they have survived the fall there is high risk of death through build up of toxins in the body as critical points of the body are restricted blood flow!
These elements are critical to the effectiveness of a personal fall protection system.
There are many different combinations of products that are commonly used to assemble a personal fall arrest system and each must meet strict standards.
To find out more about our fall protection / fall arrest systems contact fallarrest.com here
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