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    STAYING SHARP: HOW TO SELECT FALL ARREST

    Equipment for unique risk protection

    Stephen Morris the UK Sales Manager  for Capital Safety Training has provided the following article:

    “Data* from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) shows that 19 out of 45 fatal injuries within the construction industry during the 2013/2014 time period were caused by falls from height. An additional 581 falls were officially reported which resulted in major or specified injuries. Typically, fatal falls are caused by the absence of proper safety equipment or its incorrect use.

    While both employers and employees are obligated to follow the Health & Safety at Work Act, specific risks associated with working at height meant that the Work at Height (WAH) Regulations were introduced a decade ago. Nowadays, firms are required to implement a complete health and safety management system which acknowledges the different risks and equipment requirements when working at height. Health and safety policies are at their core designed to produce a hierarchy of control measures, starting with identifying and eliminating risk wherever possible. In the event a risk cannot be completely removed, workers must be supplied with and trained in the art of using the necessary personal protection equipment (PPE).

    Fall arrest systems are vital in risky situations where a worker may fall from an elevated location. These systems will trigger only when a fall occurs. They usually contain a full-body harness complete with shock-absorbing lanyard or retractable lifeline, plus an anchor point and a means of rescue. When choosing a particular fall arrest system, it is essential to consider the specific risks of the procedures involved. Be careful as the wrong choice can have potentially fatal results.
    Since the WAH Regulations were introduced, global product testing and certification agencies recognise two situations involving elevated levels of risk with regards to fall protection: leading and sharp edges which can cut, fray or otherwise compromise the lifeline.

    Leading and sharp edges: The basics

    A sharp edge is one which may cut through a wide variety of lifelines. According to Schedule 5, Part 3 of the WAH Regulations, “a fall arrest system shall not be used in a manner which involves the risk of a line being cut”. How well a lifeline performs depends on the material making up the line. For instance, a stainless steel lifeline will perform less well if stretched over a sharp edge when compared with galvanised steel line of the same diameter. The nature of the edge in question is also important to consider. For example, concrete edges may cause less damage than steel.

    Leading edges can also be defined as sharp which further expounds the risks. An example of a leading edge is where a worker is installing sheet roofing materials. In this example, the fall protection system is anchored at the worker’s feet behind him or her. As the individual moves away from this point, the risk of them falling over the edge of the elevated position gets higher.

    Knowing the dangers

    The principal risk with regards to sharp and leading edge applications occurs when the lifeline is stretched over a sharp edge. Here, the line can become frayed or even severed. There are also a number of other smaller but equally as important risks:

    • Increased fall distance: For leading edge applications, workers are typically attached at foot level. This may increase the total fall distance unless the anchor point is at shoulder level or higher.
    • Lock-up speed: All good self-retracting lifelines (SRLs) will react to an unexpected fall when the line itself starts accelerating out of its housing. The velocity at this point is typically 1.37 metres per second. If the SRL is anchored at foot level, this means that the required velocity won’t be reached until the worker’s D-ring moves over the leading edge, taking it below the level of the anchor point. Hence, the individual will already have dropped approximately 1.52 metres before the SRL engages and stops the fall.
    • Higher fall arrest forces: As the worker may fall further, the shock impact on the body delivered through the fall protection system can usually be a lot higher when the fall is finally stopped.
    • Greater chance of pendulum hazards: In the event the fall occurs while the worker is at an angle to the anchor point, he or she may start swinging like a pendulum after a fall. As well as potential impact dangers, the lifeline can be cut or frayed by repeatedly sawing back and forth across the sharp edge above.
    Making a smarter choice

    Employers should be aware of certain measures which will reduce risks and hazards in both sharp and leading edge applications. This includes utilising standard SRLs with an energy absorber, covering potentially dangerous edges with anti-wear/friction solutions, and raising the anchor points. There are also a number of specific criteria which the safety industry now acknowledges must be used with SRLs in sharp/leading edge applications. In particular, lifelines which have not been designed for foot level anchor points will produce forces far greater than those within acceptable fall safety parameters. Because of this, all components must function as a whole to absorb energy and reduce the average arresting forces to 6kN (about 600kgs) or less.

    The HSE has declared that all SRL users are to make sure the equipment chosen can be used safely in a horizontal plane. For requirements when SRLs are used in conjunction with shock absorbing units, check the CE EN360 VG 11 Sheet 60 sharp edge certification.

    Capital Safety has produced a range of SRLs designed to optimise safety and protection in sharp and leading edge applications. These lifelines were created after the European standards vertical group 11, developed test and performance standards for this type of use for self-retracting devices, including major changes to both the design and testing of these products. The Capital Safety range contains a number of high quality products such as a 2.4 metre personal SRL designed for foot level anchorage. This design is able to arrest a fall within centimetres and offer protection for workers at low heights. It also comes with a galvanised steel leading edge lifeline which is 35% stronger than standard lines.

    A safe environment for your workers

    Selecting the proper safety equipment is only one aspect of looking after your workers’ health and safety. Compliance is also essential. This is the responsibility of the employer who must provide the correct equipment. The employee must also use everything in the proper manner. Thorough training is a vital component of workplace safety to make sure workers fully utilise the right types of fall protection measures. Ensuring workers understand all hazards related to sharp and leading edges is also important.

    According to WAH Regulations, those using personal fall protection systems should be given sufficient training by a ‘competent’ individual. This is someone who can accurately identify risks and carry out comprehensive measures to eliminate or prevent them. As well as being a major equipment supplier, Capital Safety can also provide combined classroom and hands-on training as well as product manuals for all systems sold.

    Across the globe, product testing and certification agencies acknowledge that leading/sharp edge applications create work environments which involve unique fall protection risks. These situations also include further hazards which emphasise the importance of the right equipment and the proper safety techniques to keep workers protected at all times.

    *HSE Health and Safety Statistics Annual Report for Great Britain 2013/14″

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