From within any industry, there has to be certain rules in place when you are working at height. Otherwise, working in an environment which is already hazardous can become much more dangerous. There is a hierarchy of control when it comes to working at height, which begins with collective fall safety. But what is collective fall safety?
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What Does Collective Fall Safety Mean
Fall safety is about using protective measures through equpment, training or clothing to protect workers at risk while working at height. Collective fall safety is about protecting more than one person at a time. Whereas personal fall safety is the responsibility of using the correct equipment to keep yourself safe. Personal fall safety only protects the user.
Hierarchy Of Working At Height
When it comes to working at height, the control measures are as follows;
- avoid working at height if reasonable
- when you cannot avoid working at height, use the right type of safety equipment
- minimise the distance and consequences of a fall where the risk cannot be taken away.
During each step of the process, you must always consider measures that protect everyone, as in collective measures, before personal protection.
Types Of Collective Fall Safety Measures
If your team is working on a roof, then edge protection around the perimeter will help to protect everyone from falls. So there is a physical barrier preventing workers from reaching the fall hazard. This could be in the form of high visibility guard rails for example.
A cherry picker is an aerial work platform, also known as an aerial device. It can lift workers to a height to enable them to carry out tasks at height safely. The cherry picker is a collective measure because it protects a team of workers from falling.
Putting up scaffolding is another good collective safety measure. This can be reinforced with other protective equipment such as guard rails or netting. It enables lots of workers to move along safely while carrying out tasks at height.
What Makes Collective Fall Safety Passive
Why should you use collective control measures as a priority? Well, firstly because they protect more people, but secondly, because they are also typically passive.
Being passive means that there is usually no other action by the user to make the equipment work effectively. For example, say you have a safety net in place. It’s a collective measure because it can capture anyone who is falling. And it’s passive, because the falling person doesn’t have to take any further action in order to make it work effectively. They fall, and the net captures them, absorbing the impact of the fall.
Personal Protective Measures
Once you have the collective measures in place, the next step is to assess what personal protective equipment you need if any. The difference with personal protective equipment is that it relies on the user to work effectively. So it is your personal responsibility that the equipment is working and in good order. Types of personal protective measures include;
You can wear a body harness when working at height, which keeps you secure while moving around. There are different sizes and attachments, depending on the task. Always make sure you are wearing one which is suitable for the task you are using it for. Otherwise it doesn’t protect you in the way it should.
Safety lanyards are ropes that attach to a harness. Always check what type of lanyard you need. There are shock absorbing lanyards, fall restraint and tool lanyards.
You can use a descender when abseiling down a surface such as a vertical wall when washing windows. It also attaches to your harness and the anchorage point, such as a window washing cradle. It’s your personal responsibility to make sure the attachments are safe and secure. Also that the equipment works for what it’s intended for.
Fall Arrest Systems
In the hierarchy of fall prevention controls, a fall arrest system can work alongside other fall protection equipment. If you have made collective safety your priority, the next step is personal safety. Then, you may need to consider fall arrest equipment.
Fall arrest equipment includes safety bags or nets to protect workers who are already falling. This is different to fall protection equipment on its own, which can minimise the risks, but not reduce the impact of a fall.
As a person falls from height, their descent speeds up. Depending on the height, the impact of the fall can cause serious injury or fatality. That’s why you need a safety bag or net if the fall hazard remains, even after all the other safety protection equipment is in place.
A safety bag or net absorbs the impact of a falling person and spreads the weight across a wider area. The worker may still receive injuries from the fall, but the safety bag minimises the impact. Thus reducing the seriousness of the injuries.
A Full Approach To Collective Fall Safety
In summary, the best way to look at fall protection is to take an overall full approach and assess all the risks.
According to the health and safety executive, collective fall safety always takes priority. Once everything is in place, from guard rails, to scaffolding, signage or safety zones, then look at personal protective equipment.
With body harnesses, anchor points and lifelines, your workers are protected while working at height. However, if a fall hazard is still a real risk to workers, then you need a fall arrest system in place.
Conclusion: What Is Collective Fall Safety
Finally, choosing a company such as Fall-Pac can help you to feel secure about your fall protection systems. You can hire or buy safety bag units from Fall-Pac, and set them up at your site location within minutes. If you don’t want to inflate the safety bags yourself, there is an option to choose a pre inflated safety bag, which takes the responsibility away from you.
Furthermore, the team at Fall-Pac can provide on site training if you use Fall-pac products. A Fall-Pac unit can last between 5-10 years if looked after properly and workers receive training on how to maintain it well.