Aerospace is an industry in which the risk of falling is obvious. Equipment is often large in scale and tall in height with movement being required across many different surfaces. All the traditional hazards associated with working at height apply which poses risks to those people who work within the industry. In the Aerospace Industry, along with other industries that require vigilant health and safety procedures it is necessary, to protect staff, contractors and other workers through an effective means of fall protection.
In this article we describe the most popular types of fall protection in the aerospace industry, whether working in a hangar or on a wing, stabiliser or fuselage of an aircraft.
Vacuum anchors, which can protect one or more workers from falling when working on a wing, fuselage or stabiliser, are attached to the articraft by a vacuum. They have been in use since 1999 as a means of fall protection. The workers are attached to the vacuum anchor pad with shock absorbing lanyards and harnesses, thereby preventing them from falling to the ground in the event that they slip or trip whilst working. The main advantage of this type of fall protection is that the anchors are portable, can be easily attached to the aircraft and can be used either on the apron or inside the hangar.
This type of fall protection connects the worker’s harness, by lifeline, to an overhead track. The track is equipped with travellers, which allow the worker to safely undertake operations along the whole span of the track on horizontal as well as vertical planes.
A popular fall arrest system, horizontal lifelines are made up of a cable that is connected to two or more overhead anchor points. The lifeline is connected, normally by a lanyard, to a body harness and the system, fall arrest and fall restraint properties limit both the likelihood of a fall and the risk of injury if a fall occurs.
Walkways, protected by a guardrail, are a popular form of fall protection. Where they differ from the three systems described above, which offer fall protection and arrest, is that the aim is to prevent from happening in the first place. This type of protection is less expensive than engineered systems and is also relatively quick and straightforward to install.
Probably the most flexible of all fall protection systems is that which is provided by Fall-pac soft fall protection bags. The bags are easily maneuverable and can be used in the tightest of locations, either indoors or outside. An added advantage is that, unlike all of the systems listed above, which are designed to protect the worker from falling, they also protect against equipment being damaged as a consequence of being dropped by a worker when they are positioned beneath the work site.
Accidents that occur as a result of falls cause serious injury and death and are a hazard in all occupations that involve working from height, including the aerospace industry. A flexible fall protection system is essential if these risks are to be kept to a minimum, whilst enabling workers to carry out their maintenance and repair works efficiently.