When you’re working at height, you need specialist fall protection equipment in place to protect you. From lifelines to body harnesses, to safety nets or airbags. The type of equipment depends on the nature of the job. On a construction site, there are hazards both externally and internally and all workers need protection. Therefore, fall safety in construction is an essential part of planning any work that takes place in the industry.
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Fall Hazards On A Construction Site
Think about a construction site, even if you don’t work on one, you can see the potential hazards. From leaning over the side of a building to digging foundations or hauling heavy loads to the right position.
Any of the following tasks below create fall hazards;
- Installing joists or roof trusses
- refurbishing roofs
- fixing roof tiles
- installing concrete floors or stairs
- working near fragile surfaces
- repairing and installing windows
- removing bricks
- working with heavy machinery
- digging trenches
Any of these tasks are potentially dangerous if the fall protection is not right for the type of work being done.
Types Of Fall Safety Equipment On A Construction Site
When working at height, the employer is responsible for making sure that all workers have proper protection in place. This includes fall protection equipment and systems.
An employer or site manager must start with the collective protection of all staff, such as providing guard rails, warning signs, debris netting or safety zones on site. When the collective measures are in place, the focus is on personal protective equipment.
If you cannot avoid a potential fall from height hazard, then a specific fall arrest system is set up to give the right protection, should it be needed.
Fall Limiting Device
A fall limiting device works by reducing the force of impact on anyone who slips or falls. These can include safety nets or safety bags. The device absorbs the impact of the fall spreading the weight over a larger area. It’s part of a fall arrest system, which is put in place if you can’t avoid the risk of a fall from height.
A body safety harness is worn around the chest and upper thighs. It’s a good option when working at height when there’s not enough room for guard rails or nets. The harness attaches to an anchor point via a lifeline and a lanyard. The lanyard is the flexible line from the harness to the anchor point.
Fall Restraint System
A fall restraint system includes a belt which attaches to an anchor point. You can tighten the belt to prevent someone from reaching a fall hazard, hence restraining the worker.
Trench Protection System
A trench protection system includes safety equipment for working in trenches over 1 metre deep, to protect against falls. This works alongside other forms of fall protection equipment.
Six Steps For Fall Safety Planning
For any type of work from height, there has to be fall protection planning in place from the very beginning of the job. The steps for fall protection planning are;
- Step 1: Identify The Task. What elements of the work are happening at height? Can you avoid this work and make it happen without working at height? If not, what is the nature of the work.
- Step 2: Inspect and Risk Assess The Site. Look at how workers will go in and out of the site near the fall hazards. Can you put in a temporary entrance for the construction period creating a safety zone?
- Step 3: Understand The Hazards. Do you have any heavy machinery or electricity nearby that you need to consider. Is there a risk of falling debris onto a nearby building or the public below?
- Step 4: Set Up The Protection. Now you know the hazards, it’s time to think about the specific fall safety equipment you need. Is there an unavoidable fall risk? For example, a worker must finish that job while hanging over the edge of the building and there’s no alternative. In which case, you need to mitigate for this.
- Step 5: Train Employees Properly. All employees need to know how to use the appropriate fall protection equipment. From tying a ladder for safety, to fitting a body harness and checking its anchor point for stability. When it comes to a fall arrest system, the planning includes how you are going to rescue the person who has fallen in the net or onto the bag safely.
- Step 6: Inspect And Maintain Equipment. In the construction industry, all equipment is exposed to the elements on a daily basis. While safety protection equipment is designed to be durable, weather resistant and long lasting, you still need to check and maintain it on a regular basis. This should happen anyway, but particularly if the item of equipment is used to prevent a fall. You must ensure it’s in proper working order for its next use.
Fall Safety Tips In Construction
In summary, working in the construction industry includes many risks such as working at height. Hence fall safety planning and equipment is an essential part of the job. The main thing to consider is how to identify the risks and then to decide on the right safety equipment for the work to take place as safely as possible.
In the construction industry, it’s the employer’s duty to prevent falls. The best way to achieve this, after getting the right equipment, is to provide excellent training. Then the workers can feel more confident that they know how to use the fall safety equipment appropriately, thus ensuring a safer working environment for everyone.
Fall-Pac is a company in the UK which designs and manufacturers fall protection equipment. They make products for the construction industry as well as several other industries where people work at height. Get in touch for more advice at fall-pac.com