Soft landing systems, also known as SLS are either air filled mats or bags or soft filled bags. You can use SLS to reduce the impact and risk of injury to workers if they fall from a height. As part of a fall arrest system, the soft mats or bags work alongside other fall protection equipment. But what is a soft fall landing system exactly and when would you need one?
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What Is A Fall Arrest System
A fall arrest system includes the equipment you need in order to reduce the impact of a fall. If you or your employees are working at height and cannot avoid working over or near a fall hazard, you need a fall arrest system in place. The equipment will ‘arrest’ the fall, it won’t prevent it. So if the person is falling, they will fall onto the air bag or mat which will protect them from severe injury or even fatality. A safety net is also part of a fall arrest system, but for the purpose of this article, the focus is on soft landing systems.
What Is A Soft Landing System Made From
Soft landing systems are collective fall arrest systems, as opposed to personal fall arrest systems which only protect the wearer. The landing bag or mat is laid on the ground or suspended beneath the working area to protect people from falls.
Air filled mats are balloon type structures of woven fabric which are pre-filled to an internal pressure and maintained with a pump, or pre-filled with air pockets.
Whereas soft-filled mats or bags are cushion structures of tear-resistant material which contain a resilient material inside.
Fall-Pac is a company that designs and manufactures fall arrest systems in the UK. The team has over 20 years of experience making products for people working at height.
The Fall-Pac air is a landing bag which contains a specific quantity of individual air pockets. This means you’ll require fewer bags to cover the area you need to. The Fall-Pac Air provides protection for anyone working at heights of up to 2.7 metres. By adding a second layer of units, it protects anyone working at heights of up to 3.4 metres. Another benefit is that the bags are supplied ready-filled, so every landing bag provides the same level of fall protection. This takes the responsibility of inflating away from the site operator, as each landing bag is the same.
The Fall-Pac Unit is a cylinder soft landing bag which is ideal for areas where space is limited. Inside, it contains specialist polystyrene which provides a reliable soft landing. Meanwhile, the outside is made from a high quality woven polypropylene outer casing with a protective coating. Which makes it ideal for even the wettest of environments, such as a port or dock.
How Does It Work
The aim of a soft fall landing system is to reduce the impact of a fall. It absorbs the impact of the falling person, taking some of the strain away from a person’s body. You must install and check the SLS because there are still risks if it’s not inflated or positioned correctly for the height of the potential fall. For example, the risks can include ‘bottoming out’ if the landing bag is deflating which reduces the level of protection.
Even with a soft landing system in place, you cannot fully exclude the possibility of injury. As a person falls, the velocity increases with the height of the fall which makes the impact even stronger. However, it will help to reduce the rate of acceleration and the strain on body parts, particularly ankles, knees and backs.
Regular Inspection Checks
It’s essential that anyone using SLS has the proper training to position and maintain it. Inspection checks must take place prior to every use. You need to look at the following;
- is it in the right position to protect the workers above?
- has it been affected by any damage, such as adverse weather conditions, or is it still safe to use?
- is the level of inflation correct?
- has it been inspected within the last seven days as a minimum?
- is it strong enough and stable enough to arrest a fall? Check for any deflation or other damage.
The safety of people working above the soft landing system outweighs the time and cost it takes for a suitably competent person to inspect the landing bags each time.
How Long Does A Soft Landing System Last
If you are buying or hiring a soft fall landing system from Fall-Pac, then the average lifespan of a Fall-Pac unit is around 10 years. This depends on the correct installation of the unit and regular inspections. The Fall-Pac on site team can come to any UK site to test your unit for signs of excessive wear and tear. They can also advise you about any units that many need replacing or refilling. If there are any unsuitable units, the team will mark these ‘not for use’ and explain the best course of action for replacing and recycling it.
The Fall-Pac team advise that full inspections take place once a year. If there has been a fall onto one of the units, then an inspection should take place sooner, to check everything is safe to use again.
When To Use A Soft Landing System
Soft landing systems provide a practical solution to minimising the impact of a fall from height in the workplace. They provide flexibility with different sizes and weights to fit into different spaces, and durability for changing environments.
However, you must not use a soft landing system on its own. In the hierarchy of safety, a soft landing system should be in place alongside other protective equipment.
An employer must look at ways or preventing workers from reaching the fall hazard in the first place. For example, can you fence off the area creating a safety zone or put up guard rails to prevent access?
In some situations there is no other alternative but to have a soft landing system in place alongside another protective product. In which case you must follow the proper safety instructions for using a fall bag or mat.