Working in specific environments, including at height, requires specialist safety equipment. Many employees in industries such as Port Authorities, Transport, Film, Haulage and Construction work at height and therefore require safety equipment. If you’re in danger of falling from height at work, you need personal protective equipment. In some situations, you’ll need specific fall arrest equipment. But what is fall arrest safety equipment and when do you need it?
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When Do You Need Fall Arrest Safety Equipment?
Essentially, fall arrest safety equipment stops the impact of a fall. It activates when a person is already falling. For example, you might be working unloading containers from a vessel onto the dock when you fall. Or you are working at height on a film set behind a camera when you lose your footing. Ultimately, your fall is shielded by the fall arrest safety equipment.
Typically, you need a fall arrest system when the work means you need to lean over the edge of a fall hazard, such as a building or ship for example. The aim of safety in working at height is to prevent a worker reaching a fall hazard in the first place. However, if this cannot be prevented, then you must use a fall arrest system.
What Is Fall Arrest Safety Equipment
Landing or safety bags provide a soft-landing system for people working at height. They are easy to move to where you want them, even in areas where space is limited. The cushions reduce the impact of the fall.
Typically, a lifeline and a harness work together, along with anchorage. A lifeline is set up between two anchor points, such as two scaffolding poles. As a worker moves along the line, they are protected by the fall arrest equipment.
A fall arrest safety harness attaches to your lifeline, so if you lose your footing or fall, the safety equipment will reduce the impact. Harnesses use either a shock absorbing lanyard or a deceleration device to absorb the fall.
A fall arrest lanyard is made of shock-absorbent webbing that attaches to the harness. The design is strong enough to support your weight, but also flexible to be able to move as you work.
When a person falls, a deceleration device will slow the rate at which they fall. Ultimately, it reduces the force of the fall. Examples include cobra straps, loops and tubes. A cobra strap deceleration device is used along with a lanyard. The design ensures that weight is spread evenly across the body, which helps reduce impact on your legs and feet when you land.
An essential part of any fall arrest system is the anchorage. Using ropes, lanyards and lifelines all require specific protection anchor points. Anchorages can be permanent or mobile, depending on your requirements. However, it is the responsibility of a competent person to make sure the structure which the anchor connects to, has enough strength to arrest a fall.
A Fall Arrest Winch is a device that lifts you up by the fall arrest system and then lowers you gently down again.
When using fall arrest safety equipment, an essential element is to understand how you are going to recover a person if they do fall. For example, if a worker falls from the edge of a container onto an air bag but very close to water, how are you going to recover them from that position safely? This is part of your fall rescue plan, which legally has to be in place when using fall arrest safety equipment.
Fall Rescue Plan
A fall rescue plan details who will rescue the person who falls, how they are going to do it and how they will safely deliver them back up to height. Fall arrest equipment can save lives, but you must know how to recover a worker as quickly and safely as possible.
With this in mind, it’s important to know that it is not the duty of the emergency services to rescue a fallen worker. Hence, if you are an employer, you are responsible. However, you must still let the emergency services know as they can offer first aid support.
Choosing the Right Fall Arrest Safety Equipment
You can use fall arrest equipment alongside other fall safety protection equipment. The difference with a fall arrest system is that the aim is to reduce the impact of a fall when someone is already falling. So, in order to prevent a fall in the first place, you will need other fall protection equipment.
For example, everyone working at height needs to wear PPE, or Personal Protective Equipment. As well as this, every worker needs training on how to use it safely. The protection equipment you use depends on your working environment.
There are situations when fall protection equipment is not enough and you have to work on a fragile surface or next to a fall hazard. In which case, this is when you need fall arrest equipment. However, every effort should be made to minimise the risks and requirement of a fall arrest system. Employers must always consider fall restraint protection equipment first, and if this is not enough to cover the risks, then to use a fall arrest system.
Maintaining Fall Arrest Safety Equipment
You must store your safety and rescue equipment in a suitable place and make sure you inspect and maintain it regularly. As well as this, you must keep records of previous inspections, maintenance and equipment history.
Specifically, as part of your fall rescue plan, an employee needs specialist training to recover someone who has fallen. This is a legal requirement when using fall arrest equipment. The rescuer will need to inspect, anchor, assemble and maintain the equipment, as well as know exactly how to recover the worker. Also, you must clearly document all training.
The Health and Safety Executive recommends that you inspect all equipment at least every six months. Or more frequently if the manufacturer’s guidelines recommend it. Furthermore, it’s essential to inspect all of your safety equipment after any rescue or fall.