Lowering the hazards of working at height
Hazards are present in all occupational environments, but for those working at height, the stakes are significantly raised. Our MD Berenice Northcott recently shared some insight with Tomorrow’s Health & Safety, focusing on why fall protection systems are invaluable when it comes to safety. If you missed the article, you can read it in full here…
Scaling great heights might be the stuff of nightmares for some, but for others it is simply another day in the office. Across a variety of industries – including construction, FM, leisure and tourism, to name just a few – there are requirements for work to be conducted at significant elevations. And whilst a head for heights is an obvious role requirement for such professions, meticulous care, attention and adherence to health and safety regulations is also critical.
But the responsibility for protecting workers does not rest solely with the individual – site, building and FM managers, as well as employers, must also ensure adequate measures are in place to mitigate the potential risks of a fall. And whilst accountability for such an incident is the last thing anyone wants to consider, ensuring that everyone is on the same page when it comes to their duty of care is essential.
Reducing the risks
So, what should liable parties be doing to reduce risks for their workforce?
The simple answer is making sure that approved fall protection equipment is in place.
Where elevated work cannot be avoided, installing appropriate measures to protect against falls is a legal requirement – the Work At Height Regulations 2005 cover when safeguards should be fitted and how inspections need to be recorded. From planning and assessing risks to designing and maintaining safety systems, the legislation rules how equipment should be implemented, managed and overseen.
But finding the most suitable protection system can be a little more complex. The type of solution that should be installed depends on a number of factors, including the building/roofing specifications, nature of work being conducted and frequency of use, for example.
Arrest or restraint?
There are two key categories of fall protection equipment – arrest and restraint.
Restraint systems are used where there is no possibility of a fall from height, but where work is being conducted at a significant elevation. Typically set 2.3m or more back from a roof perimeter or open edge, this type of equipment restricts the user’s path to keep them away from hazardous precipices and requires a minimal amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) and training.
Arrest solutions, on the other hand, are installed where the danger of a fall cannot be entirely eliminated. They therefore mitigate the impact of a fall rather than removing the risk entirely, and so must be designed around the specific requirements of the site. The roof substrate type, building height and fall clearances must be taken into account in the planning and specifying stages, to ensure the maximum effectiveness of the system. This category of protection additionally requires specialist PPE, user training and a rescue plan to be in place before any work at height begins.
When it comes to choosing a fall arrest or restraint system, it is important to do so on a case-by-case basis. No two building or site requirements are the same, so managers and employers should enlist the expertise of a supplier that will carry out an in-depth survey and provide a tailored solution – along with any necessary training for users.
The Soter2 fall arrest and restraint system, for example, fulfils a wide range of work at height requirements and also comprises high-spec PPE – including horizontal line system attachment devices, safety harnesses, restraint and arrest lanyards, adjustable ropes and rope grabs.
It is additionally suitable for use on an array of different roof types, including industrial pitched metal, corrugated metal, built-up flat and metal standing seam roofing. Plus, for particularly complex or out-of-the-ordinary projects, this equipment can also be tailored to suit vertical and overhead applications.
Access North Structures is an approved provider of QBM/SFS Soter2 fall protection solutions, specialising in the surveying, design, installation, inspection, certification, testing and maintenance of both temporary and permanent equipment.
Get in touch to find out more!