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A Brief History of Fall Protection in the Workplace

Nowadays, workers wouldn’t dream of working at height without substantial safety equipment in place - they wouldn’t be allowed to, either, given the current legislations stipulated in The Work at Height Regulations 2005. This hasn’t always been the case, however, in fact it wasn’t that long ago that these regulations were introduced in the first place.

Read on below as we give you a brief history of fall protection and what led to it coming into place.

Fall arrest system

The Body Belt

Between the 1920s and 1970s, inspired by the gear used by climbers, the body belt began to increase in popularity amongst workers across the West. As the name suggests, these were worn around workers’ waists, however this came with its problems.

If a worker fell when wearing a body belt, they had to fall ‘correctly’ (horizontally), since if they fell vertically there was the risk of the belt slipping over their shoulders - so if the worker didn’t have the time or presence of mind to try ensure that they fell correctly, the belt was of little to no use. Furthermore, they would also have to manually tie and re-tie their lines, as opposed to the use of carabiners that we have today, which discouraged them from even using a belt in the first place.

Nowadays, using body belts in fall arrest systems is much more effective, though these are used for work positioning more so than fall arresting, keeping workers secure in a certain position that stops them from reaching the falling edge. They also fit much more effectively to avoid slipping over the body, whilst the use of carabiners and D-rings makes them easier to attach to secure points.

The Safety Harness

In the 1940s, the safety harness began to appear as the main alternative to the body belt. It was inspired by the parachute harnesses worn by paratroopers in World War II. Since harnesses wrap around your whole body rather than just your waist, this meant that workers didn’t need to worry about the way in which they would need to fall should an accident happen, since they would be protected either way.

Though many workers still were apprehensive about using these to begin with due to their discomfort, manufacturers noticed that the more comfortable and user-friendly they made them then the more they would be used.

The modern safety harnesses that are used today are made so that they are comfortable to wear all day, thanks to the materials being used and them being adjustable to the wearer for maximum comfort. They are also made to absorb more shock from a fall in the event that one does occur.

Fall Arrest System

Since the introduction of the regulations in 2005, work positioning belts and safety harnesses must be used as part of a wider fall arrest system. This involves the use of an (or a series of) anchor point(s), a safety lanyard or self-retracting lifeline and the belt/harness. These are designed to stop you from hitting a lower surface in the case of a fall, while absorbing as much of the shock as possible so that you don’t get whiplash.

If you’re looking for high-quality safety gear to keep your employees safe and abide by regulations, then check out the products offered at Lifting & Safety Gear Ltd. We have everything you need from harnesses to lanyards. Get in touch with us today for more information

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