Working at height is a common part of lots of different industries, especially construction and repair work. This involves workers accessing rooftops and other tall structures to carry out necessary building and maintenance tasks.
In recent years, safety precautions have been tightened to ensure the safety of workers when completing projects at potentially dangerous heights. The 2005 Work at Height Regulations ensure that all work must be adequately planned, supervised and carried out by fully trained employees.
These regulations are also met by using the proper protective equipment for the task at hand, including a safely installed fall arrest system. Read on for an in-depth look at how this vital piece of equipment is used, with an overview of how to work professionally at a height.
An Introduction To Fall Arrest Systems
A fall arrest system is a collection of equipment designed to protect you from injury if you fall from a height. This system will stop your fall before you hit the ground or surrounding buildings, where it usually consists of a reliable anchor and a sturdy rope. This differs from a fall restraint system, which is designed to prevent falls altogether through a tighter tie system.
Fall arresters will limit the forces at work on the body, where this means the fall is shortened and shock is absorbed. The person in question can then be lowered safely to the ground at a controlled pace.
Industrial Uses Of Fall Arrest Equipment
Many commercial industries involve safe working at height, where these include:
● Scaffolding - where these structures are erected to support construction at height
● Telecommunications - where regular repairs and maintenance checks are carried out
● Electricians - where building wiring and transmission lines are all situated at height
● Window cleaners - where large commercial buildings require multi-storey cleaning
● Roofing - where commercial and residential roofs often need repairing and replacing
● Masonry - where brickwork and building repair frequently takes place at height
Setting Up A Fall Arrest System
The primary piece of equipment for a fall arrest system is the harness, where there are several key types to choose from. A multi-purpose harness includes several attachment points which means it can be used for a range of projects at height. A work positioning harness features d-rings on the sides as well as additional padding for lumbar support, where they can be used for hands-free working. Harnesses can also be designed specially for confined spaces, where these feature an upright retrieval strap for ease of exit.
Harnesses need to be fitted and adjusted properly so they can offer an optimal level of support. A second person should always check the harness for twists or loose ties, where any long straps should be tucked in for added safety.
Once you have an appropriate harness, you will then need to select a suitable connecting line or lanyard. They can be chosen according to required length, where the height of the worker and the distance from the anchor point should be considered. These lines can be self-retracting, horizontal or vertical depending on the needs of the project.
Anchors are needed to secure the line to the harness and to the anchor point, where these can be permanent safety features or entirely portable. The main anchor options are carabiners and snap hooks. Carabiners are a secure, spring loaded hook that are best used for securing heavy weights. Snap hooks are easier to release and therefore should only be used for light loads.
Additional Safety Equipment For Working At Height
A range of additional safety equipment can also be used to make working at height less dangerous. Appropriate construction helmets can protect workers in case of a fall, whilst purpose-made construction gloves allows for better grip whilst protecting against rope burns. Work boots also help to prevent slips, whilst long sleeve clothing protects workers from cuts and scrapes whilst suspended at a height.
Soft landing systems can be used as a last resort to break a fall from a dangerous height. These could consist of flexible netting or air bags, where they are designed to absorb the force of the fall without resulting in injury.
Safety Tips For Working At Height
Whilst fall arresting equipment is essential to protect workers from injury, there are a range of procedures that should also be carried out to maximise safety whilst working at height. In general, a safety manager should consider what safety equipment is required to suit the length of the project, where long term builds must meet different safety regulations and criteria.
Even regularly performed maintenance projects must meet strict safety standards every time work is carried out. The site location should also be considered, where varying terrain and weather conditions can also impact safety requirements.
In general, safety tips for heights can include:
The most impactful way you can protect employees whilst working at potentially dangerous heights is to invest in appropriate training. When workers are aware of how safe height procedures should be carried out, they will be able to notice when something is amiss, where training can ensure all equipment is used properly.
Protective equipment is only effective when it is in good working order, and so regular inspections should be carried out to ensure that everything is safe to use. Any fraying in suspension lines or harnesses should be logged, and this equipment should be replaced directly. These checks should also be carried out by an experienced team member to ensure that nothing is overlooked.
One of the biggest causes of workplace injuries is fatigue, where employees aren’t taking regular breaks or are overstretched with their hours. It is therefore of great importance that everyone takes scheduled time throughout the day to recharge and descend from high up points to manage risks.
Short staffed projects can also be in greater danger of workplace accidents when heights are involved. This is because all safety equipment should be double checked, and employees should work in tandem with a worker positioned on the ground to monitor those at height. If a team is overstretched, then these vital safety measures may be overlooked.
In order to get the most out of your safety equipment you need to consider the fall distance you are dealing with, where ropes and anchors need to be used in accordance with the height of the drop. This needs to be judged correctly to ensure fall arrest systems can work correctly and properly protect against injury. If needed, reach out to a safety specialist to ensure your equipment is appropriate.
Anchor points are an essential structural part of preventing falls, where this is the area where your safety line clips onto. This has to be able to hold a degree of weight safely, where piping, steel or roofing parts can all come loose under strain. Structural beams or purpose-built anchors make for safer alternatives for adequate fall protection.
Although ladders are a relatively low-tech piece of equipment when working at height, they should be used with care and consideration in order to avoid injury. The ladder should be placed at an appropriate angle from the structure, and workers should have three points of contact with the ladder at all times.
Aerial lifts are a useful way of allowing your workforce to access different heights, but these should also be operated with caution. Workers should be properly tied off and secured regardless of height, whilst gates and chains should always be fully secured before the lift is engaged.
Lifting & Safety Gear Ltd: Equipment You Can Depend On
At Lifting & Safety Gear, we supply and deliver a wide range of equipment to meet your construction needs. This includes safety essentials such as full body harnesses, lanyards and fall arrestors. We also specialise in providing a variety of high quality lifting gear, including resources for hoisting and material handling.
Our range can be delivered across the UK, where our team are happy to answer any questions you may have about operational safety and working at height. Contact us today to find out more.