Given that accidents can result in tragic loss of human life the Government has introduced legislation to control the way in which persons carry out work at height. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 consolidate previous legislation on working at height and implement the European Council Directive 2001/45/EC regarding minimum safety and health requirements for the use of equipment for work at height (The Temporary Work at Height Directive). The Work at Height Regulations 2005 apply to all work at height where there is a risk of a fall which is liable to cause death or personal injury. They replace all the previous regulations regarding working at height.
Before any work at height is carried out consideration must be given to alternative methods of carrying out the work by avoiding work at height. Duty holders must:
- Avoid work at height where they can
- Use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls where they cannot avoid work at height
- Where they cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall should one occur
To work safely at a height requires those engaged in such work to have an appropriate attitude and aptitude. Those who work at height should possess the necessary confidence to work in exposed places without becoming overconfident or reckless. They frequently will be working in remote or ‘out of sight’ places without direct supervision and therefore should be relied on to behave in a sensible and responsible manner. Personnel required to work at Height should be trained in safe working practices. They should be made aware of the relevant laws and standards which apply to the way they carry out their work.
The Health and Safety at Work Act requires the provision of training in Section 2(2)(c). The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations also requires the provision of adequate Health and Safety training in Regulation 7 and 13. Regulation 14 requires that the employee shall use and look after any machinery, equipment or safety device provided to him by his employer. Regulation 9 of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (The PPE Directive) states that the employer must provide the employee with the appropriate PPE and provide information, instruction and training in its safe and proper use. Regulations 10 and 11 require employees to use equipment in accordance with any training given and to report any loss or defect.
There is a whole suite of European and British Standards to cover individual sections related to working at height. For example Harnesses, Lanyards and Anchor Devices each have a standard dedicated to them. British and European standards are constantly being revised and updated. Useful information can be gleaned from
The Work at Height Regulations:2005 and BS 8437:2005 The Selection, Use and Maintenance of Personal Fall Protection systems and equipment for use in the workplace (Code of Practice).
Hierarchy of Fall Protection
Fall Protection systems fall into different categories. There are collective systems such as guard-rails and nets which guard persons from the fall hazard and individual systems which are known as Personal Fall Protection systems. These are an assembly of components to protect users against falls from a height, including at least a body holding device (Harness) connected to a reliable anchor device.
Fall Prevention systems: These prevent the user from going into free fall.
Individual systems - A Work Restraint system is a personal fall protection system for fall prevention, which restricts the travel of the user. It is used to prevent a person from reaching zones where a fall hazard exists.
Individual systems - A Work Positioning system is a personal fall protection system which enables a user to work supported in tension in such a way that a free fall is prevented. A Telecom worker up a telegraph pole using a work positioning belt would be a typical example of this. There are also different techniques available.
Fall Arrest systems: These prevent the user from colliding with the ground or structure in a free fall.
Individual systems - Anchor Devices which can take the form of an eyebolt, a tripod, a horizontal lifeline (flexible or rigid) or a mass friction anchor. This is a personal fall protection system which limits the impact force on the body of the user during fall arrest.
Selection of A System
After carrying out a risk assessment to ensure that the required tasks cannot be eliminated or carried out in any other way the next step would be to appoint a specialist contractor. These companies would advise on the type of system you require. However, they are all in business to make money and some are ruthlessly unscrupulous. They may try sell you the easiest option for them to install, which may not be that user friendly. Points to bear in mind are:
- ease of access to the system
- ease of use of the system and equipment
- formal user training
- minimum free space (sufficient clearance beneath the user to avoid hitting the ground, structure or any other obstruction)
- pendulum effects, if a person does fall are they likely to swing from side to side and collide with objects including the ground
- teams, it is vital that teams of two trained persons only are allowed to use these systems
- rescue, it is essential that there is a specific rescue plan in place for each work-site and that this is regularly assessed and updated where necessary
- symptoms can be severe and are caused by the failure of the heart to return blood from the legs without the help of the pumping action from the leg muscles
Periodic Examination And Inspection
- Once you have a Personal Fall Protection system it should be maintained. Prior to each occasion of use a pre-use check should be carried out.
- The annual examination and inspection of Personal Fall Protection systems (horizontal installed type) are specified in BS7883:2005 Code of Practice for Application and use of anchor devices conforming to BS EN 795. Section 12 covers inspection and examination, 12.1.2 states ‘at least once every 12 months each anchor device should be examined in accordance with the manufacturers instruction by a competent person authorised by the manufacturer as specified in BS EN 365’.
- Webbing and synthetic rope products should be cared for by keeping them clean, dry, away from heat, away from chemicals and out of sunlight. A pre-use check should be carried out before each occasion of use. In addition a competent person should carry out a documented, detailed inspection at regular intervals. For normal use this should be no longer than six months and for frequent use three months.