Employees work at heights in a number of places, including construction and installation sites, but also industry, shipping and even logistics. Usually, people tend to fall in an uncontrolled manner, without having any influence about where they land. And while one person may survive a fall of 6 meters, others may die from a 3 meter drop!
If no safety measures have been put in place yet, the Work Circumstances Law applies, which states that measures need to be taken at heights exceeding 2.5 meters. However, even with smaller heights, measure sometimes need to be taken, in cases where there is an increased risk of injuries. So as you can see: working safely is both a right and a duty!
Types of fall protection:
In this discipline, you limit the work area via a line, connecting yourself to a central point and setting the length to what you maximally need, thus preventing yourself from falling over the edge of a roof or plateau.
Your fall is broken by a dampener, which makes sure the forces remain within 6 KiloNewton. This material limits the height of your fall, preventing you from landing on the underground, as well as limiting the forces to which you are exposed.
For tree maintenance, special material is needed for people to move safely in trees. In addition, you work with special lines, because of the risk of cutting.
Working at heights using ropes, a solution for special activities where platforms do not provide a solution. This climbing technique is only allowed for professionals.
These are the associated standards:
For each product group, a standard has been set up.
For anchoring points, EN795 is a well-known standard, while the standard for harnesses is NEN-EN 361, while there is also a part about ergonomics in NEN-EN 363, while user manuals are covered by NEN-EN 365.
|EN 41||Descending material|
|EN 353-1||Guided by permanent anchor line and rails|
|EN 353-2||Guided by mobile anchor line|
|EN 354||Safety lines|
|EN 355||Shock and fall absorbers|
|EN 358||Workplace positioning|
|EN 360||Fall security with automatic line tightener|
|EN 361||Harness girdles|
|EN 362||Connections and safety hooks|
|EN 363||Fall protection systems (anti-fall system)|
|EN 364||Testing methods|
|EN 365||General requirements for user instructions|
|EN 795||Anchoring points|
|EN 813||Safety belts|
|EN 1496||Hoisting equipment for rescuing purposes|
|EN 1497||Rescue belts|
|EN 1798||Rescue nooses|
|EN 1891||Kernmantle rope with low elasticity|
MaintenanceEach time before you use the gear, you need to inspect it for proper functioning and for flaws, like rust and torn ropes. And afterwards, you need to clean parts that need to be cleaned and service moving parts. When storing the gear after using it, make sure to provide enough ventilation to prevent rust.
The gear listed above have to checked at least once a year or after a fall by an authorized person. In the Netherlands, that means someone who has enough experience or someone who has been especially appointed by the manufacturer. In Belgium, it is done my an independent organization.
Knowledge and expertiseOn paper, it will all have to be in order, but reality can be obstinate. You cannot always predict the challenges. The strength of fall protection is that it restricts your freedom. That also means you have less freedom to do your job.
As such, training and experience are important elements in this type of work. Practice shows us that inexperienced users often experience the necessary irritation and dangerous situations.
Article 8 of the Health and Safety Law obliges employers to teach their people about the risks and safety measures. It is not only your duty, but it is also vitally important to know what you are doing, and there is an essential difference between providing people with a toolbox (telling them how to work safely) and actually letting them train with the gear, showing them how it works in real life.
Ramon - Operational PPE-adviser
+31 184 434 455 firstname.lastname@example.org