Keeping you on cloud nine
It’s said that falls from heights are one of the leading causes of workplace injuries and account for 50 percent of all fatal accidents. It is, thus, very important to know what to look for when choosing fall arrest equipment …
Working at height takes place across multiple scenarios where safety plays a major role. Since these environments are diverse and multi-disciplined, they require a full range of fall protection solutions to meet the needs of a variety of workplaces.
Pole climbing workers, for example, may be required to climb light and electrical poles made out of both wood and steel. In addition, finding a comfortable position to stand or rest is often difficult – particularly when weather conditions are not ideal.
“However, effectively ascending and descending poles, using proper techniques and safety equipment, can ensure that the handling, transportation, installation, and removal of utility poles are safe and efficient,” says Joshua Low, African Occupational Safety and Health (A-OSH) event director at show organiser Specialised Exibitions Montgomery.
“Our exhibitors will be on hand at the A-OSH Expo to guide utility and municipal risk managers on the most appropriate equipment to use in each specific application,” he points out. A-OSH Expo is the re-launched brand of OSH Africa – and will continue to feature a number of seminars and conferences on current health, safety and well-being issues in the area of fall arrest. (You can read all about the rebranding process on page 8.)
“Maintenance and general contractors also find themselves working in a variety of environments, and face different challenges on a daily basis,” adds Low. “This is why it is critical to find a flexible solution to fall arrest issues that will provide user comfort, maximised personal safety and optimised productivity. Fall protection equipment should be mobile, lightweight, portable and modular in order to adapt to different applications.”
It is very important to know what to look for. A full-body harness is designed with straps that fasten around the body in order to distribute the fall arrest forces over the upper thighs, pelvis, chest and shoulders. Protection should be provided to reduce the impact on the internal organs, as well as major muscle and bone groups around the pelvis.
When selecting a full-body harness, users are advised to consider the back D-ring/web loop, with dorsal web loops being preferred; the webbing, which must be durable and UV protected; the adjusting points (for good fit and comfort); leg straps; and whether it has pelvic support (for additional support).
They should also check whether it has labels detailing date of manufacture, inspection details and user instructions; double box stitching, which provides maximum strength and durability; padding, with cushioning to provide extra comfort; breathable lining; impact indicators (if available); a quick-connect buckle; and a seat sling.
Shock-absorbing lanyards should have rugged and durable webbing and a vinyl covered cable, which provides extra durability. They should be the right length – long enough to be user friendly, but short enough to minimise fall distance. They should have an auto-locking connector/hook (for added safety) and a shock absorber, which limits the force on the worker to below eight kilonewtons (kN), with up to 1,8 m free fall.
The design of anchorage connectors depends on whether they will be connected to steel, wood or concrete and whether they are fixed or mobile. Snap hooks and carabiners should be self-locking to eliminate the danger of rollout (accidental disengagement of a connector). They should be simple to operate and capable of withstanding a 22 kN load.
A-OSH adds that a reputable supplier should always be used for all fall arrest equipment. For example, Heightsafety Gear specialises in the design, development, manufacturing, assembly and distribution of a full range of fall arrest, rope access and rope rescue equipment and systems for working at height. Products include: harnesses, lanyards, slings, connectors, helmets, descenders, ascenders, pulleys, retractable life lines, ropes, bags, accessories and ready-to-use systems.
Another such company is HSE Solutions (exclusive partners of Honeywell Safety products), which has a comprehensive range of fall arrest equipment, under the Miller brand, including: full-body harnesses, ascenders and descenders, confined space and retrieval equipment, permanent fall protection systems and lifelines, anchorage systems, connecting devices (such as lanyards and self-retracting lifelines), rope grabs as well as rescue and evacuation equipment.
The Work at Height Theatre at A-OSH – which will be held at the Gallagher Convention Centre, in Midrand, from May 12 to 14 – will focus on issues surrounding those people who work at height as part of their job function.
“Advice on relevant fall arrest safety equipment and safe working practices is central to the success of the seminar programme.”