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News & Press: Health & Safety

Working at Fall Risk Positions

Friday, 30 June 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Ernest Roper
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A fall no matter how low or high can result in serious injuries and even death.  Workers fail to weigh-up the risks when taking chances and shortcuts.  When working at fall risk positions the last thing you do is taking a risk! 

In the latest stats from FEM shows that 20% of accidents in 2017 are because of working at fall risk positions, resulting in one fatality, seventeen (17) permanent disabilities and over hundred and four (104) lost days.

The Fall Protection Plan has become an essential safety feature in construction work to ensure safe work at fall risk positions and compliance with Construction Regulations 10.

What is work at fall risk positions?

Construction Regulation define fall risk: “means any potential exposure to falling either from, off or into”

Work at a fall risk in the workplace, also includes, above or below ground level, where a person could be injured if they fell from that place. Access and egress to a place of work can also be work at fall risk position. 

Examples of work activities that are classified as working at fall risk positions but not limited:

  • Working on trestles
  • Working on a flat roof
  • Erecting false work or formwork
  • Working on a ladder
  • Working at ground level adjacent to an excavation;
  • Working on formwork within an excavation
  • Working near or adjacent to fragile materials

Our key messages 

·         a risk assessment of all work carried out from a fall risk position and the procedures        and methods used to address all the risks identified per location;

·         the processes for the evaluation of the employees' medical fitness necessary to              work at a fall risk position and the records thereof;

·         a programme for the training of employees working from a fall risk position and the          records thereof;

·         the procedure addressing the inspection, testing and maintenance of all fall                    protection equipment; and

·         a rescue plan detailing the necessary procedure, personnel and suitable equipment        required to affect a rescue of a person in the event of a fall incident to ensure that            the rescue procedure is implemented immediately following the incident.

Requirements for employers

The Fall Protection Plan in the Construction Regulations, in summary, requires employers to ensure that:

  • Competent person to develop fall protection plan
  • All work at height is properly planned and organized
  • A risk assessment is carried out for all work conducted at a fall risk position
  • Appropriate work equipment is selected and used
  • Employees working at a fall risk position are trained
  • Equipment used for work at fall risk position is properly inspected and maintained
  • Risks from fragile surfaces are properly controlled 

The risk assessment should include a careful examination of what harm could be caused from working at fall risk position with a view to taking the effective steps to reduce the likelihood of this harm occurring, either through avoiding the activity or, where this is not reasonably practicable, by carrying it out in a safe manner using work equipment that is appropriate to the task and the level of risk.

Selection of Fall Arrest Safety Equipment

It is very important to know what to look for. A full-body harness is designed with straps that

fasten around the body 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 minimize 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).

So, in addition to saving lives and preventing occupational injuries among those who work at fall risk positions, it makes good business sense to have a fall protection plan, use the right fall protection equipment and provide the correct training.

Neil Enslin | Health and Safety Manager 


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