What is fall protection?
Fall protection can be defined as a system designed to mitigate falls from height by either helping the user avoid the fall altogether or, where this is not viable, minimising the effects of the fall as much as possible.
Working at height can be incredibly dangerous when carried out with little preparation or consideration for potential hazards, therefore the implementation of a fall protection system is vital for the general safety of workers.
When is fall protection required?
A fall protection system is required whenever any work at height is conducted. According to The Work at Height Regulations 2005, any work is considered ‘at height’ as long as a person could fall and be personally injured. While the general belief is that anything below 6 feet would not be necessarily considered work at height, the UK regulations state otherwise. Therefore, a fall protection system would be equally required if work is carried out at any height, whether this is 1 foot, 10 feet or 100.
What fall protection safety systems are available?
A large variety of systems is nowadays available on the market, designed to make any type of work at height safe and easy for users.
Naturally, the choice of systems depends on the following aspects:
- the type of work carried out
- users (are they individual users or is a collective system required instead?)
- the layout of the work site
- weather conditions
- budget etc.
In the safety industry, the hierarchy of control will often help decision makers choose a suitable fall protection safety system. In a nutshell, the hierarchy of control states that work at height should be avoided completely where possible; however, when this is not an option, fall protection systems should be chosen to prevent a fall first, leaving all other systems designed to minimise the distance and impact of a potential fall as a last resort.
Usually, collective fall protection systems are designed to keep everyone working at height safe (without requiring any training), while personal protection systems focus on keeping an individual as safe as possible while working at height (although these are usually systems that require training and extra care before and during use).
Here are a few fall protection systems currently available on the market:
Collective fall protection systems
- Guardrails (such as roof edge protection systems)
- Skylight covers and railing
- Roof walkways with handrails
- Stepover platforms (fixed or mobile)
- Nets, airbags etc.
Personal fall protection systems
When should fall protection equipment be inspected? Who can inspect fall protection equipment?
Each fall protection system is different and the law, as well as manufacturer guidelines should be followed thoroughly. Making sure that your safety systems remain compliant at all times is paramount.
All fall protection systems should be firstly inspected upon installation to ensure that they have been assembled correctly and are fit for purpose.
Following that, depending on the type of system (personal or collective), guidance varies slightly.
For PPE for example, equipment should be inspected every single time before use as well as periodically.
For most other systems, health and safety legislation and the Work at Height Regulations state that site managers and owners are required to have all fall protection equipment inspected and recertified by a professional at least every 6-12 months. Read our guidance on recertification & maintenance
Inspection should be carried out by a competent person. According to HSE, a competent person is “someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities that allow them to assist you properly”.
If you are looking for a fall protection system or guidance on the recertification and maintenance of fall protection equipment, our team would be happy to assist. Get in touch with us for a free consultation.