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Fall Arrest

Published: 10th Sep 2011 in OSA Magazine

Falls from height have been a major cause for concern in Singapore. As of August 2 of this year, there have been 15 such fatalities, in which four were from the construction industry. Putting safety provisions in place for your workforce will not only safeguard your employees, but help to prevent costly accidents in every sense.

Weighing up height safety

There are many considerations to take into account when selecting appropriate safety equipment.

Ask yourself the following questions:
• Is the system you’re considering suitable for the task?
• Does it meet the standard relevant to its intended use?
• Are its components compatible so they will function safely together?
• Is your workforce suitably trained and assessed for competency in the use of their personal fall protection systems and equipment for the particular application?
• Are the people using the equipment competent to check their equipment for defects, and do this before every use?
• Have workers read and understood the product information before
using the equipment?

Fall hazard risk assessment 

You’ll be equipped to anticipate potential trouble by conducting a thorough assessment of individual fall hazards. This can provide you with an invaluable amount of information. 

Limiting the assessment exclusively to the height of a fall and/or a legislated duty to provide fall protection rarely provides enough information to develop adequate solutions.


You need also to look at elements such as the frequency of the task, duration of task, similar work areas, area obstructions, environmental conditions and the reason for the exposure should also be investigated. The more information you gather, the more apt your safety solutions will be.
 

On a practical level 

As Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Risk Management (RM) gains momentum in Singapore, more duty holders are beginning to recognise their usefulness in maintaining a safe and healthy workplace. Duty holders and workers alike are seeking greater clarity about how RA should be implemented.

To provide guidance on bridging the gaps, the WSH Council formed an industry-led RM work group with members from major industry sectors to develop a Risk Management Code of Practice, or RMCP.

The RMCP advises duty holders on how to fulfil their obligations under the Workplace Safety and Health Act, (WSH Act) and the WSH (Risk Management) Regulations. It also provides a clearer process for implementing RM and will assist duty holders to identify hazards, evaluate risk and implement risk control measures.

Much consideration has been given to make the RMCP applicable to both large and small companies, and across a broad series of industry sectors, including the remaining workplaces that will come under the WSH Act in September 2011.

The risk profiles, needs and RM deployment of these workplaces differ significantly. Large companies tend to have one RM team to oversee the coherent deployment of RM throughout the company. At the same time, it is not unusual for these companies to have many RA teams to assess specific risks.

For this reason, guidance is included in the RMCP to offer clarity of their roles.

Smaller companies, on the other hand, often need specific steps in implementing RM, especially when doing the RA itself. To better help this segment, the RM work group decided to provide guidance in bite sized steps.

Roles and responsibilities are also defined in the RMCP to ensure that duties are sufficiently covered with minimum overlap.

To see the RMCP log on to: https://www.wshc.sg/wps/PA_InfoStop/ download/Code_of_Practice_on_WSH_RiskManagement.pdf?folder=IS20110201 00649&file=Code_of_Practice_on_WSH _RiskManagement.pdf

Remember, falls from height are the number one construction killer in any country. This is mostly due to a lack of proper edge protection in a variety of construction tasks. This work accounts for more than half of all deaths in the industry every year, and a significant number of injuries.

Health and Safety best practice advises that you choose the right work equipment and select collective measures to prevent falls (such as guardrails and working platforms) before other measures, which may only mitigate the distance and consequences of a fall (such as nets or airbags), or which may only provide personal protection from a fall.

Where collective measures are not feasible, however, individual fall arrest systems are a part of fall control measures.

Individual fall arrest systems

These are intended to safely stop a worker from falling an uncontrolled distance and to reduce the impact of the fall. 

Individual fall arrest systems are an assembly of interconnected components, consisting of a harness connected to an anchorage point or anchorage system, either directly or by means of a lanyard.

They can be used where workers are required to carry out their work near an unprotected edge such as rigging and dismantling.


Limitations:

• Individual fall arrest systems should only be used if it is not reasonably practicable to use other risk control measures to prevent falls
• Height clearance is another limitation of individual fall arrest systems. For a person falling from height, the combined length of the lanyard, sag in the life line and the shock absorber fully extended may be more than 5m in total. This 5m might be more than the actual height of the fall

Worker aptitude 

It’s not easy to assess qualities such as aptitude and experience, because if you ask someone about this, especially in front of their work colleagues, you may not get a correct answer. Peer pressure, the desire to help or even a genuine belief that their abilities are better than they really are can find employees dramatically overstating their aptitude.

You also need to ascertain the presence of obvious medical conditions such as heart disease, epilepsy and blackouts – these should be picked up in a routine company medical examination.

Less obvious contra-indications to consider include obesity, fear of heights/vertigo and giddiness, or difficulty with balance.

Training of workers

It’s arguable that training your workforce in safe work at height practice is one of the most significant investments you can make on any site.

Workers should be trained and instructed in the following:
• Correct fitting and attachment of safety harness
• Dangers of using incompatible hardware
• Inspection, maintenance and storage of equipment
• Correct anchorage, installation and use of the system
• Emergency rescue procedures
• Workers to be assessed for their competency in the safe use of the equipment
• The individual fall arrest system is designed to arrest only one fall; all components of the system should be inspected and approved by a competent person or the manufacturer before it is put to use again

Associated hazards

It’s important to be prepared for the many hazards workers working at height may face. Fall protection gear such as a harness, connector and anchorage can remove the risk of serious injury when used properly, and when workers have been trained not only how to wear the gear according to its specifications, but to conduct regular inspection and maintenance procedures. This is an active fall protection system.

Guardrails, permanent netting and barriers are passive fall protection systems, which can also help eliminate injuries by keeping the worker from coming into contact with the fall hazard.

As mentioned earlier, a fall protection plan will aid you to identify where a fall hazard exists, but it will also help you to decide whether an active or passive system is appropriate to control the fall hazard.

In themselves, of course, fall arrest systems may present hazards to workers.

These include:
• ‘Swing Back’ – In a fall, particularly from a perpendicular edge, the worker will swing back into the building structure and collide with any obstructions in the path of the swing
• ‘Swing Down’ – In a swing down, the arrest line extends diagonally from the anchor point, following the perimeter edge of the roof. If the worker falls, the fall arrest line will slide back along the perimeter until it is at a right angle with the edge of the roof. If the arrest line is too long, the worker will drop and hit the ground or the arrest line may break when contacting the edge of the roof and result in the worker hitting the ground

Rescue of workers

Having put as many preventative measures in place as necessary following your risk assessment, it is nevertheless advisable to have a strategy in place which workers are not only familiar with, but have the skills to execute in the event of a fall/ colleague’s fall.

Points to consider are:

• In the event of a fall, the worker must be rescued as soon as possible – this is necessary to prevent further injury
• Written rescue procedures must be in place to ensure that persons who fall can be rescued as soon as reasonably practicable – if possible, in less than ten minutes

The rescue procedures should include plans for:

• Preventing prolonged suspension
• Identifying symptoms of suspension trauma
• Performing rescue and treatment as quickly as possible
• A person should not use a fall arrest system unless there is at least one other person present on site who is trained to conduct rescue operations in the event of the fall
• Specialised rescue equipment is recommended to cope with the additional load during rescue
• Certain situations may require at least two persons to safely rescue the fallen worker

Components of the fall arrest system

• A fall arrest harness is an assembly of interconnected shoulder and leg straps, with or without a body belt, designed to spread the load over the body and to prevent the wearer from falling out of the assembly
• A lanyard is a line used, usually as part of a lanyard assembly, to connect a fall arrest harness to an anchorage point or static line .A lanyard assembly should be as short as reasonably practicable
• A fall arrest static line is a horizontal or vertical line of a fall arrest system
• A personal energy absorber is used in conjunction with a fall arrest harness and lanyard to reduce the deceleration force imposed by a suddenly arrested fall

Inspection of fall arrest systems

Inspection of fall arrest systems by a competent person is a vital element of ensuring continued safety, and should be conducted periodically. Manufacturers can advise you on the frequency of this, while in the UK, for example, some employers make use of a LOLER inspector.

LOLER refers to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations, 1998, which covers all aspects of lifting and lowering equipment including PPE for working at height. These regulations have been in force for more than 12 years and Regulation 9, in particular, addresses the thorough inspection of PPE for working at height.

Currently in the UK the maximum time period between documented thorough inspections is six months for PPE and
12 months for lowering and lifting equipment. However, this can be a shorter time period if the type or frequency of use or environment demands it. For example, textile lanyards can wear rapidly under constant day to day use.

Elements that need to be inspected include the following:
• Rope or webbing, including the anchorage lines
• Fall arrest system harness body
• Locking mechanisms and rope guides
• Hardware such as snap hooks and links
• PPE or its components have not exceeded the manufacturer’s recommended usage life

When doing pre-use checks for lanyards and flexible anchorage lines, the competent person performing the inspection should look for:
• Cuts and frays
• Excessive wear
• Abrasion (furriness), particularly to load bearing parts
• Stitching – unauthorised repair
• Discolouration – signs of chemical or UV damage
• Powdery surface – damage by chemicals
• Hardening or stiffness
• Heat glazing/burns – damage by heat
• Dirt, oil, grease
• Age
• Flattening/thinning
• Lumps

When doing pre-use checks for harnesses, the competent person should pay attention to the following:
• Any textile attachment point loops for all the features on the harness body
• Fastening and adjustment buckles for correct assembly, correct functioning and excessive wear
• Corrosion
• Cracks
• Other damage

When doing pre-use checks for connectors such as snaphooks, the competent person should take note of the following:
• Obvious damage or deformations
• Rust/corrosion
• Contamination by chemicals – pitting or flaking
• Build up of foreign matter such as grit, grease or paint
• Cuts, serrations, burring, heavy marking or scoring
• Hinge pin – ensure it is in good condition
• Catch pin – ensure it is not bent
• Functionality of moving parts such as locking mechanisms

When doing pre-use checks for shock absorbers, the competent person should take note of:
• Signs of activation
• Wear and tear of pint attachment ¦

References:

Singapore Standard SS528 (Personal Fall Arrest Systems) – Parts 1 to 6 issued by SPRING Singapore

Code of Practice for Working Safely at Height issued by Workplace Safety and Health Council

ESIS Health, Safety and Environmental Services

ESIS HSE provides a wide range of support for companies working to develop a comprehensive and proactive HSE programme. Evaluating risks and relevant factors that affect your operations provides the basis for the development of a comprehensive HSE programme – one that blends processes and procedures with tools and systems to maximise results.

ESIS HSE applications include environmental management, safety engineering, ergonomics, training, industrial hygiene and other highly valued services.

W: www.esis.com.sg/ESISRoot/ESISSingapore

Author details
Edwin Yap, Vice President, Asia Pacific Region, ESIS Asia Pacific Pte Ltd

In 2008, Edwin Yap was elected as the President of the Singapore Institute of Safety Officers (SISO) which comprises more than 1,000 workplace safety and health professionals. He has been actively engaged in this local workplace safety and health association and network since 1992. He has served as Vice President for ESIS Asia Pacific Pte Ltd since early 2006. Mr Yap is currently leading an Asia Pacific team consisting of risk consultants, auditors, environmentalists and industry hygienists in ESIS.

Mr Yap began his career as a safety engineer in the metalworking Industry in 1992, working his way up as Corporate Senior Safety Programme Manager for a top MNC company. With his previous employer, he implemented various ergonomic/lean based projects and his core specialities in Behavioural-Based Ergonomics for the electronic industry.

Besides his current role in leading the ESIS team, he is also involved in hands-on consultancy work, such as conducting workplace safety and health audits, industrial hygiene monitoring, ergonomics assessment, machine guarding assessment and risk management consultancy.

One of his key influential projects was leading the worldwide team in development of the
Singapore Workforce Skill Qualification (WSQ) WSH Professional Framework.

Mr Yap read Mechanical Engineering in Nanyang Technology University (NTU) and achieved a double Master’s degree in Safety, Health, Environmental Technology and Industrial System Engineering from National University of Singapore (NUS). 

www.osedirectory.com/safety-and-health.php

Published: 10th Sep 2011 in OSA Magazine

Author


Edwin Yap


Edwin Yap, Vice President, Asia Pacific Region, ESIS Asia Pacific Pte Ltd

In 2008, Edwin Yap was elected as the President of the Singapore Institute of Safety Officers (SISO) which comprises more than 1,000 workplace safety and health professionals. He has been actively engaged in this local workplace safety and health association and network since 1992. He has served as Vice President for ESIS Asia Pacific Pte Ltd since early 2006. Mr Yap is currently leading an Asia Pacific team consisting of risk consultants, auditors, environmentalists and industry hygienists in ESIS.

Mr Yap began his career as a safety engineer in the metalworking Industry in 1992, working his way up as Corporate Senior Safety Programme Manager for a top MNC company. With his previous employer, he implemented various ergonomic/lean based projects and his core specialities in Behavioural-Based Ergonomics for the electronic industry.

Besides his current role in leading the ESIS team, he is also involved in hands-on consultancy work, such as conducting workplace safety and health audits, industrial hygiene monitoring, ergonomics assessment, machine guarding assessment and risk management consultancy.

One of his key influential projects was leading the worldwide team in development of the
Singapore Workforce Skill Qualification (WSQ) WSH Professional Framework.

Mr Yap read Mechanical Engineering in Nanyang Technology University (NTU) and achieved a double Master’s degree in Safety, Health, Environmental Technology and Industrial System Engineering from National University of Singapore (NUS). 


Edwin Yap

Website:
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