What is the change and how does it affect me?
A revision to Safe Work Australia's "Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces - Code of Practice" has seen the maximum energy absorber extension measurement changed from 1.9M to 1.7M. Whilst not much of a difference, this still gives rise to discussion on the safe distance that needs to be considered when using and installing harness systems.
The diagram to the left (extracted from Safe Work Australia's publication) gives guidelines on the measurements that must be accounted for, such as length of lanyard, energy absorber extension, height of person and the clearance distance due to dynamic stretch. Using this matrix, we can calculate that this fall arrest system will require a fall of up to 6.5 metres to allow correct energy absorber deployment and dynamic stretch in the rope line.
Other important factors in these guidelines:
- Ensure that there is minimum slack in the lanyard
- Check component compatibility and if unsure contact the manufacturer
- Avoid working above the anchor point as this increases the fall distance
- Always take the time to fit your harness correctly
- Never work alone when at heights or using a fall arrest system in case of emergency
- If a fall occurs, immediate rescue of the worker is vital to protect against suspension trauma. Any fall arrest system is recommended to have a rescue plan in place prior to use of the system.
It is essential that when installing these types of systems all the above points are considered. You must also include environmental and infrastructure hazards such as trees and buildings into your calculations. Watch our video on Selecting Fall Arrest Equipment for more information.
In the example to the right where there are several roof lines of varying heights.
What kind of system would be appropriate here? If you were to see this building without the trucks would that alter the selection of fall protection equipment?
Without the addition of the trucks, the higher section of roof may fall within the safe range of 6.5 metres but add in the vehicle hazard and immediately that distance is cut down by nearly half. If using fall arrest equipment, a person falling off this edge would collide into these vehicles as the worker's harness lanyard and energy absorber would not have the required distance to deploy. In this case, guardrails would be the best and most preferable option available to provide worker protection.
When using a fall arrest system, the preferred method of operation is using the restraint technique, which means the lanyard restricts access beyond the fall edge. Fall restraint could be used, but with caution and it is imperative that the lanyard connected has a fixed length so that in a fall arrest situation it cannot extend past the fall edge.
As can be seen by the above, there are a lot of considerations to be looked at when installing fall arrest systems and these type of systems should only ever be installed by people competent in their selection and use.
Unsure of the difference between fall arrest, fall restraint and fall prevention? CLICK HERE for a more detailed explanation.