Pay Attention to These Components of a Personal Fall Arrest System
Falling is the number one cause of work at height deaths in the construction industry and the second most common cause in general industry. Various reports show that most people are ignorant or negligent of their responsibility as far as working at height is concerned. But it’s the responsibility of everyone to ensure they develop better work at height practices in an attempt to prevent and stop any work at height injuries and deaths.
This requires a complete understanding of the three components of personal fall protection systems (PFPS) and perhaps how the components work together as a system. These components are an anchor, body harness and a connecting device. They work like a chain and you have to select the right component and a compatible connection lest the chain breaks. The following is a summary of what each component entails.
Fall Arrest Anchors
Anchors can either be permanent, installed in locations where workers will work regularly or temporary, this being where workers would rarely go or where the actual job would take relatively longer than when installing an anchor. Anchors are commonly used in flat roof demarcation systems. When deciding on the fall arrest anchor to use, pay attention to the system compatibility – the anchor should be compatible with the snap hook attached to it. The snap hook gate should not be overloaded lest the anchor is forced to “burst out.”
The anchor location is another key factor that you should consider, ideally being installed directly overhead to eliminate the “pendulum effect” and reduce the free fall as much as possible. The location should be in such a place that assists you and not create a risk when attaching to the anchor.
Fall Arrest Body Harness
This is an essential component designed to protect your life. However, not wearing them properly can also put you at risk. While working in a fall arrest mode of any kind, it’s important always to wear a full body harness. In the event of a fall, the harness distributes the forces throughout the body, hence suspending you upright. Harnesses can be categorised into four components:
- Tags or Labels - includes written information on products.
- Fabric - includes pouches, packs, straps and wire cables.
- Hardware - includes metals such as snap hooks, buckles, D rings or carabiners.
- Stitching - includes tack points with two fabric points sewn/attached to each other.
There are several types of harnesses, each with a specific function which we shall cover in detail in our next article (be sure to stay up to date). Consider removing the harness from service if it has exceeded its service life, failed the inspection (competent person and end user inspection), or if it’s involved in a fall.
Common connecting devices such as retractables and shock absorbing lanyards are designed for application in fall arrest systems of up to 6-foot free fall. Proper training is required to understand the limitation of specific equipment you’re using and, perhaps the correct equipment for a particular task at hand.
Your workplace safety is paramount when working at height. These components of a fall arrest system have to be connected together in the right manner to enhance your safety. Ensure to use the correct fall arrest equipment for the task at hand and most importantly, in the right way - anchor location. Remember gambling with safety means betting your life!