Nov 1, 2012

Work Safely at Heights with Reliable Systems and Equipment

Most fatal accidents on construction sites are due to falls from height. Work at high levels needs platforms with suitable edge protection, properly erected scaffolds and working platforms and strictly enforced workplace rules to ensure that the systems are not overloaded.

Roof Work
Roof work without adequate protection can be very dangerous. Over half the accidents from housing construction involve workers falling from or through a roof. These are falls from the edges of roofs, gaps or holes in a roof, or through light and ventilation fittings. The first issue is getting on or off the roof.

Standard domestic should be used to the minimum. They are best reserved for indoor work. Fall arrest ladders have been developed with an enclosed track to provide
height safety and protection for site personnel in various applications. They can be used to access high points in commercial and business buildings as well as pylons, telegraph poles and silos. A mobile system of fall arrest ladders can be dismantled and reassembled at different sites. There are travelling ladders that can support equipment within the enclosed track.

Edge Protection
Adequate edge protection is necessary for all working levels where personnel could fall two metres or more. Depending on the work in hand guardrails may be free standing on a roof surface. This eliminates the need to drill through a roof surface to secure the rail. The components may be easily assembled at the site.

A freestanding collapsible guardrail system allows for safe work on historical buildings where there is no possibility of attaching a guardrail to the building structure because of conservation regulations or aesthetics. Its technology includes an ultra strong hinged bracket that allows the system to fold back on itself. A system of 20 kg weights act as stabilizers that are positioned every five meters along the assembled rail.

A fixable guardrail can be secured to the coping stones on a roof and provides a permanent protection from falls. Other flexible rails can be mounted on parapets that are less than one metre in height.

Access walkways should be both flexible and lightweight to ease installation. Some are durable with an anti-slip finish, whilst another range includes non-corroding and fire retardant properties.

Fall Arrest Equipment
Fall arrest equipment such as safety harnesses and nets cannot always stop people from falling but they minimise the subsequent injuries. Harnesses have to be attached to secure anchoring points. Fall arrest anchors should be fixed to the main load bearing parts of a building. They should never be attached to parapets, infill panels or areas below windows. A good contractor makes a thorough survey of the building for the best anchor points.

Horizontal lifeline systems are flexible safety lines that can operate vertically, horizontally, up and down inclines and around corners. Specialist systems for vertical surfaces or inclined slopes are equipped with an in built shock absorber to reduce the impact of a fall on the body.

Any working site that involves operations at heights above two metres should be inspected and equipped with reliable safety equipment. Safety measures are essential even when the work is of short duration.

Shirley Jones writes regularly on height safety for a wide range of websites and blogs. She specializes in construction projects.
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