Project1_Layout 1 07/05/2013 SAFETY, ACCESS & TOOLS
Preparing for a fall: best practice for when
prevention is not enough
The prevention of falls when working at height is well-documented, but despite even the most watertight procedures, falls can and do still
happen. Matthew Bailey, inspection and certification manager at HCL, explores a number of potentially life-saving products and procedures
Preventing falls is vital but ensuring there is
time to plan and prepare for a fall is also
an important consideration for contractors
who want to do everything in their power
to ensure the safety of their workers if the
worst does happen.
Training programmes and general health and
safety guidance often focuses on stopping the fall
from happening in the first place, but conscientious
businesses are implementing equipment and
procedures to best prepare for falls, if and when they
happen. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
There are usually two fall protection systems to
choose from: a fall arrest system and a fall restraint
system. The key difference between these two
system options is that a fall arrest system will allow
for someone working at height to reach a hazard, but
its job is to protect them should they fall, whilst a
fall restraint system prevents them from reaching a
fall hazard at all.
Fall arrest systems
Fall arrest systems are most commonly used where
workers need to access hard to reach areas, which
would otherwise be guarded by rails or other safety
measures. The aim is to allow maximum freedom
of movement and so the likelihood of falling is very
high. If a fall should occur, the fall arrest system
will either allow for self-rescue or for the person to
be rescued in the safest way. The success of these
systems relies on the harnesses being worn correctly
and the identification of a suitable anchorage point.
Fall restraint systems
Arguably the preferred method of fall protection,
fall restraint systems prevent workers from reaching
a specific fall hazard. Often described as “passive
fall protection”, workers are protected from a fall
without having to take many additional measures
such as guard rails.
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which are considered best practice in the event of a fall
However, in the case of the equipment being
misused, there is still a chance of a fall happening.
For this reason, it is recommended when fitting a
fall restraint system, it is tested to be able to hold fall
Before using either of these systems, ensure
adequate training is provided in order to equip those
working at height with the skills required to use the
Implement a rescue plan
Falling from height is one of the largest causes
of fatalities across the industry, and whilst most
companies undertake a degree of risk assessment as
due course, many still fail to implement a rescue plan.
Did you know there is a legal obligation to have
a full and comprehensive rescue plan in place when
working at height? By law, a rescue plan needs to be
put into place to facilitate a safe and quick rescue of
a person who has fallen.
It should not be left to that of the public sector
to rescue a worker from a fall arrest system, it is
frowned upon by the Health & Safety Executive
(HSE) as the correct steps should have already
been taken to protect someone who has fallen from
height, without relying on the services of the fire
brigade, for example.
A rescue plan should outline a primary and
secondary key person who will take control of an
emergency rescue operation, plus any rescue kit
which will be on-site to assist them.
The HSE recommends rescue plans contain
information such as an anchor point for the safety
and rescue equipment, how the fallen worker
will be attached to the rescue kit once they are
reached, and how will they be moved once they
have been moved to safety.
When rescuing someone from a fall from
height, time is of the essence. Harnesses restricting
blood supply, changes in blood pressure and shock
are all too often underestimated, and serious
health concerns can occur in suspended fall arrest
situations, even though the inevitable impact has
Fall-protection training is designed to change
perceptions and improve standards. The right
training can bridge the gap between basic health and
safety training and ultimately saving a life.
The Solid Gear VENT safety shoe
Solid Gear says it continues to modernise safety
footwear with the ‘Infinity’ technology in this
Combining a lightweight athletic look with
maximum breathability and safety features, the
VENT safety shoe is said to be ideal for workers
who are constantly on the move.
VENT’s upper is made from lightweight mesh,
combined with Cordura and a TPU reinforcement
to ensure cool comfort,
and enhanced durability.
While the shoe’s two
midsoles deliver stability,
flexibility and optimal
energy return for enhanced
comfort on your feet, the
rubber outsole is said to
provide a high level of
For added protection,
the shoe’s NANO toe cap
is said to be 40% stronger
than fiberglass and has
a more athletic look that
conventional metallic ones.
The BOA fastening
system is also said to provide flexibility and high
precision adjustment of the shoe.
The company advises you to know more about
the quality and innovation of its footwear, plus
the top-class safety functionality in every Solid
Gear product, as it says your feet will notice the