Maintenance of roofs and equipment located on buildings continues to result in death and injuries from falls. These accidents are all too frequent, with grave personal cost to workers and their families – and can also lead to legal proceedings with substantial fines or compensation. Gable Fall Safe fall protection helps you design-in safe maintenance.
CDM co-ordinators can play a leading role in helping to eliminate risks by ensuring that safe maintenance work at height is catered for as a fundamental component of a project’s design.
Important legislation applying to all situations – whether new or old buildings – is the Work at Height Regulations (WAHR) which consolidates a complex array of earlier regulations to give a straightforward framework for safe work at height. WAHR places a duty on employers, the self-employed and anyone who controls the work of others at height – including contractors and building owners – and takes a hierarchical approach.
If work at height cannot be avoided, measures should be employed to prevent falls. Then, if the risk of falling cannot be eliminated, measures to minimise the distance and consequence of any fall should be employed.
As a general rule, the highest priority is to consider ‘collective’ measures such as guardrails, particularly where more frequent access is needed by a variety of workers with limited high-level operational experience.
However, there are limitations of this approach generally to flat roofed areas and there may also be architectural, technical, cost and a host of other reasons why collective solutions are not suitable. In these situations, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) harness systems, such as Cable Restraint or Fall Arrest Systems, offer the most practical solution.
PPE systems offer a cost effective means of infrequent access and can be used on many curved or pitched roofs. They consist of a network of installed cables secured by posts, forming a permanent element of the building. For maintenance work, an appropriate PPE body harness is attached via a prescribed length lanyard to the cable at the access point onto the roof.
This enables movement around the roof area as needed without disengaging the lanyard. A prescribed level of training, procedures for rescue and detailed signage are all essential for safe operation. WAHR prefers ‘fall restraint’ (where the operative’s movement is restricted to safer areas) to ‘fall arrest’ (limiting the fall and its consequences where operatives are allowed into areas of fall risk) although both are recognised as valid.
While most systems are designed for restraint, there is clearly still a need to access areas on some roofs where falls might be possible. In addition to keeping operatives away from roof edges, preventing access to rooflights, which can become even more fragile with age, and other hazards within the roof area can also be handled by well-planned cable systems.
At Latchways, we consider it essential that fall restraint systems meet ‘fall arrest’ standards in case of misuse such as over-long lanyards. To make them safe in use, both fall restraint and fall arrest systems must be designed by experts and supported by the right training, management and rescue protocols.
The revolutionary development in work at height safety was ‘Constant Force®’ technology which revolutionised cable-based fall protection systems.
Constant Force posts are top-fixed to the roof, protecting its integrity and significantly reducing the opportunity for ‘thermal bridging’ whilst removing the need for fixing to the main building structure. The posts contain an energy-absorbing coil that limits load transfer to the roof panel, which then remains undamaged in the event of a fall.
The system works in conjunction with the roof itself – not the building structure. This technology has resulted in systems that minimise visual impact and work well with today’s building designs, and architects should be encouraged to take a positive role in selecting them as a design element. Critically, Constant Force systems must be specifically designed for, and tested in conjunction with each particular roofing system, and endorsed by the roofing system manufacturer.
Although Constant Force systems are straightforward to install after building completion, it is much better for them to be considered as part of the project design from the earliest stages – as they will effectively become part of the architecture of the building. CDM co-ordinators have an important role in raising this issue with architects and ensuring that the most appropriate solutions are incorporated. We all need to do more to protect those tasked with maintenance work at height to put an end to one of the biggest killers in the workplace.
For further information please contact:
Mr Neil Wilson
Gable Fall Safe
17 – 19 Station Road
Tel: 023 9246 6416
Gable Fall Safe – A Leader in Fall Protection