Working At Heights Guidelines
What Is Working At Heights?
- When a person is working in a position where they can fall.
- Elevated positions
- Close to excavations
- Confined Spaces
Why Must You Have Fall Arrest Equipment?
- Construction Regulation – All work at an elevated position must happen in conjunction with a Fall Protection Plan.
- A document that forms a part of the safety file.
Fall Protection Plan consist
- Baseline risk assessment
- PPE requirements
- Rescue equipment
- Training requirements
- Rescue plan
- Legal requirements
Fall Protection Plan
Baseline risk assessment
An assessment is done where work required is done by a competent person to identify the risks involved with performing work at height on a particular job site.
Fall prevention equipment
Equipment that is used to prevent persons from falling from an elevated position, including personal equipment, body harness, lanyards, lifelines or physical equipment, guardrails, screens, barricades or similar equipment.
Fall arrest equipment
Is equipment used to arrest the person in a fall from an elevated position, including personal equipment, body harness, lanyards, deceleration devices, lifelines or similar equipment, but no body-belts?
A documented plan, of all risks relating to rescuing a victim from an elevated position, considering the nature of the work undertaken, and setting out the procedures and methods to be applied in order to eliminate the risk considering time and injuries.
Is equipment used to rescue a person after a fall from an elevated position, including personal equipment, body harness, lanyards, rope, descending and ascending devices, lifelines or similar equipment?
This is training that is required to use the equipment, fit the equipment, and perform the procedures set out by the Fall Protection Plan.
Makes sure all aspects of the rest of the OHS act and Construction regulation is upheld. Like Medical competencies, fitness, safety files etc.
Responsibility to have Fall Protection
- Fall protection is required before work begins.
- An Employer must supply an employee with the correct equipment and training to remain safe while performing their duties.
- An Employee must use the equipment and training received by their employer to stay safe.
- User must inspect their fall arrest equipment every time! before use!
- The employer must make sure fall arrest and fall prevention equipment is stored correctly, maintained correctly and inspected by a competent person at the correct intervals.
- Everyone working at heights must know all the procedures set out by the Fall Protection Plan.
- Protection from falling objects is a requirement.
- Employees working in an area where there is a danger of falling objects must wear approved head protection fitted with a chin strap
- The employer must take steps to protect employees from hazards (establish barricades or build canopies).
- Harness systems consist of either nylon or polyester and the best system will encompass the entire body (full body harness).
- Body belts cannot be used for fall protection.
- A full body harness will evenly distribute weight across the waist, pelvis, and thighs.
- Lanyards connect the harness to the anchorage point.
- Must have a minimum breaking strength of 22KN
- Should be attached to a D ring between the shoulder blades above the employee.
- There are several types of lanyards that include: synthetic webbing, synthetic rope and shock absorbing.
Types of lanyards:
• Self-retracting: Eliminates excess slack in the lanyard (cable, rope, or webbing)
• Shock absorbing: Device slows and eventually stops decent and absorbs the forces (i.e.: rip the stitching – controlled tearing)
• Synthetic rope: Absorbs some of the force by stretching
• Synthetic webbing: Strong but not flexible (absorbs little force).
Lifelines consist of flexible material connected at one or both ends to an anchorage point and can be temporary or permanent.
There are two types of lifelines:
- Vertical: hangs vertically
- Horizontal: connects at both points to stretch horizontally (serves as a connection point for other components).
- Allows users to be supported from a vertical surface (i.e.: wall or telephone pole).
- Not a fall arrest system!
Fall Arrest Systems
There are 3 different types of fall arrest systems according to SANS 50363:2003 / EN 363: 2003
- Full body Harness + shock absorbing lanyard
- Full body Harness + self-retracting Lanyard (fall Arrest block)
- Full body Harness + lifeline and fall arrestor.
It is important to use the correct fall arrest system in the correct environment to ensure the fall arrest system suits the requirements.
- Prevention systems include:
- Safety nets
- Fall Arrest systems components include:
- Anchorage points
- Body harness
All employees working at heights must receive training by a recognized accredited service provider done to unit standards as by the construction regulation.
Applicable Standards and listing
SANS 50354 / EN354
Personal protective equipment against falls from a height- Lanyards
SANS 50355 / EN355
Personal protective equipment against falls from a height- Energy absorbers
SANS 50358 / EN 358
Personal equipment for work positioning and prevention of falls from a height- Work positioning systems
SANS 50360 / EN 360
Personal protective equipment against falls from a height- Retractable type fall arresters
SANS 50361 / EN 361
Personal protective equipment against falls from a height- Full body harnesses
SANS 50362 / EN 362
Personal protective equipment against falls from a height- Connectors
SANS 50363 / EN 363
Personal protective equipment against falls from a height- Fall arrest systems
SANS 50364 / EN 364
Personal protective equipment against falls from a height- Test methods
SANS 50365 / EN 365
Personal protective equipment against falls from a height- General requirements for instructions for use, maintenance, periodical examination, repair, marking and packing
SANS 50795 / EN 756
Personal protective equipment against falls from height- Anchor devices- Requirements and testing
What is Suspension Trauma?
- An injury that is caused by the Fall Arrest or Rope Access harness.
- This occurs when the blood flow is cut off to the legs by the harness.
Introduction to Suspension Trauma
- The medical effects of immobilisation in a vertical position
- The medical term is ‘Orthostatic Intolerance’
- The effects are nothing new Crucifixion is death from suspension trauma
- It presents an immediate threat of death to anyone immobilised in a vertical position
- Hanging still in an industrial, theatrical or sport harness
- Stretcher patients, performers, stuntmen, confined space workers
- The onset and progress is rapid and unpredictable
- All those ‘working at height’ must be trained in how to recognise, manage and prevent suspension trauma
- It does not normally affect people who wear a harness but who are:
- Actively moving about (climbing, caving, etc)
- Suspended for only a minute or two (parachutists)
- The danger is when someone is unable to move or forgets to bother!
Humans are not designed to stand upright
- Our circulatory system was built for life on all fours
- The volume of blood vessels is much greater than that of the blood
So, when we stand upright we have a problem
- Gravity pulls your blood into your legs
- Your heart is a positive-pressure pump – it cannot suck!
- The only way to get the blood back out of the legs is to pump it using another method.
Luckily, we’ve evolved one!
- The veins in your legs are entwined within the skeletal muscles, and when you move your legs, these muscles squeeze the veins, pushing the blood out of the way
- We have one-way valves in these veins, so each squeeze can pump the blood a short distance towards the heart
- Providing you are walking around, this process makes a ‘heart in each leg’ – and it’s very effective!
- Try it – take your socks off and stand still – look at your feet and you’ll see the veins all standing out and the skin red.
- Now walk around in a little circle and look again – the veins are empty and flat, and the skin goes pale. Pumping in action!
What if Your Blood is not Pumping & Circulating?
- If the muscles are not pumping the blood upwards, it pools in your legs
- You can ‘lose’ several litres and go into shock
- Your brain tries ‘shock’ for a while, but of course, it doesn’t help – blood is still stuck in your legs.
- After a few minutes, the brain goes for the last-ditch method
“If I faint, I fall over. I get the blood back”
- Your Brain assumes you must fall over. If you stay upright:
- Your brain has no oxygen supply
- Your airway is at risk
- You will probably die within minutes
- This is when the blood flow is restricted and the body tries to fix it.
- First, the body raises the blood pressure and heart rate, then when this doesn’t work it reverses the process dropping the heart rate and blood pressure. This makes the victim lose consciousness. The problem is not resolved as the victim is still hanging in the same position, the body keeps dropping the heart rate and blood pressure until the victim’s heart stops completely.
- An example of a rare scare recorded incident happened during US navy seal training simulation, an instructor simulating a rescue was found dead after only 6 minutes hanging in a harness.
Blood Poisoning The Body
- In a fall the victim can seriously injure the body in a cellular level
- When a cell dies it releases a chemical called myoglobin this is normally cleaned by the liver and kidneys
- The amount of injuries sustained by the fall along with the other factors like the pressure in the legs caused by the restriction of the harness, increases the amount of this poisoning, so when the blood flow is restored this myoglobin attacks the kidneys to the point that the victim may suffer from immediate kidney and renal failure.
- When the blood is not circulating through the body it becomes starved of oxygen and for which the victim can get a Potassium build-up in the blood.
- Potassium is what causes the heart to beat.
- The excess of Potassium could cause heart failure when the blood flow is returned.
Who is Susceptible to be at Risk?
- The ‘classic group’ are people who wear harnesses
- Sport climbers, cavers, parachutists, par ascenders, etc
- Industrial climbers
- Confined space workers lowered using a harness and winch
- Theatrical and circus performers, stuntmen and artists
- There are other ways to be ‘immobilised’
- Rescue stretchers, spine boards and splints
- Becoming stuck in a confined space
- So what happens?
- General feelings of unease
- Dizzy, sweaty and other signs of shock
- Increased pulse and breathing rates
- Then a sudden drop in pulse & Blood Pressure
- Instant loss of consciousness
- If not rescued, death is certain
How can Suspension Trauma be Avoided?
- Standing Step
- Medical response
- Remember although suspension trauma is rare, it can happen to anyone.
- If you’re at work, your employer needs to manage the risks – if not, think twice about working!
- If you’re doing a leisure activity, think about what would happen if you fell, or got stuck. Would anyone help?
Executive Production Manager
SpiderWebb & Vice Chairman for Inland EXCO