By Jason Godfrey, General Manager
Last week I discussed why training is an essential part of work at height, and outlined what training managers and supervisors should have to be able to manage work effectively and competently.
This week I’m going to be looking at equipment training and what should be included.
Safe Use of Equipment
Anyone who needs access to an area of height including contractors, sub-contractors and maintenance operatives, must have adequate training and be supervised. Training should include safe working practices as well as clear instruction on the correct use of equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. It’s important to remember that each product has been designed for a specific requirement so has its own safety considerations which need to be adhered to.
For example, harness and lifeline systems can provide effective safety for workers as long as they are trained in the correct usage and are aware of the minimum height requirements for the equipment as outlined below:
These prevent the user from reaching an area which has been identified as a risk and so overcome the potential of a fall. Restraint systems typically consist of a lanyard or restraint line which is attached to an anchorage point or system. A thorough understanding of the system is essential as the lanyard or restraint line’s length is critical, if it’s too long it will not stop a fall, however, if it’s too short, it will prevent the user from reaching the designated working area.
Fall Arrest Systems
Theses types of system include lifelines and mobile anchors and physically link the worker to a structure or deadweight by a series of components. A full body harness should always be used with a fall arrest system. If the user falls, the system arrests the force and decelerates the user through a short distance.
As these types of system provide individual safety protection they are totally reliant on the worker using the equipment and associated PPE correctly. Before use comprehensive information, instruction, training and supervision must be given to ensure that the user knows how to select, wear, adjust and inspect the harness. This should include how to check that the gate mechanisms at the anchor and attachment points on the harness are fully closed and locked and that the connector is aligned properly. Users should also be trained on how to inspect the equipment to ensure that any load bearing systems operate correctly and recognise any potential defects in the system.
Although training has been carried out, it still takes time for new users of equipment to be fully competent so close supervision will be required to ensure that the correct safety checks have been made on the equipment before use.
Everyone using equipment, particularly when harnesses are involved, must be trained on how to inspect it prior to use. This would include an understanding of what defects to look for such as damage to the energy absorber protector or abrasion damage to webbing and the correct combinations of PPE. Equipment must also be inspected and maintained on a regular basis by a competent person. Inspections such as these can be carried out by a designated person within the company, or by the equipment manufacturer or supplier.
It should never be assumed that workers know how to work safely or that they can learn as they go along as bad working practices can easily be picked up from fellow workers. Anyone working at height must be familiar with the equipment they are using and know how to inspect and use it correctly. And the only way to know this is through appropriate training.
Next week, in the final part of this Blog series, I’ll be discussing the important area of rescue