Working in fall arrest: what you need to know

Fall arrest is the term used when working at height with a system which doesn’t prevent you from accessing a fall risk, unlike fall restraint.

Instead of preventing you from going into these places, fall arrest systems will activate if you do fall, and stop you before you hit the ground. Arrest systems feature harnesses and anchor points just like fall restraint, but lanyards will feature shock absorbers to limit damage to your body should a fall occur.

The fall arrest system should be used with suitable personal protective equipment, and you should be adequately trained in its safe use. You are also required to have a rescue plan in place which ensures the person that falls can be retrieved as quickly and safely as possible.


Pendulum effect

The ‘pendulum effect’ is a potential hazard associated with the use of fall arrest systems.

It might also occur within the interior of a roof if the positioning of the inertia reel allows for a significant length of unsupported line connected to the user.

It is exactly what it sounds like, if the worker is anchored to a point not directly above them, a fall might send them swinging back towards the anchor point, meaning they could hit the structure they are working on or another nearby building.

Unfortunately, there is no single way of avoiding a pendulum effect after falling when using fixed anchor points, other than not falling at all, though staying within thirty degrees of your anchor point will limit the pendulum effect.


Rescue plan

There is a legal requirement under the Work at Height Regulations to include plans for emergencies and rescue when planning work.  The regulations also stipulate that all activities, including rescue, must be carried out by a competent person.

It’s too often assumed that when someone is accessing a roof or carrying out work at height, then either they or their company are responsible for providing a means of rescue. This isn’t always true.

If a company is contracted to carry out maintenance of plant and equipment, then it is the building owner or their facilities management company who are responsible for the safety of those accessing the roof, and thus for the rescue plan.

A rescue plan must be site specific and should take into account the following:

●       location of the casualty, for example, obstructions such as signage or lighting or edges which could cause abrasion problems will need careful consideration.

●       the safety of the rescuer

●       type of equipment required for the rescue – additional equipment such as anchor points may be required to enable safe rescue

●       suitability of equipment which arrested the fall for use during the rescue e.g. anchors, harnesses, connectors etc

●       additional loadings that may be placed on equipment during the rescue procedure

●       how to attach the casualty to the rescue system

●       where the casualty should be moved to

●       first aid requirements of the casualty

●       training

This rescue plan must be regularly updated by whoever is responsible for it, and all those involved in work at height should be made aware of changes.

For more information about working in fall arrest, or to enquire about a project, call us on 01293 529977 or use our online contact form.

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