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How to choose the right fall protection equipment
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How to choose the right fall protection equipment

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Full-body protection harness, restraint belts, anchor points, energy-absorbing lanyards, retractable type fall arresters, mobile fall arresters on vertical anchor lines, etc.

You can quickly become overwhelmed by the sheer number of brands and models for every kind of use. Here is an exhaustive guide to help you identify the equipment you need.

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What are the steps to follow before selecting PPE?

STEP 1: Prevent a fall. To achieve this, you will need to change the equipment so that it is no longer necessary to work at height.

STEP 2: If that is technically impossible, you will need to provide permanent installations for accessing the work area, such as ladders, walkways and work platforms, or temporary access installations such as scaffolding, safety nets, suspended work platforms, etc.

STEP 3: As a last resort, you will need to provide Personal Protective Equipment such as harnesses and anchor points, fall arrest systems and restricted access systems (training and practice in how to use and wear the equipment are required).

Personal protective equipment designed to protect against falls from a height

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Fall protection
Fall protection

As for any PPE, you need to put in place collective protective equipment before you think about personal protective equipment.

The equipment you need to use depends on the environment in which the work at height is performed. There are several solutions offering protection against the risk of falling:

  •     Fall arrest systems
  •     Fall restraint systems
  •     Work positioning systems

The equipment items are defined by European standards and must have CE marking.

1- Fall arrest systems

The goal is to ensure  that the operator comes to a stop safely after falling. They are made up of an anchor point, a fall protection harness and a connector.

> Anchor point: NF EN 795 standard

Must be sturdy enough to arrest the operator after a fall. When choosing an anchor point, it is essential to check the host structure: it needs to be sturdy enough (building, metallic structure, tower).

Follow these steps to choose a suitable anchor point:

  •     Step 1: Check the static resistance of the anchor point > 12kN
  •     Step 2: Check the height: your anchor point needs to be high enough with respect to the 1st potential obstacle in the event of a fall
  •     Step 3: If you can, choose an anchor point located above head height to avoid the possibility of creating a pendulum swing fall.
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Fall protection

> Full body harness: NF EN 361 standard

This is mandatory equipment for securing the body, used in fall arrest systems. It consists of straps, loops and other components arranged so that the harness can be adjusted to fit a person’s body, support the wearer during a fall and distribute the fall arrest forces as evenly as possible.

To select the right harness, the most important factor is to choose the right equipment for the job and the environment. Once you have done that, you then need to determine the size and weight of the wearer in order to ensure the harness or belt fits properly:

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Size chart

> Fall arrest connection systems

Energy-absorbing lanyard: NF EN 355 standard
This connection system consists of a lanyard with a maximum length of 2m and 2 connectors.
Condition of use: at a fixed anchor point, the lanyard must include a shock-absorber.

Retractable type fall arrester: NF EN 360 standard
Connection system consisting of a lanyard that rolls out and retracts around a drum, and includes an automatic pulling and recall system as well as an automatic braking mechanism in the event of a fall.
Condition of use: 30° (max.) safety cone under the anchor point.

Mobile fall arresters on vertical anchor lines:
Connection system made up of a vertical anchor line (metal cable, synthetic rope, metal rail, etc.) along which a mobile slider moves, without any manual input either in the upward or downward direction.
Condition of use: suitable for vertical movement such as climbing a ladder.

2 – Fall restraint systems

These systems are designed to restrict the users’ movements to prevent them from reaching areas where there is a risk of falling. They are not capable of stopping or preventing users from slipping or falling, unlike fall arrest systems.
As per the NF EN 358 standard, they consist of a belt or harness and a lanyard, the length of which can be selected so as to rule out the possibility of a fall.

To choose the right restraint lanyard, you need to:

  •      Choose the length that lets the user work safely without obstructing their movements
  •      Define the type of use, whether it is intended for occasional or short-term use or regular / long-term use
     

The connector – another important component – is the part that connects the lanyard and the harness, so it is important to make the right choice:

Material
  • Steel for harsh conditions or to connect metallic structures
  • Aluminium if lightness is the key factor, as in rescue operations, for example
Shape
  • Oval for devices that have 2 points of contact with the connector (pulley with flange)
  • Asymmetrical because it allows 2 connected components to be positioned correctly
  • XL, for connection to large or metallic structures
Opening
  • Wide opening so that it can be used as an anchor on a structure
Opening and closing mechanism    
  • Twist locking for occasional use
  • Automatic locking for frequent use

3 - Work positioning systems: NF EN 363, NF EN 795

Work positioning systems enable people to work supported in tension or at height. It is important to assess whether these systems need to be used in conjunction with a fall arrest system. They consist of a full body protection harness with a safety belt and an anchor point.

Systems that allow people to work supported in tension are not designed to arrest a fall. A fall arrest system needs to be used as back-up.

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Holding system