In any work environment where there is the risk of a fall from height, there is a legislative requirement to either eliminate or control this risk. The hierarchy of risk management (see AS 4360: 2004) places an obligation on employers and employees to either eliminate, substitute, isolate or impose administrative / physical controls to manage the risk. The last, and least desirable, option is the use of PPE or personal protective equipment. If we are left with a PPE based risk management solution we need to be aware of the hierarchy of fall protection options (see AS 1891).

 

RESTRAINT

WORK POSITIONING

PARTIAL FALL ARREST

FALL ARREST

 

This hierarchy states that the most desirable system of PPE based protection is restraint, whereby the operator cannot theoretically enter the fall zone at all or may be restricted to a maximum possible shift in position of no more than 300mm. Work positioning describes a host of techniques and equipment that allow the worker to use their harness in an active role and be either partially or fully supported with a maximum fall potential not exceeding 600mm. A partial fall arrest situation would be where either the free fall distance does not exceed 600mm of the fall may be lower speed, as in a slide on roof surface. Fall arrest systems must not allow the potential of a fall of greater than two metres as per AS 1891. Fall arrest is the least desirable system as it still exposes the worker to the risk of a fall (with the possibility of striking an object or being knocked unconscious) as well as the requirement for rescue. Our current understanding of harness hang syndrome and the potentially very narrow timeframe of survival for an immobile suspended operator mean that provisions for post fall rescue cannot be avoided.

HS1 SAFETY HARNESS & STATIC LINE

 

HS2 FALL ARREST SYSTEMS

 

HS3 WORK POSITIONING

 

HS4 WORK & RESCUE AT HEIGHT SUPERVISORS COURSE