What are the different types of protection for falls from height?
Duties performed at height will use one of the following methods of access, these are ordered in their list of preference:
- Permanent fixed access
- Temporary working platforms
- Collective protection
- Personal Fall Protection Equipment
- Ladders, stepladders and trestles
When selecting the appropriate method of fall protection the phrase "hierarchy of risk" is often mentioned. This scale is based upon risk and the practicality of the task. wherever possible the need to work at height should be removed, by installing permanent fixed access.
Permanent fixed access
This is the most desirable form of access. Permanent access such as a gantry or walkway could be installed where a point of maintenance must be accessed regularly.
Temporary working platforms
Where access will be required for a length of time to carry out repairs temporary working platforms provide a better alternative to collective protection or PPE. This includes cradles, MEWPs, Scaffolding etc.
The nature of the task and its duration should be assessed when planning to implement a temporary structure such as scaffolding as these have their own implications when constructing or dismantling.
Collective protection can be very useful, it can be fitted to eliminate the risk of a fall with guardrails for example or with safety nets to reduce the chance of a fall below the 2m required for fall arrest PPE to be used.
Personal Fall Protection Equipment (PPE)
Where it is not possible to implement one of the above, personal suspension equipment or work positioning techniques may be utilised. Consideration must be taken to ensure the task will be safe and practical whilst working from suspension equipment.
By using a combination of techniques rope access trained scaffolders could access a work site to construct a minimal platform where work could be carried out on 'stable ground' with a back-up rope system in place.
The method described above would require the greatest level of training. When implemented correctly with the appropriate level of supervision a combination of access methods provides an extremely safe and efficient method of access.
Fall arrest techniques are widely used, easily implemented and require a limited level of training. This method of access is often considered cost effective and easy to implement but consideration must be taken to the possible injuries sustained by a user should they fall. More information about this method and its implications can be found on our Fall Arrest page.
It was documented by the HSE during 2001/2002 ladders were accountable for 19% of fatal injuries and 32% of major injuries sustained by falls from height. The majority of incidents reported were caused by poor training or misuse of ladders. Ladders used safely for tasks where a lower risk is present and only a short duration is required, ladders can be more suitable than other access methods.