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March 15, 2011

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IOSH 11 – Fall protection in mobile-access towers: an update

“All change, or as you were?” That is the question answered by Don Aers, of PASMA, in his presentation at the IOSH Exhibition on the Association’s recent research and consultation on best practice in mobile-access tower assembly and dismantling.

Don explained the process PASMA went through to determine which of the two methods – ‘through the trap’ (3T) or the advanced guardrail system (AGR) – was preferable in mobile-access tower work. The Association started by asking its members to submit any information – technical, safety-related, commercial, etc. – they thought would be relevant to the study.

Based on the information received, an interim report was published in March last year and a number of actions was carried out, including:

  • A practical workshop on assembly and dismantling of mobile-access towers using both 3T and AGR (this was filmed for future reference);
  • A series of technical workshops that considered the outcome of the physical assessment of the methods; and
  • A series of training workshops, in which trainers were consulted on increasing AGR content in the practical element of courses.

Following dialogue with the HSE, it was also agreed to engage the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) to carry out a detailed study of the manual-handling issues associated with both methods.

Earlier this year, PASMA consulted the relevant stakeholders – users, trainers and PASMA members – on the process, on the back of which a briefing document was published on the work completed thus far, and the issues raised. The final report of the work is due to be published at the end of this month (March 2011).

So – as to the question of whether or not big changes are afoot, Don Aers revealed that the conclusion was that both the 3T and AGR methods continue to provide acceptable methods of work when used in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions.

In terms of the ergonomic aspects of the work, the HSL research concluded that, in the case of both methods, the risk of manual handling injuries was kept “within tolerable limits”. With regard to 3T, the HSL also considered the seating and standing positions used and found the former to be safer – although both are still acceptable.

An interesting issue that arose out of the work, said Aers, was that users who are smaller in stature should consider using, with AGR, double decks and, with 3T, additional temporary braces.

Also, given that AGR is not suitable for all positions, the question of mixing methods arose, in relation to which it was decided that users do need to consider the potential complications that could arise out of mixing methods, and probably use 3T all the way through, if in doubt.

Regarding training, there will be no need for current PASMA cardholders to retrain before their current card expires but, when it does, the next course will include more elements on AGR.

Finally, PASMA will be consulting with the HSE on whether or not to revise the CIS10 guidance to specifically include integral-type AGR systems. The recommendation that both processes are usable will not change, however.

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