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October 3, 2018

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Working at Height

Fall arrest systems – an alternative safety measure for construction at height

A look at an alternative to the traditional methods used to protect workers from falls from height, such as birdcage scaffolding and guardrail systems.

Stats revealed by HSE earlier this year showed that there were 35 fatalities due to falls from height in 2017/18. The data also showed that falls from height remined the main cause of death for workers in the UK, with the construction sector held accountable for the highest number.

Bradley Markham, Director at Bull Products, believes that companies need to shift away from alternative methods such as birdcage scaffolding and guardrail systems to protect workers from falls from height.

Fall arrest bagsFall arrest systems have been around since the late 1990s. Here, Bradley makes some suggestions why firms should switch to air-filled fall arrest bags.

Minimise injury risk

The HSE‘s recommended way to prevent a fall from height is to use a tower scaffold, but there is always the risk of misuse the towers being poorly erected

Fall arrest bags are designed to provide a safe cushioned landing, absorbing the weight of a fall and minimise the risk of causing a major injury.

Meets the needs of housebuilders

In the house building market, contractors often have no protection of falling through floor joist and roof trusses.

Fall arrest bags are versatile and can be used in timber framed developments, concrete buildings, traditional brick-built properties, scaffolding, lorry beds and much more.

Makes room for harness free

Should the task dictate it, workers are able to gain greater freedom to move around and handle tools and materials by working harness-free – giving them greater freedom to move around and handle tools and materials.

Ease of installation and time efficient

The bags are prefilled with pockets of air, making them quick and easy to install, in as little as 15 minutes.

Barbour Download: Guide to Working at Height

Work at any height can cause injury; a fall from a height of just one or two steps can cause serious injury. In Great Britain in 2016/17, there were 25 fatalities attributed to falls from height, with more than half of those occurring in the construction Industry.

The Regulations were amended in 2007 to extend their application to those who work at height providing instruction or leadership to one or more people engaged in caving or climbing by way of sport, recreation, team building or similar activities in Great Britain.

This guide contains:

  • Duties of persons in control of work at height;
  • Duties of persons undertaking work at height;
  • General controls when working at height;
  • Method statement for work at height;
  • And much more.

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Steven Nagle

I note some of the materials these things are made of do make for an unpleasant landing. I am wondering if there is a standard volume of air to be pumped into these bags to make the landing (esp for a significant height) less of a back-smasher by using slightly less air to absorb the impact into it? Hopefully I’ve explained myself the way I’ve intended to.

Andrew
While the concept and product are worthy of consideration, the use of airbags is actually a form of mitigation, ie mitigating or minimising the result of a FALL. HSEs advice follows the clear Hierarchy advocated within the Working at Height Regulations 2005, which seeks to follow the consideration of Avoid Working at Height, Prevent Falls and/or Falling Objects, and where this is not possible, mitigate (or minimise) the result of any fall or falling object occurrence. Air bags and other soft-landing systems eg nets, are firmly down this hierarchy, however they have their place as part of a proactive solution… Read more »
Dave
Hi There, as I understand that I’m only reading a snippet of this post. It does concern me a little that it reads that these air bags could be used without the need of traditional protection including side protection when working at height. It is definitely in my opinion to be used in conjunction with the traditional methods and especially in areas to support these as an even safer process. If the worker has fallen off to be protected by these bags then the mitigation to risk has already failed. Are you expecting a HSE advisor write into his RAMS… Read more »
Nick B

A safe working platform within the structure makes a positive contribution to the construction process and so is a more effective means to protect construction workers during the installation of roof trusses, I would suggest this is probably a better way of meeting House Builders needs in this regard.

Scaff

Stopping the fall would be the the ideal situation.
A birdcage within the structure would also provide a safe means of working and reduce the risk of falling altogether.