A fall protection device is imperative when there is a risk of falling. Many sectors of activity have to deal with the risks of falls from heights, construction, work on towers, monuments, pylons, platforms, scaffolding, but fall protection devices are also required in the water sector and sanitation as part of interventions in confined spaces (sewers). Work at height is also widely covered as part of the confined space training.
Class 3 PPE – like fall protection equipment – is equipment that protects against serious and fatal risks. For obvious reasons of staff safety, periodic verification of this type of equipment is mandatory. The PPE check must be carried out at least once a year. Each check takes into account various compliance criteria such as the proper functioning of the equipment, the general condition, the legibility of the marking and, in some cases, the expiration date of the product. Storage conditions are also examined.
The safety harness
The safety harness - also commonly referred to as a fall arrest harness - is the most important part of fall protection. It consists of straps, buckles and other elements arranged so that the harness can be adjusted appropriately on the body of the person, to maintain it in the event of a fall while distributing the loads it generates.
It should be as comfortable as possible with foam reinforcements on the legs and shoulders, this is an aspect that should not be overlooked. Wide straps with horizontal leg straps are preferred because they are more comfortable for the user with less impact on the femoral artery in the event of a fall.
Depending on the type of activity and the working environment, there are several types of safety harnesses :
The fall arrest harness (EN361 standard)
The fall arrest harness is a body gripping device intended to receive a possible fall and keep the wearer in the best conditions while waiting for help. The anchor points are in the sternal and dorsal position so that in the event of a fall, the wearer remains in the most vertical position possible.
It is a 2-point harness, so it is not suitable for work positioning or work on suspended ropes.
The fall arrest and work positioning harness (standards EN361 and EN358):
The fall arrest and work positioning harness is designed to stop a fall thanks to the dorsal or sternal attachment points and the wearer will be supported on the 2 side attachment points to connect a work positioning lanyard and ensure the wearer better balance.
This is a 4 point harness but in reality a 3 point harness because the two side hooks cannot be used separately.
Fall arrest, work positioning and suspension harnesses (standards EN 361, EN 358 and EN 813)
The fall arrest, work positioning and suspension harness has all the anchorages of the previous one with in addition a ventral point for rescue and suspension.
It is a 5 point harness suitable for most interventions (fall arrest, work positioning, work in suspension, rescue) with the exception of rescue interventions in confined spaces.
Evacuation harnesses (EN 1497)
The evacuation harness takes the base of the 5-point harness with in addition 2 buckles on the shoulders to lower a person in a confined space or to extract it. Some harnesses benefit from the EN 1497 standard without having buckles on the shoulders.
It’s the most complete safety harness!
The energy link and absorption system :
The linkage and energy absorption system is used to connect the safety harness to the anchor point (energy absorbing lanyards, self-retracting reels, rope slides, etc.). It’s like the safety belt of the fall protection system. There are 2 categories of connection devices :
- The fall restraint : this is a device that prevents operators from exposing themselves to danger. This type of protection is intended to limit the user's movements in order to prevent them from reaching areas where a fall could occur. It is not capable of arresting a fall from a height and should not be confused with a fall arrest system, although it is implemented with components which may appear similar.
- Fall arrest : These systems are intended to allow a user to reach areas or positions where there is a risk of falling. They must therefore stop this fall if it occurs, and then ensure the operator's suspension after the fall has been stopped. Below, the different fall arrest systems available :
Fall arrest lanyard with energy absorber
This connection system consists of a lanyard with a maximum length of 2 m and 2 connectors. When used on a fixed anchor point, the lanyard must include an energy absorber.
The self-retracting retractor - commonly called stop-fall - is used as a component in systems for connecting the safety harness to a fixed anchor point. It is a better alternative to the lanyard with energy absorber. It is a retractable lanyard wound on a drum with an automatic tension and return system, and an automatic locking function in the event of a fall. It's the same principle as a seat belt.
Most reels are designed to operate in a vertical cone of no more than 30 ° below the anchor point, which limits their conditions of use. They must comply with the EN360 standard.
The anchor point :
For each type of job, structure and industry, there is a different type of anchor : tripods, strap rings, anchor points for European standard I-beams, fixed eyelets, etc. All anchors must provide a secure attachment point - regardless of the substrate (steel, concrete, walls, roofs, etc.) and must withstand the stresses of the fall protection system.
These devices are often permanently attached to a building (flat roofs, sloping roofs, facades, concrete beams, etc.) or to an infrastructure (machines, tracks, cranes, wind turbines, etc.). Combined with fall protection equipment, they can be used as a safety system.
Anchors can be designed as a fall prevention retention solution or as a fall arrest system. There are two main types of anchoring devices :
- Rigid anchor points : these are single anchor points with a single eyelet.
- Mobile anchor points : these are lifelines or rail securing systems. The user secures himself to it by means of a rope grab or a fall arrest trolley. It can then move freely over certain sections or over the entire length of the anchoring device.