Fall Arrest Equipment Selection The right product, the right training – the complete solution

Fall Protection

Designing for Management of Working at Height
Fall Arrest Equipment Selection
Fall Protection: An overview
Fall Arrest Systems
Body Harness
Descent and Rescue
Full Body Harness
Positioning Lanyards
Twin-Leg Lanyards
Self Retracting Lifelines
The Requirements for Worker Training

Steve Jervis

Global Product Director

Capital Safety Group Limited


Of all the sectors of the safety market Fall Protection is one of the most complex, with every different scenario requiring a different solution.  It is also one of the least understood and most often poorly addressed areas of personnel safety – while still remaining one of the few sectors where the result of a wrong decision will almost certainly result in the death of a worker should they fall.

Following the hierarchy of fall protection, as described in working at height regulations, Fall Arrest PPE is the final resort because working in an environment where Fall Arrest PPE is needed means that the worker is inherently at risk of injury (at least) even with fall protection equipment supplied and used correctly.  Regulations require that no worker be placed in such a situation where it can be avoided, and that all measures to eliminate any risk be considered first.

The other dangerous area in the Fall Arrest Equipment sector is the belief that all equipment is the same.  The idea that every product is equal just because it meets the same European norm is seriously flawed.

Take the example of a full body harness:  In order to pass the European requirements the web of a harness must be able to absorb a minimum of 22kN before breaking, and it must maintain this standard in order to remain both legal and safe. This web is then open to the elements, the rigours of industry, and poor maintenance regimes. In a series of tests carried out by independent test houses a few years ago a large number of similar webs were subjected to ultra-violet light (the equivalent of a standard one year exposure in the UK) and were then re-tested against the EN standard.  Almost all failed.

So it is clear that not all products are equal, regardless of the standards to which they are tested.  Some manufacturers just meet the minimum standards, whereas those at the high quality end of the market ensure that the materials used to build the harness are capable of passing the EN test years after being put into use, even in the most rigorous environments.  The EN and CE stamps are no guarantee that the product, be it a harness, lanyard, rope system or self-retracting lifeline, will be safe after 5 months, let alone 5 years.

In the 1990s there was a shift to ‘low-cost’ Safety for Compliance equipment. This is being increasingly replaced by the correct view of Safety for Safety, with user competency training becoming a must, whatever level they work at within an organisation.  The market for height safety is finally catching up to the idea that a person’s life is worth more than the cost of the equipment used to protect him, and it is this that is changing the face of our industry.

This philosophy is best documented by an author from the 19th century, John Ruskin, who wrote:

“It is unwise to pay too much, but it is unwise to pay too little.  When you pay too much you lose a little money.  When you pay too little you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing you bought it to do.  The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot.  It cannot be done.  If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that, you have enough to pay for something better.

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