Managing the Risk of Falls in the Workplace

Article by Richard Millar, CEO of the WAHA for Cranes&LIfting Magazine.

The purpose of this article is to provide generic advice on inspection regimes for fall arrest equipment incorporating energy-absorbing lanyards and harnesses made from webbing and various attachment fittings, providing protection against equipment failure in falls from a height. 

 INSPECTING CRANES MAY REQUIRE visual inspection and often measurements as necessary of structural components, brakes, pins, wire ropes, fasteners, sheaves locking devices and electrical. Such work is often carried out at height which always presents fall safety challenges requiring a wide range of experience, skill and knowledge and further enhancement of risk due to such personal having to work at height. 

Employers and users who have responsibility for the maintenance of their equipment also have the added responsibility of any fall arrest equipment used and are responsible for its maintenance. 

There is a need for these persons to have skill and competency in and recognising the faults, that if not detected can and would directly affect the safety of the user who would be wearing the fall arrest equipment when working at height. 

FALL ARREST LANYARD 

An energy-absorbing lanyard as described in Australian Standards AS 1891.5 refers to a line of either fixed or adjustable length, and components which will enable a connection between a harness and an anchorage, the intent of which is to limit the deceleration during the arrest of a fall. 

A component of the lanyard is the energy absorber or device which by design limits the deceleration during the arrest of a fall and can assist in the work positioning of a worker. 

Many of these Lanyard Assemblies are manufactured from Synthetic Fibre webbing and Rope which are often subject to damage through mis use, general wear and tear, dirt’s, cuts, surface damage, chemical damage, light degradation (Ultraviolet Light) or other which can reduce the service life of a lanyard assembly. 

The lanyard assemblies have attachment fittings to enable the lanyards to attach to a harness and an anchorage, these fittings are also subject to wear and tear, distortion, mechanical damage that can compromise the latch movements and oxidisation which when in Contact with the webbing or rope may cause abrasion and wear along with possible cutting of the lanyard webbing or rope. 

FALL ARREST HARNESSES 

A fall arrest harness as described in Australian Standards AS/NZS1891.4 refers to a harness being a single assembly of interconnecting shoulder and leg straps which may incorporate a waist or other straps designed to increase the bearing area on the body and prevent the wearer falling out of the harness during a fall.

A fall arrest harness would have a fall arrest lanyard or some other device attached at the time of use to restrict the possible fall there by limiting the potential for the user to fall. 

Fall arrest harnesses assemblies are manufactured usually from synthetic fibre webbing often subject to damage through mis use, general wear and tear, dirt’s, cuts, surface damage, chemical damage, light degradation (ultraviolet light) or other which can reduce the useable life of the harness assembly. 

The harness assemblies have attachment rings, adjuster buckles and other fittings to enable the harness to be fitted and worn correctly by the user and provide an anchorage for the energy absorbing lanyard or other equipment the user is required to attach to.

These fittings are also subject to wear and tear, distortion, mechanical damage that can compromise the latch movements and oxidisation which when in contact with the webbing may cause abrasion and wear along with possible cutting of the harness webbing.

Australian Standard AS/NZS1891.4 Section 9 provides an equipment check list as should each of the manufactures of fall arrest equipment to which components of the assembly can be inspected and the conditions or faults are checked Safe Work NSW Code of practice “Managing The Risk of Falls at Workplaces” which may be found on web site (www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au), requires that fall arrest equipment system and its components be inspected by a competent person after it is installed but before it is used at regular intervals, and immediately after it has been used to arrest a fall.

Inspection of components should be conducted in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications and the relevant standards reference AS/NZS1891.4. 

If signs of excessive wear or other defects are found during the inspection of those components the lanyard or harness should be withdrawn from use.

The Standard and Work practice document requires that all personal use equipment (harness, lanyard, connectors and fall arrest devices, etc) and common use equipment (ropes, slings, fall arrest devices and mobile attachment devices) are inspected by the competent person before and after each use.

The competent person as shown in Australian Standards ASNZS 1891.4 and Work Health and Safety Regulation No 262 is considered to be a person who has through a combination of training, qualification and experience acquired knowledge and skills enabling that person to correctly perform a specified task. 

Further information and guidance providing general advice on the inspection and inspection bulletins related to Fall Arrest Equipment may be found on WAHA’s website (www.waha.org.au), along with recommendation that competent persons responsible for such inspections are trained to bring knowledge and skill required to such a task.

The importance of ensuring that the competent person is able to carry out such inspections requires the PCBU to be prove the competencies of those doing the inspections.

Where the operator is not competent (for example, during operator training), these inspections should be carried out by an operator who is competent or by a height safety supervisor. The standard defines the following: –

Competent person – A person who, through a combination of training, knowledge and experience, has acquired knowledge and skills enabling that person to correctly perform a specified task.

Height safety operator – A person who is able to perform harness-based work at heights under the direct supervision of a height safety supervisor.

Height safety supervisor – A person who is competent in the skills needed to perform harness-based work at heights, to supervise other operators including those at entry level and to participate in first response rescue.

Height safety manager – A person who is competent in the selection, design, manufacture or installation of height safety systems or equipment, or the development of control measures or work practices.

Height safety equipment inspector – A person who is competent in the skills needed to detect faults in height safety equipment and determine remedial action

Operators should be aware that their lives depend on the efficiency and durability of the equipment and proper inspection is their first line of defence against the hazards of faulty equipment.

Training and assessment of operators shall include competency in carrying out the operator inspections.

Inspections shall be by sight and touch and shall include the opening of any equipment where access for daily inspection is provided to ensure that the internal components are in good condition.

Where equipment is considered in any way doubtful by the competent person, it should be tagged out of service. A label should be attached to the equipment indicating the defect and referred to a height safety equipment inspector for further action.

Listed here are a few examples of the defects and damage that may have detrimental effects on the fall arrest equipment:

  • Surface abrasion across the face of the webbing and at the webbing loops.
  • Abrasion on the edge of the webbing straps 
  • Damage to stitching (example: cuts and abrasions)
  • A knot in the lanyard, other than those intended by the manufacture
  • Chemical attack which can result in local weakening and softening – often indicated by flaking of the surface. There may also be a change to the colour of the fibres.
  • Heat or friction damage indicated by fibres with a glazed appearance which may feel harder than surrounding fibres.
  • UV-degradation which is difficult to identify, particularly visually, but there may be some loss of colour and possibly a powdery surface.
  • Partially deployed energy absorber (example: short pull-out of tear webbing)
  • Contamination (for example, with dirt, grit, sand etc) which may result in internal or external abrasion.
  • Damaged or deformed fittings (example: karabiners, screw link connectors, scaffold hooks, Adjusters)
  • Damage to the sheath and core of a kernmantle rope (example: rucking of the core detected during tactile inspection)
  • Internal damage to a cable-laid rope.

Harnesses and lanyards should be subjected to:

  • Pre use and after use inspections by the user 

These checks are essential and should be carried out each time, before the equipment is used and such inspections should be tactile and visual. The whole assembly should be subject to the check, by passing it slowly through the hands (for example to detect small cuts of 1 mm in the edges, softening or hardening of fibres, ingress of contaminants). A visual check should be undertaken in good light and will normally take a few minutes. 

  • Six monthly detailed inspections by a competent person 

These more formal, in-depth inspections should be carried out periodically at a minimum of 6 monthly intervals as specified in the employer’s inspection regime and Australian Standards ASNZS 18912.4. 

For frequently used Harnesses and lanyards it is suggested that consideration be given to reviewing the inspection time possibly to at least every three months, when the equipment is used in arduous environments (ego demolition, steel erection, scaffolding, steel skeletal masts/towers with edges and protrusions and chemicals) 

Where the risk to equipment may be subjected to significant deterioration. 

Record keeping 

A record card, history sheet or similar record should be kept for each item of equipment detailing the maintenance and inspection history of the item and entry into service. This documentation shall be freely available to the operator and users for at least the life of the equipment. Data to be maintained on equipment includes the following where appropriate:

  • manufacturer’s supplier’s or installer’s name and address; 
  • manufacturer’s batch, serial or identifying number; 
  • year of manufacture; 
  • date of purchase; 
  • date first put into service; 
  • dates and details of inspections and services; 
  • details of recommended connections to harnesses;
  • type of anchorage to be used; and 
  • suitability and limitations on various usages. 

Fall protection is a major concern for anyone working at height, it is absolutely imperative to ensure your safety harness and its components are inspected before every use, without exception. 

Employers and employees have to be educated on fall prevention and how to use and inspect fall arrest systems, without this knowledge how can you recognise the signs that your fall arrest equipment is safe or in fact not safe to use. 

Injuries and fatalities related to falls are often preventable with the correct use of well-maintained safety equipment. 

Crane Safety in Construction, research summary of March 2020 found between the years 2003 and 2015, 47 Australian workers were killed in incidents involving cranes (SafeWork Australia, 2016) not all related to falls, and on average, 240 serious injury claims arise from crane safety incidents every year (SafeWork Australia, 2019). The construction industry is of most concern, accounting for 22 crane related fatalities and continuously showing the highest rates of crane-related injuries (SafeWork Australia, 2016) 

The analysis of SafeWork NSW data and the consultations with industry subject through research with matter experts both identified competence of the workforce to be a critical issue. However, this was traced back to issues inherent to the training provided, which persons working at height should be trained to provide competence in aspects of height safety likely to affect them working on or around cranes and the assets that are attached or working around. 

Inspecting Fall Arrest Systems and Harnesses

Article by WAHA CEO, Richard Millar for Sourceable.

https://sourceable.net/inspecting-fall-arrest-systems-and-harnesses/

Employers and users of fall arrest equipment are responsible for maintenance of their fall arrest equipment.

As can be seen in the later part of this article there is a need for these persons to have skill and competency to recognise the faults that if not detected can and would directly affect the safety of the user whom would be wearing the fall arrest equipment in a high risk industry.

The purpose of this article is to provide generic advice on inspection regimes for fall arrest equipment incorporating energy-absorbing lanyards and harnesses made from webbing and various attachment fittings, providing protection against equipment failure in falls from a height.

Fall Arrest Lanyard

An energy-absorbing lanyard as described in Australian Standards AS 1891.5 refers to a line of either fixed or adjustable length, and components which will enable a connection between a harness and an anchorage, the intent of which is to limit the deceleration during the arrest of a fall.

A component of the lanyard is the energy absorber or device which by design limits the deceleration during the arrest of a fall.

Many of these Lanyard Assemblies are manufactured from Synthetic Fibre webbing and Rope which are often subject to damage through mis use, general wear and tear, dirt’s, cuts, surface damage, chemical damage, light degradation (Ultraviolet Light) or other which can reduce the service life of a lanyard assembly.

The lanyard assemblies have attachment fittings to enable the lanyards to attach to a harness and an anchorage, these fittings are also subject to wear and tear, distortion, mechanical damage that can compromise the latch movements and oxidisation which when in Contact with the webbing or rope may cause abrasion and wear along with possible cutting of the lanyard webbing or rope.

Fall Arrest Harnesses 

A Fall Arrest Harness as described in Australian Standards AS/NZS1891.4 refers to a harness being a single assembly of interconnecting shoulder and leg straps which may incorporate a waist or other straps designed to increase the bearing area on the body and prevent the wearer falling out of the harness during a fall

A fall arrest harness would have a fall arrest lanyard or some other device attached at the time of use to restrict the possible fall there by limiting the potential for the user to fall.

Fall Arrest Harnesses Assemblies are manufactured usually from Synthetic Fibre webbing often subject to damage through mis use, general wear and tear, dirt’s, cuts, surface damage, chemical damage, light degradation (Ultraviolet Light) or other which can reduce the useable life of the harness assembly.

The harness assemblies have attachment rings, adjuster buckles and other fittings to enable the harness to be fitted and worn correctly by the user and provide an anchorage for the energy absorbing lanyard or other equipment the user is required to attach to.

These fittings are also subject to wear and tear, distortion, mechanical damage that can compromise the latch movements and oxidisation which when in contact with the webbing may cause abrasion and wear along with possible cutting of the lanyard webbing.

Australian Standard AS/NZS1891.4 Section 9 provides an equipment check list as should each of the manufactures of fall arrest equipment to which components of the assembly can be inspected and the conditions or faults are checked

Safe Work NSW Code of practice “MANAGING THE RISK OF FALLS AT WORKPLACES” which may be found on web site; www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au, requires that fall arrest equipment  system and its components be inspected by a competent person: – after it is installed but before it is used – at regular intervals, and immediately after it has been used to arrest a fall.

Inspection of components should be conducted in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications and the relevant standards reference AS/NZS1891.4.

If signs of excessive wear or other defects are found during the inspection of those components the lanyard or harness should be withdrawn from use.

The Standard and Safe Work Practice document requires that all personal use equipment (harness, lanyard, connectors and fall arrest devices & etc) and common use equipment (ropes, slings, fall arrest devices and mobile attachment devices) are inspected by the competent person before and after each use.

The competent person as shown in Australian Standards AS/NZS1891.4 and Work Health and Safety Regulation No 262 is considered to be a person who has through a combination of training, qualification and experience acquired knowledge and skills enabling that person to correctly perform a specified task.

Further information and guidance providing general advice on the inspection and inspection bulletins related to Fall Arrest Equipment may be found on www.waha.org.au, along with recommendation that competent persons responsible for such inspections are trained to bring knowledge and skill required to such a task.

The importance of ensuring that the competent person is able to carry out such inspections requires the PCBU to be prove the competencies of those doing the inspections.

Where the operator is not competent (e.g. during operator training), these inspections should be carried out by an operator who is competent or by a height safety supervisor. The standard defines the following: –

Competent Person

A person who, through a combination of training, knowledge and experience, has acquired knowledge and skills enabling that person to correctly perform a specified task.

Height Safety Operator

A person who is able to perform harness-based work at heights under the direct supervision of a height safety supervisor.

Height Safety Supervisor

A person who is competent in the skills needed to perform harness-based work at heights, to supervise other operators including those at entry level and to participate in first response rescue.

Height Safety Manager

A person who is competent in the selection, design, manufacture or installation of height safety systems or equipment, or the development of control measures or work practices.

Height Safety Equipment Inspector

A person who is competent in the skills needed to detect faults in height safety equipment and determine remedial action

Operators should be aware that their lives depend on the efficiency and durability of the equipment and proper inspection is their first line of defence against the hazards of faulty equipment.

Training and assessment of operators shall include competency in carrying out the operator inspections.

Inspections shall be by sight and touch and shall include the opening of any equipment where access for daily inspection is provided to ensure that the internal components are in good condition.

Where equipment is considered in any way doubtful by the competent person, it should be tagged out of service. A label should be attached to the equipment indicating the defect and referred to a height safety equipment inspector for further action.

Listed here are a few examples of the defects and damage that may have detrimental effects on the fall arrest equipment.

  • Surface abrasion across the face of the webbing and at the webbing loops.
  • Abrasion on the edge of the webbing straps
  • Damage to stitching (e.g.; Cuts & Abrasions)
  • A knot in the lanyard, other than those intended by the manufacturer;
  • Chemical attack which can result in local weakening and softening – often indicated by flaking of the surface. There may also be a change to the colour of the fibres.
  • heat or friction damage indicated by fibres with a glazed appearance which may feel harder than surrounding fibres.
  • UV-degradation which is difficult to identify, particularly visually, but there may be some loss of colour and possibly a powdery surface.
  • Partially deployed energy absorber (e.g. short pull-out of tear webbing)
  • contamination (e.g. with dirt, grit, sand etc) which may result in internal or external abrasion.
  • Damaged or deformed fittings (e.g. karabiners, screw link connectors, scaffold hooks, Adjusters)
  • Damage to the sheath and core of a kernmantle rope (e.g. rucking of the core detected during tactile inspection)
  • Internal damage to a cable-laid rope.

Harnesses and Lanyards should be subjected to;

  • Pre use and after use inspections by the user
    • These checks are essential and should be carried out each time, before the equipment is used and such inspections should be tactile and visual. The whole assembly should be subject to the check, by passing it slowly through the hands (eg to detect small cuts of 1 mm in the edges, softening or hardening of fibres, ingress of contaminants). A visual check should be undertaken in good light and will normally take a few minutes.
  • 6 Monthly Detailed inspections by a competent person
    • These more formal, in-depth inspections should be carried out periodically at a minimum of 6 monthly intervals as specified in the employer’s inspection regime and Australian Standards AS/NZS18912.4.
    • For frequently used Harnesses and lanyards it is suggested that consideration be given to reviewing the inspection time possibly to at least every three months, when the equipment is used in arduous environments (eg demolition, steel erection, scaffolding, steel skeletal masts/towers with edges and protrusions & Chemicals)
    • Where the risk to equipment may be subjected to significant deterioration.

Record Keeping

  • A record card, history sheet or similar record should be kept for each item of equipment detailing the maintenance and inspection history of the item and entry into service. This documentation shall be freely available to the operator and users for at least the life of the equipment. Data to be maintained on equipment includes the following where appropriate: –
  • Manufacturer’s supplier’s or installer’s name and address.
  • Manufacturer’s batch, serial or identifying number.
  • Year of manufacture.
  • Date of purchase.
  • Date first put into service.
  • Dates and details of inspections and services.
  • Details of recommended connections to harnesses.
  • Type of anchorage to be used.
  • Suitability and limitations on various usages.

Fall Protection is a major concern for anyone working at height, It is absolutely imperative to ensure your safety harness and its components are inspected before every use, without exception.

Employers and employees have to be  educated on fall prevention and how to use and inspect fall arrest systems, without this knowledge how can you recognise the signs that your fall arrest equipment is safe or in fact not safe to use.

Injuries and fatalities related to falls are often preventable with the correct use of well-maintained safety equipment.

Safe Work Australia state in the recent statistics that when it comes to work-related fatalities in the construction industry show that between 2003–13, 401 workers died on construction sites in Australia. The majority of those (28% or 112 workers) involved falls from a height.

When using Fall Protection, the user needs to know that the equipment he is wearing and attached to will support and protect the worker in a fall incident.

Take action to protect yourself now. Don’t become a statistic

Know Your Fall Arrest Harnesses When Working at Height

By Richard Millar, Chief Executive Officer, Working at Height Association 


When working at height, what different types of safety harnesses exist? How do these operate? What mistakes are common when wearing/operating with safety harnesses? What are the consequences of these? What are the right ways to use safety harnesses?

Personnel working at height in the construction industry are required by the Regulator to be trained in the safe use of working at heights equipment to ensure they have the appropriate skills to carry out tasks safely.

Training is to be provided to workers by competent persons to ensure appropriate instruction on the proper use, type(s) of harness, wearing, storage and maintenance of fall arrest PPE with an understanding of the risks associated with working height.

Such training should provide an understanding of the type of harnesses and lanyards that may be used to help support the worker limiting the risk of a fall from height. Following training, there should be assessment to ensure the worker has the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience to undertake work at height. Refresher training should also occur on a regular basis.

There are varying styles of fall arrest harnesses that can be worn to protect the worker, and whilst we refer to these harnesses as fall arrest harnesses the worker should be using the harnesses to position themselves into work restraint or positioning: when a worker places themselves into this type of positioning they are removing the immediate risk of a fall and a person’s ability to get into a place where they can fall.

A) Fall Arrest Work Positioning – Working in Restraint

The principle of work in restraint is best illustrated through diagrams. It is simplest form, working in restraint means the means by which a person is ‘restrained’ or prevented from being able to get into a place where a fall can occur.

When work tasks require a safety harness to be worn, the practice of work in restraint is to be used wherever possible to reduce the injury risk from a fall.

B) Work positioing via suspension (e.g. Confined space entry).

For work that may be required to be completed in a confined space, it may be suitable to lower a person into the environment utilising a man-rated mechanical winching system. This is called working in suspension, as the person is literally suspended in the air when the tasks are being complete. Working in suspension in this way means that a rescue can be performed easily by a stand-by rescuer, winching the person to safety.

C) Rope Access Work Positioning

A rope access technician has the primary intention of accessing a location in a vertical plane, by positioning themselves to perform work whilst suspended in a harness. This method of access requires specialty equipment and more important significant training to be effective. Rope access involves the use of twin ropes – one which is the primary or main working rope line, the second being the redundant, secondary line that acts as an emergency line in the event of a mainline failure.

Note; Persons undertaking confined spaces work, or rope access work must attain additional qualification(s) to be deemed competent. 

Harnesses and harness connection points 

The harness attachment points are the unsung hero on a full body harness. Without a way to connect the worker to a fall protection system or anchorage point, the full body harness would be useless. Different fall protection applications want different types of connection points. Fall protection equipment will only work properly when it is used correctly. There are three primary points of attachment, depending on the type of harness and are used depending on the type or work being undertaken.

  1. Ventral – commonly a point of attachment at the waist
  2. Sternal – commonly a point of attachment at the chest
  3. Dorsal – commonly a point of attachment at the back

There are also additional attachment points, depending on the harness and application.

To reduce the misuse of a full body harness, we are going to explain the most common types of harness connection points, where they are located, and how they are meant to function.

FALL ARREST

The connection point used for fall arrest purposes is usually a D-ring that is located on the back of the harness between the shoulder blades. This location is ideal for fall arrest purposes because it evenly distributes the forces of fall arrest across a person’s body. The dorsal D-ring will typically be connected to a shock absorbing lanyard or a self-retracting lanyard, depending on the location. However, other forms of fall arrest devices can also be attached to the dorsal D-ring.

WORK POSITIONING

A harness that is designed for work positioning may have a single, or a pair of D-rings located in the lower waist area at the front of the harness. This type of fall protection allows a worker to have both of their hands free to work while they remain connected to the work area. It should be noted that this system is not the same as fall arrest, but instead this system is a form of fall restraint.

TRAVEL RESTRAINT

If workers need to access an area that is near a fall hazard, a safety manager may decide to use a travel restraint system. A harness designed for travel restraint functions will usually have a D-ring in the centre of the back at waist-level. When a harness is connected in this area, a worker will have reduced access to a potentially dangerous area at height. A worker will usually be connected to an anchorage location with a lanyard that is long enough to allow them to access the work area, but not long enough to allow them to access a fall hazard.

DESCENT / ASCENT 

If a worker needs to be raised or lowered into a work area, their harness will need to have a descent or ascent connection point. Connection points for descent or ascent are either a single D-ring between the waist and chest or a pair of D-rings at the waist level. These connection points are used to raise or lower a person into or out of a work area. Often times, this harness will also have a dorsal D-ring to allow for a fall arrest device to be connected.

EVACUATION

Harnesses that can be used for evacuation procedures can typically be identified by a pair of D-rings on the shoulders or at the chest level. Usually, there will be a place where a spreader bar can be added to the harness to help distribute the weight of a worker while they are either raised or lowered onto a safe working level. An evacuation harness is slightly different from a harness that can be used for ascent or descent because the evacuation harness is meant for very brief periods of use.

LADDER CLIMBING 

Harnesses that can be used with a ladder climbing safety system will have either a single D-ring or a pair of D-rings at chest level. These harnesses are designed to connect to a ladder fall protection system so that a worker can have fall arrest while working on a ladder. This particular harness attachment is designed to keep a worker relatively close to the ladder to improve the success of the ladder fall arrest device.

Generally speaking, the work environment for which the harness is needed will dictate the number and location of the harness attachment points. Different harness attachment points will help you identify the ways in which the harness can be used. If you need a harness that can perform in a certain way or assist with a certain function, it’s important to find a harness that has the appropriate connection points for what you are trying to accomplish

In conclusion; due to the variety of harnesses in the market, it is vital to ensure workers are appropriately trained to use the equipment, and that the equipment selected is appropriate to the task.

Additional information about the harnesses is provided by the manufacturer, including use, maintenance and inspection guidance.

By Richard Millar, CEO, Working at Heights Association 

The Working at Height Association of Australia (WAHA)

Established in 2009 in response to the industry’s demand for a peak body to provide information and support for businesses needing to address working at height issues.

Working at height is a risk that affects people not only working g above ground level – it also affects those working below ground – essentially anywhere there is a risk of a fall form one level to another.

Therefore, work in confined spaces is an area off focus for the association, forming a category to address these specific issues in 2016.

The WAHA is there essentially dedicated to the ongoing development of the highest standards of equipment and operational competency of all persons working height and in confined spaces.

Richard Millar

Chief Executive Officer WAHA

In a Career spanning 42 years in fall protection,

In 1976 Rick assisted in the development and original drafting of Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS1891.1 Series and AS/2626: 1982 originally the precursor for AS/NZS1891.4 Care and Use of Fall protection equipment as part of the SF015 committee, and has taken the position of drafting leader on that committee and more recently been appointed Chairman of the International Standards ISO/TC94/SC4 committee for fall protection.

Rick is presently CEO and Technical Chair of the Working at Heights Association

**************************************************

Article originally posted for Sourceable.

WAHA Compliance Statement: ASNZS 5532 – Single Point Anchors for Harness Based Work at Height

Background

There have been numerous requests for advice as to the status of AS/NZS 5532:2013, the Australian and New Zealand Standard for ‘Manufacturing requirements for single-point anchor device used for harness-based work at height’. This compliance statement has been developed to clarify the situation given the apparent confusion regarding this standard. AS/NZS 5532:2013 was created to supplement the AS/NZS 1891 series, to standardise requirements for manufacturing and testing of single point anchors, exclusively for the protection of personnel.

Note that AS/NZS 5532 is a manufacturing standard; it does not address ongoing inspection, proof loading and maintenance and only addresses installation by way of specifying system design and installation information that is to be supplied with the anchors.

Status

There has been misunderstanding that AS/NZS 5532:2013 is under review and fall arrest anchors do not need to comply with this standard. After the release of the Standard in 2013, in 2015, a review process was announced to take place based on industry feedback.This process has since lapsed and so the Standard remains in place, as-is. Therefore manufacturers of fall arrest anchors, claiming compliance and certification to AS/NZS 5532:2013, must conform to all requirements of the Standard.

Requirements

For a single-point anchor device to be compliant to AS/NZS 5532:2013, it shall meet the performance requirements and test methods as well as the marking, labelling and packaging requirements specified within the Standard.

The anchor device must be subject to and pass both the dynamic and static tests to comply with the performance requirements. 

Additionally, to ensure the rating of the anchor is suitable to perform in its installed state, testing of the anchor must be done on the substrate/structure that it is intended to be fixed to. This is because some anchors may be able to withstand higher loading when tested on a solid structure then it would on the substrate to which it is intended to be installed. Testing of the anchor to simulate its intended performance in the ‘as installed’ configuration is imperative and must be conducted both dynamically and statically in the proposed direction of use. The manufacturer must be able to provide evidence of the testing of the anchor on the fixed substrate, not just of the anchor itself.

Exposition

Due to the varying performance of roofing types, it therefore follows that testing must to be performed on each type of roof substrate. Detailed installation instructions shall be provided by the manufacturer with the anchor device, showing the specific installation requirements for each roof substrate. E.g. additional fixings may be required to ensure the substrate can withstand the load rating.

AS/NZS 5532:2013 is not applied retrospectively, therefore all anchors installed prior to the publication in October 2013 should instead comply with the requirements of AS/NZS 1891.4:2009. 

AS/NZS 5532:2013 is a manufacturing standard and does not address on-going inspection and maintenance. Inspection and maintenance criteria based on AS/NZS 1891.4:2009, including annual load testing of glued-in (chemical) and friction anchors, shall continue for all installed anchors.

Where anchors are found to be damaged or not to have been installed in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions (e.g. roof mounted anchors with insufficient fasteners or installed in roof sheeting that is thinner than the specified minimum) these anchors must be made compliant with the manufacturer’s instructions or replaced.

CONCLUSION

WAHA’s role as a group of industry professionals is to ensure that current standards are maintained, to respond to height safety issues and to assist in the process of creating higher industry standards across products, training, installation and maintenance, based on progressions in the height safety industry.

WAHA recommends the use of products that are third party certified by a JAS-ANZ accredited certification body. Third party certification provides independent oversight and auditing. Compliance with the AS/NZS 5532 Standard, as well as all others for fall protection, are not mandatory by Regulation, but form part of the body of knowledge of industry. Such Standards are also referred to in Codes of Practice and can be referred to in legal cases and workplace investigations to assess the contribution that product design and performance has toward accident outcomes.

We strongly recommend that this advice is taken on by all installers, manufacturers, operators and building owners (PCBU’s).

Note: SafeWork NSW recently amended their advice to the community on the AS/NZS 5532 standard. You can read their fact sheet here: 

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/resource-library/construction/fall-arrest-anchors

Why an Industry Code for Height Safety Installations?

Ongoing accidents caused by workers falling from heights exemplify the need for an industry code for height safety installations. Here Working At Heights Association (WAHA) CEO Richard Millar outlines the most common injuries and issues associated with failed height safety installations, and the case for industry adapting its industry code.

There have been many articles published over the years attempting to educate and inform industry on the risks associated with working at height.

Workers – or even people working at home – may find themselves carrying out work that requires finding ways to protect themselves from falling from, over, through or off a structure.

The statics related to falls from height are concerning. Safe Work Australia publications provide annual statistical information on deaths in industry consistently indicating that fatalities as a result of falls from height continue to be the second highest cause of death every year for the last 15 years. Two people die every month in Australia as result of falling from height.

These statistics do not include other injuries sustained from falls which are often life changing and may include – but not be limited to:

  • Head injuries. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury
  • Hip fractures.  
  • Back and spinal cord injuries.
  • Shoulder injuries.  
  • Sprains and fractures.

Challenges facing systems designed to prevent falls

The engineering controls for working at height includes installed systems featuring:

  • Anchor Points
  • Safety Rail Systems 
  • Safety line systems

The systems are normally installed in areas of risk and are designed to provide a worker with free movement and limiting the potential fall to that of restraint when accessing the risk area. 

There were many instances reported to the Working at Height Association (WAHA) by its member  companies where systems have failed, either in pre use inspections or by   accidentally releasing the operatives who were relying on the systems for protection.

WAHA conducted a number of surveys with qualified installation companies and found significant issues with many installations, including:

  • No / limited documentation;
  • The quality of installations did not align with manufacturer requirements;
  • The positioning of anchors, lifelines, ladders, ladder access brackets and a significant range of other products failed basic safety tests;
  • No training/qualification of those that installed the systems;
  • No / limited regulatory oversight for installations;
  • Certifications and re-certifications of systems performed by people with little or no knowledge of potential operational issues; and
  • Profiteering by unqualified people.

It was apparent that facility mangers and asset owners were frustrated in not knowing where to turn – and by the potential risk users of the systems were taking.

Working at heights safety resources

The issues experienced with height safety installations are the reasons why WAHA developed its own Code of Practice for Permanent Anchor Systems, Lifelines and Rail Installations and believes that it should be adopted as an Industry Code to reduce fatalities and injuries.

Other resources exist as well. Both Federal and State Government Regulators have – over time – trained their field operatives to educate and regulate industry. They have developed work practice documents on how to safely work at heights that are supported by regulation.

Height Safety Training is available from Registered Training Organisations (RTO’s) in all states – offering a number of levels of competency for working at height (Reference ASNZS 1891.4 Appendix E). Our complete list of WAHA Members can be found on the Current Members page.

The way forward

With all the best intentions and resources provided to eradicate the trauma caused by a fall from height, falls continue to cause cost of life, reduction of life style, trauma and the cost to families and industry continues for a long period. This is why an industry Code of Practice is so important, and should be adopted by organisations that have employees who work at heights. The WAHA Industry Code for Permanent Anchor systems, lifelines and rail installations is a resource for all users, asset owners and installers and is available on our website.

Case study (breakout box)

A Government department responsible for Government building assets such as schools, high rise and other buildings reported that the fall arrest systems on the roofs of these structures could not – after the annual assessment – be provided with a certificate of compliance for use even though they were in many cases only 12 months old.

It appeared that the installed systems often did not have any documentation to provide the assessor with the information needed to carry out a professional review of the system and its compliance.

The Government body had started to take legal advice on the responsibility of the installers and the installed system’s ongoing compliance.

WAHA was contacted and, following an in depth discussion on the various systems and accreditations for systems on their buildings and the responsibilities of manufacturers, suppliers, installers and asset owners, it was agreed that WAHA would carry out an independent review and assessment of all systems. 

It was agreed that the principles provided in the WAHA Industry Code for Permanent Anchor Systems, Lifelines and Rail Installations would adhered to by those organisations wishing to procure work on the Government’s assets. They would also be required to carry WAHA endorsement for installations. This would enable the asset owner to meet the operational requirements of the Regulator Codes of Practice for specific jurisdictions within which the installation was made after the installation was complete.

This case study is one of many showing asset owner concerns related to the ongoing maintenance of permanently installed systems, and is another reason why WAHA has prepared the Industry Code for Permanent Anchor Systems, Lifelines and Rail Installations. 

Getting Confined Spaces Back Into Harmony

Article By Gordon Cadzow, Secretary of WAHA – for National Safety Magazine.

There still remains significant confusion around the obligations of PCBUs (employers) and operators in working in confined space environments. The tragic death of three members of the same family in a concrete water
tank incident a NSW farming property earlier this year reinforces the point that the true-dangers of this risk are not as well understood as they need to be.

Many people are aware that working in a confined space carries an increased risk compared to those working in an open environment. Most are unaware, however, that the definition of a confined space is different across each state and territory in Australia – something that SafeWork Australia has tried to address by issuing a model ‘Code of Practice’ during the harmonisation of workplace health and safety legislation process that was commenced in 2008. This Code of Practice was recently updated and re-released in February 2016.
Although a number of states and territories have adopted this code, it is for from being national and therefore companies need to be aware of the differences that exist across various jurisdictions. Mony principles remain the some: however, the specific requirements of each region should be accounted for when working in a confined-space environment.


TRAINING AND COMPETENCIES
The requirement to work in confined spaces requires a wide range of operator competencies. There is on overlap with the sofe working at height skillset – including many of the rescue requirements. As such, the Working at Height Association (WAHA) hos a strong Confined Space Category where members focus on the issues in that specific market. Despite this, WAHA receives a significant volume of feedback and questions about issues that occur in confined space work environments.

As the Working at Height Association has category members from all around Australia, member discussions quickly concluded thot there was a need to investigate further and, in late in 2015. the association conducted a nationwide online survey to try and identify the specific issues around the country. There were in excess of 230 respondents to the survey, with all states and territories represented. Interestingly, 60% of respondents operated in more than one jurisdiction – with those respondents again highlighting the problems created by the lock of notional consistency in regulations and the need to operate differently in different state/territory-based sites. Additionally, some jurisdictions referenced the Australian Standard (AS/ NZS2865), while others did not.
While 96% of respondents were aware of the local regulations. 26% hod difficulty understanding them. with 81% having to refer to supporting information.

While 96% of respondents were aware of the local regulations, 26% had difficulty understanding them, with 81% having to refer to supporting information.

Results from a nationwide WAHA Confined Space online survey.


Similarly, while 89% were aware of the Australian Standard, 26% again said the content of the Standard was unclear and 78% hod to search for additional information. The effectiveness of confined space training – for both managers and operators – was also measured. While 94% indicated the training was “satisfactory or better”, only 60% felt they hod obtained sufficient skills to actually operate in a confined space.
Importantly, one of the key outcomes of the survey was that there was a large variation in expectations around the appropriate length of initial training time and refresher training requirements. Although competencies are referenced in the Standards and Codes of Practice. there ore no prescriptions around course length, teacher/student ratios or other elements that con assist to define course quality. This is therefore on area of concern for the association – how can a person doing a single one-day confined space course be deemed competent to not only work in the environment but olso to perform a rescue? Yet training organisations ore issuing Statements of Attainment for this without any checks and balances around this.


TRAINING STANDARDS
Based on these survey outcomes, WAHA has issued guidelines on what is deemed by members to be the range of specific competencies an individual needs to demonstrate, prior to being issued with a confined space certificate. These guidelines align with the Code of Practice and current Standard requirements and are published on the WAHA website. They are available for public access on the WAHA website.

This information provides guidelines to training companies on on ideal/appropriate course length, practical exercises ond teacher-student ratios that would ensure a quality course is delivered. With ASOA focusing on the quality of the ‘system’ of training for RTOs, rather than the quality of the content being delivered and the capability set of the students at the end of a training course, this guideline is designed to provide o benchmark from which companies con assess their own programs.


AUSTRALIAN STANDARDS ON CONFINED SPACE
Australian Standard ASNZS 2865 Confined Spaces was first published in 2003; however, this now aged Standard is well overdue for review. It is understood that this Standard is not presently managed by on active Technical Committee. Under the Standards Australia process, its future will be determined by the Regulators that reference that standard. Currently, this is believed to be only Western Australia that is referring to the Standard. There is no reference to the Standard in the model Code of Practice.
Typically, a Standard is managed by a Technical Committee that has four options available to assess the future of the document. It can:

  • Confirm the Stondord (with no chonges made).
  • Revise the Standard with suitable updates – this requires o project proposal.
  • Make the Stondord “obsolete” – if it is not recommended or reflecting current proctices but should be retoined in order to provide for servicing of existing equipment or requirements.
  • Withdraw the Standard if it is considered no longer relevant.

The WAHA Confined Spaces Category members feel thot the Standard should be subjected to review, revision and re-issue. The main reasons for this ore that the Standard provides more detailed guidelines on training requirements, the types of PPE that con and should be used in these environments and more specific information on how to handle rescue scenarios, which ore not provided for in many of the state and territory Codes of Practice (COP), or even the new model COP. This will be a complex process that will require the submission of a detailed project

proposal to Standards Australia that is both supported by a large number of interested industry bodies and, possibly, on external project funding submission.


THE FUTURE
Moving forward, WAHA proposes to campaign with Safe Work Australia and the various state and territory regulators to have the model COP adopted notionally, thereby eliminating workplace confusion and ensuring that confined space training operations can have a notional approach to worker training.
There is no doubt that working in confined space is a hazardous undertaking. As such, the correct understanding and management of the risk is essential. With managers and workers now increasingly operating across state and territory boundaries, it is essential that the some definitions and standards apply nationally. After all, is that not what “harmonisation” was supposed to achieve?
The Working at Height Association has released information that highlights the differences in definitions of a confined space, available on our website.

How Safe is Your Height Safety System?

Article by Gordon Cadzow, Secretary of the WAHA.

Those designing buildings and structures have a responsibility to consider all aspects of safety over the life of the building or structure – during its construction, the maintenance requirements over its life cycle and even its eventual demolition. These requirements are clearly set out in “Safe Design of Structures’ Code of Practice (2014) issued by SafeWork NSW and other state regulators. In reality however, companies are dealing with both new and old structures – which means that the safe design principles will take some time to manifest in building design over the coming decades.

In the intervening period, where an assessment of a planned work activity indicates that there may be a health & safety risk to those undertaking the work, action must be taken to develop a safe work method. This is particularly relevant when work has to be undertaken at height – either to access the work area or where the work area itself is at height.

Where it has been identified that work may have to be carried on at height over the building life cycle, the hierarchy of control should be applied in order to determine if that need can be eliminated – by changes to design or “engineering out” the need to work at height. 

If this is not possible, how then can the risks associated with working at height be minimised by utilising a Height safety system?

System Design

Where it has been identified that work will have to be carried out at height, the focus must initially be directed at the development of the safest possible work method. This is the task of the system designer who should be qualified to the level of Height Safety Manager as defined in AS/NZS1891.4 Section E3(e). The system developed will account for a variety of circumstances, such as frequency of use, the nature of the work being undertaken, the number of users accessing the system and their training competencies etc. Once the safe system is designed and deemed ‘reasonably practicable’ for the purpose, the design of a system can be documented, with details on how the system is designed to be used. Once formalised, this procedure will therefore effectively be the basis for preparing a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) – the template document for which can be filed in the Height Safety System File.

The system designer is also responsible for defining the specification of the type of equipment to be used and ensuring that the structure to which it is fixed is capable of sustaining the loads, should a fall from height occur. Again, these design details and calculations should be documented and added to the Height Safety System File.

System Installation

Those contracted to install the system must ensure that the system is installed exactly to the design requirements using the specified equipment. The installers undertaking the installation must be certified by the product manufacturer as accredited installers and copies of such installation certification should be added to the System File and available for review by the asset owner.

The system installer must ensure correct product installation and labelling and may be required to test and certify each component in line with the manufacturer’s instructions (e.g. for concrete mounted anchors, cable swaging tests etc). Any test certification details – along with the required date for re-certification should then be added to the system file. To enable future component inspection and re-certification, the manufacturer’s specific fixing instructions should also be added to the System File.

The system should now be available for safe use. However, it is often at this time that the actual building or structure is passed from the construction company to the owner / operator / facility manager. Where this transfer of responsibility happens, it is essential that the System File is transferred to the new asset manager at that time so a detailed record of these documents can be available for future re-certification of these systems to be undertaken.

System Users

System users are often specialist tradesmen (electricians, plumbers etc.) related to the task being undertaken. Where working at height is involved, the tradesmen must also hold a current Nationally Recognised certification for Safe Working at Height from an RTOP as a minimum requirement. One lead person should be certified to at least Height Safety Supervisor level as defined in AS/NZS1891.4 Section E3(c), with others to at least Height Safety Operator level (AS/NZS1891.4 Section E3 (b)).

System users should review the Hight Safety System File – with particular reference to the template Safe Work Method Statement and the certification date – and carry out a pre-use inspection of equipment to be used with the system. If the system certification period has expired, the system must NOT be used and should be tagged “out of service” until it has been inspected and re-certified as detailed below.

The system should be used in line with the Safe Work Method Statement and, at the conclusion of the work, a user “post use” inspection should ideally be undertaken. The Height Safety System File should be updated with any pre and post inspection comments along with the user details.

System Recertification

There is a requirement to have any height safety system rercertified in line with local regulatory requirements (generally, every 12 months – but check local regulations). This work must be done by an accredited system certifier, qualified to the level of Height Safety Equipment Inspector (AS/NZS1891.4 Section E3(d)) and with endorsement by the manufacturer. The inspector will require access to the Height Safety System File and will check the ongoing validity of the SWMS, equipment suitability, installation in compliance with the manufacturers instructions and then implement the manufacturer’s ongoing testing requirements. 

On satisfactory inspection, the inspector will carry out any system re-labelling requirements and add the next recertification details to the system file as well as advising the system manager (asset owner) of those future recertification requirements.

Where a system fails the recertification requirements, the system certifier should tag the system “out of service” – providing detailed reasons for failure – and advise the asset owner to contact the system installer for remedial action. The system should not be returned to service until it has been re-certified and the appropriate details added to the Height Safety System File.

By following these basic guidelines, asset owners can be assured that their height safety systems remain safe.