It’s no secret that working at height can be dangerous. Health and Safety Executive statistics show that falls from height remain the leading cause of workplace fatalities and have been for a number of years. It’s therefore irresponsible to potentially increase that risk by not properly servicing and maintaining fall protection equipment, or worse still, by not implementing any height safety measures. Matthew Bailey, Divisional Manager, Inspection and Certification at HCL Safety, explains why it is essential for companies to install fall protection equipment when required and properly look after it once it’s in place.

Maintaining your fall protection system

Ultimately, lives depend on height safety systems. That in itself should be reason enough to ensure that equipment is properly installed, regularly maintained and thoroughly serviced. You wouldn’t board an airplane knowing that it hasn’t been regularly checked and serviced. Why should fall protection equipment be any different? The consequences of equipment failure can be just as severe.

The continued upkeep and regular maintenance of fall protection equipment are both important contributing factors that help ensure systems carry out their intended purpose when required: saving lives. Any fall protection system should be checked and maintained by experienced, competent professionals according to relevant European or British standards, as well as manufacturers’ guidelines.

Factors that can affect the safety system

There are a variety of factors that can potentially impact the performance of fall protection equipment, from general wear and tear to poor weather and flying objects or operative misuse. Some are somewhat expected while others are unforeseen. Either way, they all highlight the importance of regularly checking and maintaining your fall protection equipment. Failure to do so could compromise the functionality of the system and ultimately affect end-users.

Responsibility for the upkeep of fall protection equipment typically lies with the building owner. They have an obligation to ensure that processes are in place to effectively maintain the equipment. This includes regular servicing and annual inspection and certification. Building owners should also educate themselves as to the legal and moral safety obligation they have for the safety of those that work at height. If in doubt or in need of support, consult experienced professionals like HCL Safety. Ignorance is not a valid excuse when people’s lives may be at stake.

Risks faced by companies that don’t properly maintain their fall protection equipment

The negative implications associated with building owners not fulfilling their fall protection safety obligation are wide and varied. Most importantly, of course, the end-user may be impacted. But so may companies’ reputations and bottom lines. If a work at height operative were to fall using poorly maintained, faulty equipment, legal proceedings will likely be brought, fines issued and the HSE would open an investigation into the company and its health and safety ethos.

On occasion, operatives have been known to access roof spaces to carry out work only to discover that there is no height safety system in place. At which point (as is absolutely their right), they may refuse to carry out the work. This can prove costly and delay work that may have been urgent. Installing fall protection equipment retrospectively also tends to be more expensive than simply incorporating it into the building’s initial design. It’s worth remembering that – more often than not – at some point in the future, someone is likely to need to gain access to the roof space or within an area where eliminating, reducing or controlling risks associated with working at height is paramount. It just isn’t worth avoiding or delaying the installation of fall protection equipment.

Reducing risk

First and foremost, companies must fully understand what fall protection equipment is, what it does and what their height safety requirements are. If for any reason you feel that your knowledge around height safety is limited, then consult specialists.

Secondly, companies need to implement a robust height safety process and ensure that they adhere to all legal requirements, including the annual inspection and certification of fall protection equipment. If you rent a building space, then you need to understand your responsibilities and make sure that you’re minimising risk and fulfilling your safety obligation. And, most importantly, remember that behind all the equipment and safety processes is the end-user. Companies must acknowledge that it’s a human life at risk if they fail to implement a robust fall protection regime and properly look after their equipment.

This article was written by Taylor Williams you can contact them for further information