10.0 - Installation - Fall arrest systems
Since the early 2000’s, SMD and the industry in general has recognised safety nets as the primary form of collective passive fall protection.
In accordance with the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and given that for metal deck installation 'avoid work at height' and 'use work equipment to prevent falls' is not reasonably practicable, all contracts need to adopt a system of work that 'minimises the distance and consequence of a fall', this will include handrails, safety nets and suitable access to level.
Prior to commencement of works, a suitable system of fall protection and safe access must be in place.
There are three principal methods of fall arrest available:
- • Safety Netting
- • Air Bags (also known as Safety Mats or cushions)
- • Running Lines and Harnesses
The recommended methods of fall arrest to be used are safety netting for steel frame structures and airbags or similar for all other situations, as these provide Passive and Collective protection.
The use of running lines and harnesses are not recommended due to the personal nature and action required by the operative. Where this system is proposed, a thorough assessment should be carried out to consider a Passive and Collective method, if possible, in place of the active protection.
Refer to BCSA Code of Practice for Metal Decking and Stud Welding for more information
In some instances, safety netting will not be suitable, i.e. insufficient storey height (<3m) or inadequate anchor points (blockwork). In these situations, the following fall arrest methods can be considered:
Air bags are another form of collective passive fall protection that can be used for storey heights of 1.9m - 4.5m. They are predominantly used on blockwork or concrete structures where no suitable anchor points for safety nets are available.
To install the system, the Air bags are laid out and connected together in the area where fall protection is required. The Air bags are then inflated as one complete area to form the fall protection. This method of fall protection is slow and requires careful planning to ensure the area to receive Air bags is 100% clear of obstacles with all openings and windows boarded over.
Scaffold platform or crash deck
A fully-erected scaffold or system crash deck can be erected below the deck level. These are costly, sterilise the area below the floor and have an impact on programme due to the time to erect and dismantle.
Although safety nets are the primary method of fall arrest used, it is important to consider the most suitable method on a project-by-project basis. Involving SMD Operations Team early in the planning stage can avoid use of an inappropriate method and any associated impact on programme or cost.
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