How often do you need to check your fall protection systems?

Posted 04 Sep 2019

Personal fall protection is used on thousands of sites across the UK every day, keeping workers safe from the dangers of an unexpected fall from height.

Usually consisting of a safety harness, lanyard and anchor point or lifeline, these systems can be used in either fall restraint, where the worker is prevented entirely from reaching a fall risk, or fall arrest, where they are allowed to reach the edge of a building but will be saved by their harness should a fall occur.

There are many different types of harness and lifeline, but they are all similar in one respect: they must be regularly checked, maintained and recertified to ensure they are safe for use. A personal fall protection system that does not do what it was designed to do is no use to anyone.

According to EN 365, the Work at Height Regulations and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, amongst others, systems must be inspected and officially recertified by a competent third party every 12 months. As well as this, thorough pre-use checks should be carried out every time the system is used.

Before use

Before doing anything, you should first ensure that you have access to basic information regarding the system. This includes checking the equipment for name ofmanufacturer, description and serial number, last inspection date, date of manufacture, user manual, and the address of the manufacturer.

Once you have checked this information, you should then go ahead and carry out a full pre-use inspection of the system itself. You should ensure that:

  • The system is free from damage and corrosion

  • The system is still properly fixed to the surface

  • For lifeline systems, the wire rope is intact and spanned correctly

  • None of the energy absorbers are deployed

Once you have checked the system itself, you should then carry out a similar inspection of the full body harness and PPE that you will be using alongside it.You should check that:

  • Webbing is intact with no signs of damage or wear and tear

  • Buckles, d-rings and eyelets are free from damage and deformation

  • Locking mechanisms work correctly

  • Metal components are free of corrosion

Finally, you should also thoroughly inspect the lanyard itself. As these are often the most actively used sections of a system, they are the most prone to wear and tear. You must ensure:

  • Fabric is intact with no signs of wear

  • Carabiners and snap hooks are free of damage and corrosion

  • The locking mechanism functions properly

  • The PEA (personal energy absorber) is undamaged and unactivated

If you are using a system in fall arrest, you must also carry out a similar inspection of the shock absorber or fall arrest portion of the system. You should make sure there are no signs of wear or damage and, crucially, that the system has not already been deployed, either accidentally or through legitimate use and not replaced.

With all sections of a system, it is vital that you ensure all documentation and labels are available, legible and correct. If any information is missing or damaged, you should avoid using the system.

If any part of the system fails your pre-use check, you should remove it from use immediately, and label it clearly as damaged.

Third party inspection

As well as carrying out comprehensive pre-use checks, you are legally required to employ a competent and expert third party to carry out an official inspection, and legally recertify your systems.

At Steadfast, we carry out hundreds of inspections on personal fall protection systems each year.

A professional recertification inspection will include checks such as a swage termination pull test, full structural check and retensioning of cable where necessary. You will receive industry accredited certification allowing you to continue using the system, or we will advise you on any necessary remedial work.

Pre-use checks and full recertification are two vital parts of owning and maintaining a fall protection system. Carrying out these checks mean you will be meeting your health and safety responsibilities, and you can feel secure in the knowledge that those using your system are safe as can be.

For more information about Steadfast’s inspection and recertification system, call us on 01473 834 144 or use our online contact form.

by Carolyn Campbell

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