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Safety Belts

Safety Belts

In situations when it is required to work in heights or in places with a falling danger, where the employee’s safety cannot be guaranteed with general protective measures like barriers, shields, etc., it is mandatory – to guarantee safety and prevent falling – to use the safety harness or position belt (also known as the security guard belt).

The main difference between these two safety devices lies in the functionality. Mostly, the position belt either helps to secure the employee’s working position or limits their movement – thus, when used correctly, it is impossible for the employee to get into a falling hazardous place nor fall from heights. The security guard bet cannot be used as a fall protection gear. Safety harnesses provide a possibility to move freely yet, when used correctly but still falling in heights, the user shall remain hanging and the damages are considerably lower. One should always prefer using the safety harness.

Safety harness must be used:

  • in places with a risk of falling,
  • during the frame works in construction – the builder and the assistant employee on roof works,
  • in telescope and joint lifters, if obliged so in the user manual,
  • when mounting and demounting scaffolding,
  • when working in a tower.

A serviceable personal protection equipment system for working in heights consists of:

  • harnesses,
  • anchoring line or security rope,
  • decelerator (or gravity energy absorber),
  • anchoring point (and anchor).

The main role of the harnesses is to preserve the safe dynamic spread of the human body when falling. The design of harnesses should favour the safe waiting for help. The requirements on safety harnesses as a personal protective equipment are determined in standard EN 361. Depending on the works and necessity, the employee could choose only the harnesses or harnesses accompanied with a vest or overalls. The position belt is also often classified under harnesses but it can be used only on limited cases as the position belt, like already previously noted, is meant to limit the employee’s range of movement, not to protect when falling.

An anchoring line or security rope is a part of the system and connects the safety harnesses to the anchoring point. In the case of falling, the anchoring line must end the freefalling. If the rope length needs to be constantly adjusted, it is more sensible to use a rewinding falling limitation or autoblock (also referred to as automatic block, safety block, rewinding falling breaks). Autoblock also guarantees a more comfortable movement at the workplace.

The rigid guide-type anchoring line must comply with the standard EN 353-1:2014, the flexible guide-type anchoring line with the standard EN 353-2:2002. The position fixing belts and ropes must comply with the standard EN 358:2000 and autoblocks without inertia to the standard EN 360:2002.

The condition of the harnesses, anchoring line, falling shock absorber and autoblock must always be checked prior to use.

Prior to use, the autoblock user manual must be consulted as it contains different recommendations about the location of the anchoring point.

Decelerator or energy absorber is an inseparable part of the anchoring line. This part of the system must alleviate the forces generated when the falling stops. The decelerator absorbs kinetic energy and lowers the force to the safe level (below 6 kN) to eliminate the dangerous situation at the moment of final stopping (when an average person falls from 0.5 metres high and suddenly stops, the force which influences the body at stopping could be compared to approximately 1,600 kg weight). The decelerator must comply with the standard EN 352:2002.

NB! In order for the decelerator to harness safely, it is needed to guarantee a safe harnessing distance (prescribed by the total length of the decelerator, the security rope, the location of the anchoring point, height from the ground and the user’s height).

The anchoring point can be fixed (e.g. a horizontal steel pipe or busbar system, anchoring pole) or mobile (e.g. a safety stand, horizontal textile anchoring rope, steel cable, fixation sling). The fixation points must be connected to the parts of the connected solid structure that are sufficiently stable and resistant. The product chosen for the anchoring point must comply with the standard EN 795. The anchoring point, the length and type of the rope are chosen according to the falling height and done work.

The security rope or autoblock of one person may be attached to any construction that tolerates 100 kg body falling from 2.5 metres high, or 12 kN load (comparable to the mass of 1,200 kg) during 3 minutes. The best location is directly above the employee. Fixing the anchor to the side of the person could cause swinging when falling.

When choosing the harnesses, consider the:

  • nature of works – if the employee must use the harnesses daily and for the entire      workday, it is sensible to buy personal protective equipment with wider      straps and several anchoring points, which enable more comfortable      adjustment possibilities and fixators;
  • working environment – in the case of fire works, where the hazard of harming the      harness is rather big, choose flameproof harnesses manufactured from      Kevlar and marked accordingly (different manufacturers use different      markings);
  • the size of the employee – just like clothes, harnesses come in different      sizes – bigger models exist for larger people (e.g. XL), smaller models      for shorter ones (e.g. S, M).

Use

In the case of some falls, the injuries caused by the incorrect use of harnesses could be severe and lead to thinking that injuries could have been much milder without the harnesses (e.g. insufficiently tightened (thigh) straps, wrongly chosen anchoring point, unsuitable or too long security rope, etc.). Therefore, the employer must guarantee the necessary training and safety instructions for the users. Safety training must cover information about hazards and situations that may accompany and means to be applied and instructions for acting in an accident possibility. Good advice and help for choosing and using the protection is also available by the companies specialised in the sales of personal protective equipment.

Works that require the use of harnesses may never be done alone. If the workplace is in an area with a risk of falling, and there is a need to use the safety harnesses, employees must pair up to guarantee fast help in the case of falling.

Prior to using the harnesses, safety rope or autoblock and carbine, and at attaching to the anchoring point, it must be verified that all elements are unharmed and in working order. When choosing the rope length and fixation point, consider the free falling space under the working area.

ABCDE of Using the Safety Harnesses

Prior to using the harnesses, consider and check the following:

A – Anchor Point (anchoring)
B – Body Harness (safety harnesses)
C – Connector (connection line)
D – Decelerator (restrainer)
E – Effective Rescue (safety plan in case something will go wrong)

The falling protection equipment must be taken care of, just like any other equipment. They must be cleaned after each use, wash with soap and water if required, and dried. The harnesses should be kept in dry rooms, shielded from the UV-radiation, and checked periodically by an authorized specialist, following the manufacturer’s recommendations (mostly, once a year). Even seemingly small damages (e.g. a small hole made by a spark, ripped seams, stiffness of the harness caused by fire, etc.) could decrease the properties and protection offered by the falling protection.

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