According to Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health (Construction) Regulations 2007, companies have a legal obligation to “provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable” appropriate personal fall protection equipment for employees carrying out work at height. Those in charge of on-site safety must ensure employees are given the right equipment for the job, designed to offer protection against falls.
The correct equipment is not just vital for the safety of workers, but also for protecting the employer from liability should the worst happen.
There are various types of fall protection devices available, and it is important to ensure the device chosen is suitable for your fall protection requirement. By taking a few points into consideration when selecting equipment, you can mitigate much of the risk involved in work at height, and safeguard your workers.
Introduction to Personal Fall Protection Equipment
The work at height hierarchy prioritises collective fall protection, like guardrails and barriers, over personal fall protection devices, such as safety harnesses and beam straps. This is due to the fact that these systems do not require user participation, training, or competence.
However, there are situations where personal fall protection equipment is preferred. Personal devices such as fall protection harnesses and lanyards can be an ideal solution when access is needed but a collective system is not practicable, due to a lack of space, for example.
When is Personal Fall Protection Required?
Fall protection devices should be worn when work is being carried out at height.
Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health Council broadly defines work at height as work in or near elevated areas from or through which a person could fall, or work in any other place (whether above or below ground) where a person could fall from one level to another and sustain an injury.
Building managers are also required to conduct periodic training for workers at height and ensure a fall protection plan is put in place. It is vital for workers to be aware of the hazards posed by working at height, and trained in the use of the correct safety equipment.
What are the types of personal fall protection?
The most common forms of personal fall protection are harnesses, lanyards and anchor points. These are usually of a fixed type such as an eyebolt, or a lifeline system, which allow for greater movement.
Safety net fall protection systems are also considered a personal fall protection, though come with risks of their own, and are not regularly recommended except for very specific circumstances.
Five Considerations when Choosing Fall Protection Devices
To ensure you select the correct personal fall protection equipment for your needs, there are five points you should consider.
1. Compliance with Safety Regulations
Your first consideration should always be compliance. It is a legal responsibility to make sure equipment meets relevant safety standards in Singapore. The Tripartite Alliance for Workplace Safety and Health governs and enforces these standards, in coordination with the Ministry of Manpower.
It is commonly assumed all manufacturers work to these standards when designing safety equipment, but you should always double-check before purchase to protect both your financial investment, and workers.
2. Workplace Needs
The next consideration should be a detailed assessment of the needs of your team and workplace. Will the project require a single anchor point, or will you require a horizontal lifeline system, for example? Though anchor points and lifelines are similar in that they will minimise the risks of working at height, they offer different benefits.
Anchor points support fewer people - usually a single worker - so if you have many people working in the same area a lifeline system may be the better option. If there will generally only be one person working in that area, then an anchor point would be your best bet.
Another consideration is whether you need a passive fall protection system or a restraint system. Though they look similar, they work very differently. Fall restraint systems will prevent workers from getting near a fall risk, such as the roof edge, whereas fall arrest systems will allow the user to reach the area, and ‘arrest’ a fall should it occur.
Fall arrest systems do offer greater unrestricted movement, and feature lanyard shock absorbers to mitigate the effects of a sudden stop during a fall, but carry a greater risk. Generally, fall restraint is considered the better option, as it negates the risk of entering a danger zone entirely.
You should carry out this decision process for all fall protection requirements across your site and identify the pros and cons of each potential solution. Of course, you can always purchase multiple systems for a range of measures, but determining the exact requirements of your site and project can limit total cost of investment. You should also consider the input of your workplace safety coordinator, and take into account their recommendations.
3. Ease of Use and Flexibility
Ease of use and flexibility is an important factor that should be considered when selecting personal fall protection equipment. Equipment should not limit the movement of workers and should be straightforward to use.
Most importantly, users should be trained in how to use and wear equipment correctly, according to the manual, and legislation.
Generally, the more complex the project requirements, the greater the cost of a fall protection solution, so it can be tempting to focus solely on budget. However, you should always do your research, and know exactly what you are getting before you buy.
Buying in bulk can be cheaper, since you can often find bulk discounts. Even if you can’t buy in bulk, actually meeting with a supplier representative can sometimes result in a better deal, which you might not get online or in-store.
Though it is perfectly fine to look around for the best price, you should never skimp on quality. Your main priority should always be to prevent falls and injuries that can be costly in both human and financial terms. Going for the cheap option now can cost you and your employees dearly later on.
5. Reputation of Vendor
The reputation, expertise, and track record of your chosen supplier is paramount. Remember, you are trusting the lives of your workers to their equipment, so you don’t want to use a partner that has a poor reputation.
Check the company’s case studies and reviews, verify the quality of the materials they offer, and ask as many questions as you can before you buy. Beyond product quality, good customer care and technical support is vital. If a company is unable to help with a basic technical enquiry, or provide you with sufficient product specification details, are you prepared to trust them with someone’s life?
Vendor competency, training, and experience should always be prioritised over getting the lowest price.
As discussed above, personal fall protection equipment is essential, not only to be compliant but to protect yourself and the lives of your workers. Everyone has the right to go to work and come home safely.
By following this advice, you can show you’ve made all efforts to supply the most effective safety equipment for the task at hand. Work at height is inherently dangerous, but if the worst does happen despite your best intentions, you can minimise the impact, both financial and human.
For more information, or to discuss a project with us, contact us using our contact page or call Kee Safety Singapore on +65 6385 4166.