Securing safety with harnesses
It is essential when working in high places to ensure workers are properly secured in case of a fall
Using a safety harness during work may be cumbersome, but it is essential in ensuring personal safety.
Safety harnesses, or individual fall arrest systems, are used to stop a worker from falling and to reduce the impact of the fall.
In 2014, two freelance air-conditioner installers and an electrician were employed to assist in the renovation of an office space in a factory. They were not wearing safety harnesses while on the job.
One of the men fell off a second-storey ledge and died from head injuries on the same day.
The company was charged for failing to provide control measures, such as a lifeline or suitable anchorage points to be used in conjunction with a safety harness, which could have prevented the accident from happening.
The company also failed to communicate instructions for working safely on the job.
Mr Nasordin Mohammed Hashim, president of the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees' Union, said: "The problem is not about the misconceptions surrounding the use of safety harnesses but more of whether people diligently comply with the requirements.
"The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has already made it mandatory for all workers and supervisors to attend work at height related course before being allowed to apply for a work permit.
"But constant reminders are still required to encourage a high percentage of compliance."
He added that when there is a lack of a suitable anchorage point, workers should try to anchor at the highest possible rigid anchorage point.
A suitable anchorage point must be secure and reliable. Anchoring to nearby poles or equipment outside the work platform is prohibited.
If not, a self-retractable lanyard can be used to prevent the worker from falling over.
Individual fall arrest systems are made up of components consisting of a harness connected to an anchorage point or system.
While fall arrest systems are useful in preventing falls, there are some limitations that would require precaution.
Fall arrest systems require a moderate level of skill to use safely and may cause some injury to the user, in the event of an arrested fall.
In some cases, a short lanyard or a retractable fall arrest block should be considered because the lanyard, lifeline and the shock absorber fully extended may be more than 5m.
This 5m might be more than the actual height of the fall.
Workers required to use individual fall arrest systems should also be trained and instructed in areas such as inspection, storage and maintenance of the system, as well as the correct fitting and attachment of safety harnesses.
When used to arrest falls, the following guidelines are to be observed:
l The system should be rigged such that if a fall occurs, the distance fallen will be the shortest. This is to minimise the impact and swing of the arrest.
l All fall protection equipment should be visually checked prior to usage.
l Once a fall arrest system has been used to arrest a fall, it must be removed from service and not used again.
l Anchoring of lanyards to the guard rails of scaffolding should be avoided where possible, unless the guard-rail is designed to withstand the force generated by a falling person. If it is absolutely necessary to anchor to the guard rails, the part to be anchored to must be properly tightened. The vertical pieces are better suited for anchorage than the horizontal pieces.
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