WORKING AT HEIGHT & SAFETY
Working at height is inherently dangerous. 50-60 people die and 4,000-5,000 people are injured each year from falls. Choosing the correct equipment will only make you safer, but not safe. The first thing to consider is whether it is necessary to work at height at all. If it is essential, then the next line of defence is to prevent the possibility of a fall by the use of handrails and work positioning harnesses and lanyards. Should a fall still be possible then fall arrest harnesses and lanyards should be worn. The overhead worker should be trained in the use of this equipment. IRATA is a highly respected training authority and they can provide training guidance. The Health and Safety Executive website www.hse.gov.uk has up to date advice. They will email you with changes to regulations and recommendations as they occur [www.hse.gov.uk/new/ebulletins/index.htm] Finally, but of vital importance, consideration must be given to the rapid rescue of personnel who have fallen.
The Importance of Rapid Rescue - Suspension "Trauma" [Syncope]
Swift rescue of personnel who are suspended by a harness and lifeline is of vital importance. If the casualty is suspended, blood will pool in the legs. Leg veins are capable of expanding to take up to 60% of the total blood volume. The reduced venous return results in decreased cardiac output and the casualty will become sweaty, dizzy, nauseous and will faint. Depending on whether their lanyard is attached to the rear or front of the harness, the unconscious casualty's head will be canted backwards or forwards and their tongue will fall to block the airway. Even uninjured volunteers felt dizzy in as little as three minutes, typically 5 to 20 minutes. Loss of consciousness occurred in as little as five minutes, typically 5 to 30 minutes. Such rapid rescue times could not necessarily be achieved by the rescue services so it is crucial that a plan is carefully thought through how to rescue suspended personnel using trained on-site staff. The Temporary Work at Height Directive states that workers must have on-site rescue equipment and training.
Notes on First Aid to a Suspension Casualty
Information on the correct procedure to adopt after recovering a suspension casualty is variable and somewhat confusing. David Halliwell, Head of Education of the South West Ambulance service says  it is critical that the casualty is never laid flat, not even in the recovery position and that they should be kept sitting upright for 30 minutes. He says that if they are allowed to lay flat, the volume of blood that has pooled in their legs will return to the heart and could cause instant cardiac arrest. However this opinion is disputed by Dr Anil Adisesh  who's research has been unable to find firm evidence concerning the problems associated with laying the casualty flat and his advice is to use the standard first aid recovery position. It is important that any person who becomes unconscious while suspended, whether appearing recovered or not, is given full medical supervision [Dial 999] as problems can also occur some days after the rescue due to renal failure.
Reducing the Risks
It may be possible to reduce the chance of venous pooling in a conscious suspended casualty by encouraging them to wiggle their toes or raise their legs, this will help to pump blood out of the legs and to the heart. The information above has been taken from talks on the subject by David Halliwell, Head of Education of the South Western Ambulance Service and by Dr Anil Adisesh [Health and Safety Laboratory]. Further information can be found in "Harness Suspension; Review and Evaluation of Existing Information" by Paul Seddon and obtainable as a free PDF download from the HSE website.
The person purchasing fall arrest equipment, which consists of a harness, lanyard and anchor, should be competent to do so.
Our specialist lifting operations team are fully trained anchor placement installation and testing engineers. We can install anchor points to BS EN 795:2012 for PPE purposes and equipment lifting operations. An anchor device will provide protection against falls from height in a multitude of situations. We work in conjunction with structural engineers to make sure we can hang what you need where you need it. From art installations to arena work we have you covered. We also offer complete security in the knowledge that your project is being expertly handled from concept to installation by LEEA trained staff. We also offer an anchor point inspection service. We are happy to come to you to inspect your wires, ropes, lifting equipment, and anchor points. Issuing a thorough report of inspection for inclusion in your technical file. You can be assured your six monthly or yearly inspections are being carried out by extremely competent, highly trained and experienced technical staff.