Some safety harness rules are dangerous

Some safety harness rules are just tickbox exercises, with fall arrest lanyards that exceed the fall distance, writes Brian Irlam.

Yet some construction and other work at height sites enforce some rules that give workers either a false sense of safety, or reasons to ridicule health and safety management.

The harm is in NOT separating the risk from the rule, or reason for the rule. Stupid rules, that strive for TOO ‘safe’, are not safe at all. They may cause workers to lose their respect for safety rules in general.

If the rules don’t make any sense, or have no real effect in preventing, negating or mitigating injuries and incidents, they really about authority, not about health and safety.

If health and safety agents, managers and officers exert some power over workers in ways that do not add value, workers lose respect for them too.

I often find on sites the use of safety harnesses with un-deployed fall arrest lanyard lengths of 1.75m and a shock or impact absorption pack length of 1.75m, for workers just over three meters from a surface!

Fall arrest harness, lanyard, and secure hook point. There are a number of possible kinds of fall arrest management systems. However some systems enforce rules that are impractical, and offer a false sense of security.
Fall arrest harness, lanyard, and secure hook point. There are a number of possible kinds of fall arrest management systems. However some systems enforce rules that are impractical, and offer a false sense of security.

The right tools for the job include risk assessment, and system risk assessment

Would it not make more sense here to enforce the use of a fixed length lanyard or a fall restraint system instead of a fall arrest lanyard?

All safety rules should be periodically reviewed to ensure that they actually prevent harm and or injury and improve safety.

Knee-jerk reactions to situations, incidents and accidents are often the source of stupid rules.

Employers should adopt a process of careful actual hazard and risk analysis, and system analysis.

I laugh when I see construction site auditors and safety practitioners telling workers wearing a safety harness with a too long lanyard to “Hook Up” to an anchor point on the scaffold ledger or hip rail; not even above their heads.

These workers could impact the ground before the lanyard deploys.

What would a court say of this? Why are the proper and correct fall restraint systems not enforced, where they are clearly more effective and reasonably practicable?

I find this amusing but sad. Why do some Clients, H&S Agents, contractors and safety practitioners follow tickboxes instead of their minds?

Why do the Department of Labour allow employers to get away with this approach? -Brian Irlam, Cape Town

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Edmond Furter

Editor at Sheqafrica.com
Edmond Furter is the editor of Sheqafrica.com. He is a freelance technical journalist, and has won six journalism awards. He specialises in industrial, business, and cultural content in web, journal, and book formats.