Can I only use one supplier for my height safety system?

Vertical caged ladder and landing platform at the edge of a roof.

There are many brands of height safety system components out there. Do you need to stick one one supplier for your system?

Just about every commercial and industrial building out there will have need for a height safety system in some form or another. Although there is much that can be done to eliminate the need to work at height, the simple fact is that removing all need is impossible. No matter what is changed in terms of building design, plant and equipment evolution or work practices, there are always going to be situations where people are engaged in high-risk work.

And although height safety systems are an important part of a building or workplaces’s operations – assisting owners, operators and managers in meeting their obligations under legislation – few are aware of how these systems are designed, how they are put together and how they operate.

What is a height safety system?

A height safety system is a system designed to protect workers against the risk of a fall while working at height or in an environment where there is a risk the worker may fall.

In most cases, a height safety system includes a method of safe access to a work area and fall protection once the worker has accessed the high-risk area. Some buildings may have one or the other depending on the design of the building and the access needs of workers.

Generally, a height safety system refers a system installed in one particular part of a building or workplace. A workplace can have more than one system installed on it.

For example, a large building may have multiple roof areas for sections of the building that have different levels. Each roof area has its own point of access and its own method of fall protection. A worker cannot move from one roof area to another directly. This building would have multiple height safety systems.

A smaller building with a ladder bracket, and a series of anchor points that allows access to its whole roof would be said to have one height safety system.

In each case, each height safety system is made up of a number of components. Those components can one from one manufacturer or, depending on building design, access needs and other influences, they can comprise components from a number of different manufacturers.

How systems come together

Although a system’s components can be sourced from different manufacturers, each individual component is generally sent to an installer as a self-contained kit.

For example, a ladder from Manufacturer A generally comes with landing platforms designed to be easily secured to the top and bottom of the ladder – providing workers with safe areas to enter and exit the ladder.

If required, a ladder cage or ladder line can also be supplied to be installed on the ladder.

The same applies for other components like static lines. Connector points for the ends and intermediate points as well as tensioners and shuttles can all be sourced from a single manufacturer as kit suited to the needs of the job.

In short, each component performs its own role as part of a complete height safety system.

Where issues with a safety system can arise is when parts of a component are mixed and matched from different manufacturers.

A static line made up of end points from Manufacturer A and intermediate points from Manufacturer B and shuttles from Manufacturer C are not designed to work together. In the event of a fall from height, the system may not work as intended, placing a worker at increased risk of serious injury.

Designing height safety systems

When designing a height safety system, the access and protection needs of the workers using the system is the most important consideration.

The second biggest consideration is the design of the building, and what unique risks it may pose to those workers accessing roofs and other high-risk areas.

Third is the type of work that is going to be undertaken in the high-risk area, and what materials and tools are going to be needed to taken on site to facilitate that work.

Once all those factors are considered, a safety system can be designed that best fits all requirements can be designed. Depending on what the result of considering all aspects of the system, it may be necessary to use components from different manufacturers to complete the system.

Ladders and landing platforms from Manufacturer A may the most suitable means of access, while anchor points from Manufacturer B may offer advantages for work positioning and fall protection once on the roof.

Once components are chosen, it is vital they are installed in accordance with the instructions provided by the manufacturer, and that the installer is accredited by the manufacturer to install them. Any component that is not installed to the manufacturer’s instructions will be non-compliant and, more importantly, more likely to result in a worker suffering a serious injury should an accident occur.

How to avoid problems with your system

There are numerous reasons why buildings can end up with a non-compliant height safety system. This can range all the way from a simple mistake occurring during installation through to a decision being made (often on the basis of cost) to not use an experienced and accredited system installer.

Building owners, facility managers, owners corporations and strata committees have a duty of care to make sure the buildings they are responsible for are safe for workers. This includes having compliant fall protection and safe access systems in areas where the risk of a fall exists.

Discuss your safety needs with the team at Height Safety Engineers, and make sure your building is compliant and that your team are protected. Call us on 1300 884 978 or email enquiries@heightsafety.net.

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