In this edition Peter Ferguson talks about the importance of harness use. Peter is a height safety expert and founder of the Industrial Rope Access Association, now known as the Australian Rope Access Association. Last year, Peter was awarded the 2010 WorkSafe Outstanding Contribution to Health and Safety Award.
For far too long we have allowed the use of harnesses as a ‘quick fix’ against falls from height!
So many times when there is a better method of doing a job than relying on harnesses people still opt for the, supposedly, simple fix.
Assuming the job is right for harness use; consider putting a harness on and think about what will happen if you jump two or three metres on purpose. It’s going to hurt, particularly if you are on a site where there is structure or framework you can hit on the ‘way down’. Look forward to spending some time in hospital.
Too many people rely on harnesses as some kind of magic protection that allows them to work at heights in total safety. It’s like having sex with a condom made out of cheesecloth! They are kidding themselves.
The range of harness based equipment now on the market is excellent and does its best to cover the inadvertent actions of idiots – but the gear is not idiot proof. We have spent a lot of time and resources trying to build a better ‘mousetrap’.
It’s time we came up with some better mice.
The equipment now on the market needs to be used properly to assist people to work better at heights and have a secondary function of arresting a fall should one occur and also, if used properly, to keep the length and consequences of the fall to a minimum.
Rope access has shown that a properly systemised approach covering operator competencies, good equipment, techniques and proper supervision can ensure workers using harnesses can do so successfully.
First of course, there needs to be an assessment as to whether a harness is even necessary – there are some excellent means of access out there and good design can eliminate a lot of the need to work exposed at heights.
But if working in a harness is a must, then proper training, supervision and use of adjustable equipment will allow the worker (the ‘mice’) to have better control over their own safety and working methods and hopefully, a clear understanding of the consequences of getting it wrong.
It’s long overdue that we start looking at better training, supervision and a systemised approach to harness use – this equipment is excellent but its proper use is not nearly as simple as it may look.
What do you think about harness use?