When it comes to fall prevention and fall protection, anchor points and horizontal lifelines are 2 very effective ways of protecting workers from the impact of falls, if correctly used. However as a recent blog on SimplifiedSafety.com highlighted, both these methods have their pros and cons and there are right times to use them and wrong times.
In fact the writer of the blog poses the question, should we even use these 2 methods of fall protection at all when a rail system is preferable considering that it actually prevents workers from falling in the first place whereas anchor points and horizontal lifelines simply protect a worker from injury after a fall has already occurred?
In other words in order for these 2 forms of fall protection to be utilised, a fall must occur. As the writer goes on to explain even when these 2 systems are properly installed and used, there is still room for injury.
It is therefore best to either eliminate the need for both these systems by implementing a rail system or better yet engineering the hazard out completely for example eliminating the need to work from a height in the first place. Obviously this is not always practicable and according to the hierarchy of controls, there will be instances when horizontal lifelines and anchor points will be the next best option.
The blog then goes to discuss how we decide on which of the 2 systems would be most feasible, assuming that we aren’t able to introduce another more effective method of fall prevention such as rails or engineering controls.
The post goes on to state:
However, let’s assume you’ve considered rails already and have determined that they are infeasible. How do you decide between an anchor point and a horizontal lifeline? In order to determine which will be best for you, you need to fully understand your situation. Ask yourself questions such as, how many people will be working at heights? What kind of travel will need to be allowed during the work? Who is going to install whichever product you eventually choose? It is possible that by answering these few simple questions, which product to use will be crystal clear.
Anchor Points versus Horizontal Lifelines
According to the writer the simplest way to decide on which of the 2 systems is best is to determine how many people will be on the system.
The fewer the people the more feasible an anchor point is going to be. If there are more people, an anchor point won’t be able to support them as it usually only supports one person. If there is only one person to protect from the impact of a fall, then installing a permanent anchor point is best.
Unfortunately the con of this system is that employees are limited to one location and if there are a number of employees, they are usually going to want to and need to move around, then a horizontal lifeline would be better suited to the situation. It allows employees the ability to move around while still providing fall protection.
Another consideration is where the worker/s will be working.
If the job requires workers to get to every corner of the job surface (for example painters), multiple anchor point installation will be challenging to achieve. The following excerpt from the blog explains:
Could you install multiple points and get creative with their layout to be able to cover the entire surface and overlap work areas? Sure, but it’s going to take planning and creativity. Still, whatever you decide on as your final setup is what you’re bound to. If the configuration doesn’t work as planned, will you just keep adding anchor points until you get it right? Of course, there are products that help with this, such as a mobile roofing cart, which can be fairly easily moved from location to location, but more complex systems or permanent anchor points may not afford you the luxury of relocation.
Most likely, if you have a crew of people working instead of just one or two employees, you will want to consider a horizontal lifeline.
Remember, considering the appropriate fall protection for the job is an important issue because if an incident were to occur, site safety managers and those responsible for implementing the fall protection system will be held accountable for any injuries that occur as a result of their choice.
To learn more about work from heights and personal protective equipment such as fall protection, complete the general construction safety White Card course.