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News

HSE urges caution over retractable type fall arresters

HSE InfoLine : 21 March, 2006  (Company News)
The Health and Safety Executive is today reminding industry of the dangers of misusing retractable type fall arresters, sometimes referred to as 'inertia blocks', following the interim findings of a research project commissioned by HSE.
The findings reveal that retractable type fall arresters, used to protect workers against falls from height, are commonly being misused in circumstances they have not been tested for, creating safety hazards and an increased risk of fatality.

David Thomas, Principal Specialist Inspector and HSE's technical lead on fall protection issues, emphasised the need for caution when using this specialist equipment:

'All industry sectors are exposed to the risks presented by falls from height and these findings underline the need for employers and workers to ensure retractable type fall arresters are used in the correct way. They should be used only in the vertical plane with an overhead anchor unless the manufacturer's instructions clearly state otherwise. If this equipment is used in any other way, or combined with other components in a fall arrest system, it may be unsafe and could result in injury or fatality.'

The findings also indicate that some manufacturers and suppliers in the UK are failing to provide adequate instructions and information to use the products safely, which is adding to the problem.

Commenting on the testing of the fall arresters, Mr Thomas said:
'The European Standard does not cover retractable type fall arresters being tested for use over edges, which is sometimes how they are used. In a fall over an edge the retractable lanyard may break, the braking system might be overloaded to failure, or the fall might not be arrested in the distance available. There is a test used by some manufacturers, known as the VG11 test, but we have concerns over its intent and adequacy and will be considering this over the next few months, once the research project is completed. If there is any further advice we will issue it immediately.'
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