Safety Squared is a leading research agency in the field of fall protection, and carries out technical and scientific research on behalf of a range of organisations.
Research is an important aspect of our business, which generates many benefits for our Clients and all those involved in the field of fall protection and height-safety. Research increases knowledge, furthers our understanding and the findings can be used to drive change, underpin our competency and make the workplace a safer place to be.
Safety Squared has performed seven research projects for the UK Health and Safety Executive, with a contract value totalling £0.5M. Four reports have been published and so can be examined as examples of Safety Squared’s work; three others are in the course of being published. The reports can be viewed and printed off free of charge by clicking on the links below.
This compared how the performance of fall protection equipment is affected by the choice of surrogate used in testing, e.g. steel weight, sandbag, torso dummy or fully anthropomorphic (human like) dummy, in place of a human being.
This research found that caged ladders cannot provide positive fall protection. As a result, all mention of caged ladders as a safety measure were removed from the Working at Height Regulations. (Update: American legislation has downgraded cages to the extent that they no longer have the status of a safety system). The fall-arrest performance of some vertical rail-based fall-arrest systems, (as used on fixed ladders), were also assessed. Some of these systems were found to be incapable of arresting falls or were arresting falls over too large a distance. The research was used to propose changes to test methods within standards.
This involved a survey of research papers, manufacturers and standards so that a HSE guidance note could be written to establish best practice within the industry.
Sixty-eight fall simulation tests were carried out by using an instrumented anthropomorphic test dummy (ATD). In each test the ATD was inserted inside a caged ladder and was attached to a fall-arrest system (FAS), before being released in one of three falling postures. Seventeen different FAS were evaluated, which included retractable fall-arresters, energy-absorbing lanyards, sliding fall-arresters on rope, rail and cable, and eight different harnesses.
In 37 tests, the FAS arrested the fall in a manner which would have been very dangerous in a real life situation. In 25 tests, harness straps migrated out of position to such an extent that the neck of the ATD became either severely garrotted or severely pressurised on the side, which also would have been life-threatening in a real life situation. The findings are being used to generate changes in the test methods of standards. (Update: American legislation now requires that if a fall-arrest system is used in conjunction with a cage, the cage must not interfere with the operation of the fall-arrest system. Also, there is a requirement that harness straps must not make contact with the user’s neck and chin area.
This report has not been released by HSE as yet, although part of it has been disclosed to the European standards-writing committee responsible for the revision of EN 360.
The tests within BS EN 360 do not recreate the falling conditions that can occur in non-overhead applications and in other configurations, so the retractable fall-arrester’s ability to arrest a fall cannot be assessed, and therefore remains unknown. The retractable fall-arrester might be able to perform safely, or it may fail catastrophically, resulting in serious or fatal injuries to the worker it is seeking to protect.
Overall, the research demonstrated that BS EN 360 as a standard is significantly deficient in its ability to assess the performance and other technical aspects of retractable fall-arresters, and therefore cannot be relied upon to provide a presumption of conformity in order for a product to demonstrate CE compliance with the PPE Regulations (2002). Thirty-nine recommendations are made in regard to the findings of this research, including proposals for new test specifications and further research work. A considerable number refer to serious safety issues which warrant urgent attention.
Read report summary (PDF)
This report has not been released by HSE as yet, although part of it has been disclosed to the European standards-writing committee responsible for the revision of EN 353-1.
Previous HSE fall-arrest research projects recorded a large number of serious test failures. These test failures could have resulted in fatalities or very serious injuries in a real life situation and are directly related to safety-critical omissions in harmonised European standards. This situation created the need for more comprehensive test methods and criteria. Five main areas were identified from the recommendations made in the research reports, and were used as the basis to generate new fall-arrest test methods and criteria. These new test methods and criteria are documented as stand-alone documents in Annexes A – E.
Read report summary (PDF)
New work was commissioned to modify and evaluate an existing automotive Hybrid III anthropomorphic test dummy (ATD) in order to determine its suitability for use in fall-arrest testing, and to generate a specification that would facilitate the manufacture and increase the availability of test dummies for use within the fall protection industry. During the main test programme it was found that the ATD was not performing as expected. Further modifications were identified as being necessary but as additional funding could not be procured, the project was suspended at this point. Consequently, it was not possible to generate a new ATD specification, which was one of the aims of the project, but the work has been sufficiently documented and the equipment stored to the extent that work could easily be recommenced.
Read report summary (PDF)
Further research reports and information about other UK research can be found in the files below:
Research Report RR 1-09 Investigation into the performance of friction braking mechanisms as utilised in retractable fall-arresters.Read report
A selection of fall protection and working at height research in the UK 2001-2008.Read report