by Frederike Berg
Frequently asked questions about fall protection on the scaffold
Scaffolding is clearly not for the faint-hearted! Working at dizzying heights is still a thrill, even after years in the business. To avoid falls off the scaffold and to make your work as safe as possible, there are certain rules about fall protection on scaffolding. Find answers to frequently asked questions about fall protection here.
1. What is fall protection on the scaffold?
Fall protection in scaffolding means any device, equipment or system that prevents or intercepts a fall from the scaffold.
A distinction is made between two types of fall protection in scaffolding:
- Collective protection equipment (CPE)
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
2. What is the difference between CPE and PPE?
Collective fall protection systems, also called collective protection equipment (CPE), are designed to protect anyone accessing the scaffolding, with or without training, against falls from a height. Physical barriers such as guardrails or nets are examples of CPE on the scaffold.
PPE, however, can only be used by a single person that needs to have undergone special training to use it safely. PPE in scaffolding includes, for example, fall arrest harnesses.
3. What type of fall protection do I need on the scaffold?
When working at height, sufficient fall protection is a must. However, you do not have to pick EITHER CPE or PPE. Both types of fall protection on the scaffold are possible at the same time and may even be necessary, depending on the project.
But: CPE always takes precedence over PPE. Why? Firstly, physical barriers protect many instead just one person from falling off the scaffold. Secondly, collective measures are already installed in the scaffolding before the project even starts. As a result, no further action is usually required by individuals entering the scaffold. So, before you use PPE, you must always check whether CPE can be installed on the scaffold.
As a rule of thumb, PPE should always be used where, for example, scaffold cantilevers due to bay windows prevent the installation of a continuous guardrail at a fall height of 2 metres or more. Where work is carried out above water, machinery or materials where there is a risk of sinking, PPE must be used regardless of the height of the fall.
4. How often should my fall protection equipment be inspected?
Regular inspections of your fall protection equipment are essential to ensure the safety of everyone on the scaffold at all times. This applies to both CPE and PPE.
Authorities such as OSHA, CITB, or the German Committee for Industrial Safety stipulate that scaffolds and the collective fall protection systems installed in them must be inspected by a competent person at least once a week. Scaffolds must also be inspected after any structural modifications and after weather events such as storms, heavy rain or snowfall. Only when you have removed any safety hazards and your scaffold has passed the inspection can it be used again. Click on the link for our guide to scaffolding inspections.
There are also important requirements for the regular inspection of personal protective equipment. You must inspect your PPE for damage and other safety hazards before each use. Once a year, you must also have your PPE inspected by an expert and certified for further use. Click here for more information on PPE inspections.
Whenever work at height is required, safety is the number one priority. For more articles on safety in scaffolding, visit our scaffolding blog.
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