Falls from heights are the largest cause of serious injuries in the agriculture, construction, manufacturing and service industries, according to the UK Health and Safety Executive.
In light of this fact the European Union has introduced revised health and safety legislation, enforcing new standards and making the provision of appropriate fall protection mandatory.
From this month it is compulsory for all safety equipment used in the EU to carry the new CE mark which guarantees that it meets a rigorous set of quality and performance standards. Companies whose employees work at heights, be they builders, oil rig workers or window cleaners, must ensure that they use safety equipment of the appropriate standard.
The British company BTP developed Sayfglida, a permanent safety and support system which is installed during the construction of bridges, buildings, etc and remains permanently in place so that they can be maintained and repaired.
The trick with fall arrest systems is to dissipate the energy of a fall through the harness, shock absorber and overhead steel line. This latter spans the whole length of the structure and is computer designed to its dimensions and specifications: it must not be too taut, otherwise a faller would come to a jolting halt, but it must not be too elastic, or the experience would be akin to a bungee jump.
The fall protection harness is designed to spread the energy of the fall over those parts of the body which can best withstand pressure, like the trunk, thighs and shoulders. The shock absorber is a concertina of material which rips open sequentially, absorbing energy as it does so.