Higher Safety's Barney Green discusses the correct choice and use of lanyards

By Maria Hadlow04 January 2011

Barney Green has been at the leading edge of Height Safety for over 25 years. Trained in Civil Engin

Barney Green has been at the leading edge of Height Safety for over 25 years. Trained in Civil Engineering he spent 10 years on site as a contractor and then specialised in anchor technology with Hilt

Barney Green, height safety advisor at Higher Safety discusses the correct choice and use of lanyards.

Well over ten years since the construction industry confused themselves over lanyards and MEWPs (mobile elevated work platforms) we have at last a clear picture supported by good data and a refreshing coat of common sense.

The confusion started as a result of some testing of the attachment points within the basket. The only point of reference was EN 795 Class A1, for single point anchors like window cleaner eyebolts. Applying this "drop test" outside the MEWP basket (a telescopic boom extended at an angle of 45°) would have turned the MEWP over. Panic ensued and words got confused with people misinterpreting the recommendations.

The instruction to ensure that the lanyard restrained the worker within the confines of the basket was turned into "use a restraint lanyard". This in turn was interpreted as "one without an energy absorber". The whole industry moved to prevent the use of "fall arrest" lanyards in MEWPs, their status being confirmed by the presence of an energy absorber.

Many a time, over the intervening years, I have felt like a lone crusader: patiently explaining that the energy absorber will not open below 2 kN (the force of 200 kgs), and that it could only act to reduce load and the potential for injury.

Some challenged this, concerned that the maximum energy absorber extension increased the clearance distance, and that at low level the user might hit the ground. How any user was to impose a factor 2 fall whilst unable to climb out of the basket was never clear.

(A factor 2 fall is a drop distance twice the length of the lanyard.)

The issue is, and has always been, one of retraining the users from "getting into a position from which they could fall." Stopping them climbing up the guard rails. This is a matter of geometry, not energy absorption. The most detailed analysis would require individuals of different height, in different MEWP baskets, with attachment points in different relative locations, to use different length lanyards. Alternatively it leads to adjustable length lanyards that need to be set up for each MEWP in which they are to be used.

By January this year, an HSE (Health and Safety Executive) principal inspector had become as frustrated and confused as me, and he set about a small series of tests to challenge the myths and confusion surrounding this subject. The results have since been shared with industry and with IPAF.

Expressed simply, the results of the test indicate that a lanyard with an energy absorber reduces the load on both the user and the MEWP by 2/3. It keeps the load below 6 kN (even in a manufactured fall factor 2), and never extends the energy absorber by more than 100 mm. It must be stressed that these tests were not of a large scale population of different lanyards, nor were they exhaustive, but the results were unambiguous. An energy absorber was a significant benefit in a boom MEWP.

From this we can conclude that the best lanyard for restraint within a MEWP basket, is an adjustable length lanyard with an energy absorber, adjusted to be sufficiently short as to prevent the user getting into a position from which they could fall. Perhaps IPAF could take account of this new data?

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