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PASMA reviews fall protection issues

25 January 2013

The Prefabricated Access Suppliers' and Manufacturers' Association (PASMA) has completed its long awaited review into recommended best practice for the avoidance of falls from height when using mobile access towers.Here, t

The Prefabricated Access Suppliers' and Manufacturers' Association (PASMA) has completed its long awaited review into recommended best practice for the avoidance of falls from height when using mobile access towers.Here, the Association outlines its findings

Driving standards and best practice, and overseeing the delivery of the national training scheme, PASMA, is the trade body for the mobile access tower industry in the UK and Ireland. A founder member of the Access Industry Forum (AIF), it provides advice, guidance and support to its members and the industry at large. Building a positive, proactive safety culture is central to its role.

Against this background the Association has recently completed its long awaited review into recommended best practice for the avoidance of falls from height when using mobile access towers. The review, which took 16 months to complete, was carried out in collaboration with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and represents a significant milestone for the industry.

According to PASMA, the 20-page report brings clarity to the use of Through the Trap (3T) and Advance Guardrail (AGR) methods for assembling, altering and dismantling mobile access towers.

The report concludes that when used in accordance with manufacturers' instructions and guidance, both methods continue to provide an acceptable safe method of work, with AGR systems providing comprehensive fall protection and the 3T method using conventional components to minimise the risk of a fall.

As suggested by HSE, part of the review included ergonomic research undertaken by the Health and Safety Laboratory into various aspects of tower assembly using both methods. The HSL concluded that 'with correct manual handling techniques and body positioning, the risks to manual handling related musculoskeletal health were kept within tolerable limits in both processes'.

The PASMA technical committee, which led the review, also considered the stiffness of integral type AGR towers built with reduced component counts and concluded that 'there were no observed problems with the stiffness of towers complying with EN1004 built using AGR components'.

It considered a proposition that there is a potential for incorrectly assembled conventional (3T) towers to collapse.

Following review, the committee decided 'the risk of reducing the structural integrity of a conventional tower sufficient to generate a risk of collapse through an assembly entirely contrary to the recommended bracing pattern was inconceivable, except at the very outermost extremes of the performance envelope of an EN1004 tower'.

The committee also considered the corresponding possibility that a tower built using an integral AGR system could be at risk of collapse as a result of totally incorrect assembly. The committee similarly concluded that the risk was equally inconceivable and therefore equally immaterial.

Significantly for the thousands of tower users in the UK and Ireland, having considered the outcome and implications of the review, the PASMA training committee concluded that current PASMA cardholders do not have to re-train until their card has expired at the end of the normal five year period. It decided that the content of the current PASMA training course was sufficient to provide an acceptable working knowledge of the AGR process. However, it did conclude that the Association's standard 'Towers for Users' course could be enhanced by extending the existing content to cover the latest developments in AGR systems, particularly integral type products.

Peter Bennett, PASMA's MD, comments: "The review process was commissioned by PASMA as a measured, impartial and prudent exercise five years after its first guidance was issued, and in response to representations from tower manufacturers in support of a new generation of integral AGRs.

"PASMA is now engaging with duty holders to reassure them that both 3T and AGR systems remain equally acceptable to both the Association and HSE." The review process involved soliciting input from stakeholders to identify the issues to be investigated, the production of an interim report detailing these issues, practical technical workshops and a training workshop to examine all the issues in detail.

It included the commissioning of independent, expert research by Health and Safety Laboratories to examine specific ergonomic questions, and the issuing of a briefing report to a wide range of stakeholders as part of a consultation exercise to wider industry.

A copy of the report, which contains a number of other observations and recommendations - particularly in regard to the enhanced coverage of AGR in the practical element of PASMA training - can be obtained from the Association's website: www.pasma.co.uk.
 
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