For industrial operations with large-scale machinery and equipment, there is no way round fall protection systems, because a good safety concept is mandatory today. The relevant DGUV report “Calculation of the International Return on Prevention for Companies” also demonstrates that the investment in industrial health and safety protection is absolutely worthwhile. Because fall protection is always cheaper than a fall accident. In this post, you will therefore find all significant information relating to legal foundations, liability, and standards for fall protection in industry.
Who is responsible for fall protection in industrial operations?
In principle, the responsibility for fall protection rests with the operators of a company, building, or plant. In industrial operations, this responsible person is the managing director and a safety expert appointed by him. Thus, in Austria for example, the federal law on industrial health and safety protection (Workers Protection Act, Federal Law Gazette no. 450/1994 in its current version) makes the appointment of a safety expert mandatory. In many cases, this safety expert works exclusively for one company because, in addition to fall protection, he is also responsible for matters such as fire and explosion protection, industrial accidents, and risk assessments. In Austria, training of a safety expert can be undertaken at TÜV Austria, for example, by foremen, charge hands, graduates, etc. after two years’ professional experience.
Which legal foundations apply to fall protection in industry?
In industrial operations where large-scale equipment, machinery, cranes, etc. are in use, an appropriate and effective fall protection system is a legal requirement. In Austria, the following laws must be complied with:
Workers Protection Act (ASchG)
Personal Protective Equipment Regulation (PSA-V)
Machinery Safety Regulation (MSV)
In Germany and Switzerland, similar legal foundations apply; these can be found, for example, in the German DGUV regulations or the Swiss SUVA. Installed fall protection systems must be subjected to an annual inspection, for which the following laws and standards are significant:
PSA-V §3, section 5: Workplace assessment
Austrian act for employee protection §17, section 2: Maintenance, cleaning, testing
EN 362 “Personal protective equipment against falls from a height - Connectors”
EN 363 “Personal fall protection equipment - Personal fall protection systems”
EN 795 “Personal fall protection equipment - Anchor devices”
EN 353 “Personal fall protection equipment - Guided type fall arresters including an anchor line”
EN 365 “Personal protective equipment against falls from a height - General requirements for instructions for use, maintenance, periodic examination, repair, marking and packaging”
EN ISO 14122-3 “Safety of machinery - Permanent means of access to machinery”
What is the STOP principle and what role does it play for fall protection?
The STOP principle equates to compliance with the correct sequence of all industrial safety measures which create an appropriate and effective fall protection system. STOP is the acronym for Substitution, Technical, Organisational, and Personal industrial safety measures. In order to systematically avert safety risks, the sequence of the measures is decisive. We will take an industrial hall as an example. It contains large, dangerous machines which may be accessed by anyone wearing personal protective equipment such as safety spectacles. Here, access restrictions, an important organisational industrial safety measure, are ignored, and the hall would be considered as unsafe. Because every operation has individual requirements, trained specialised experts develop suitable special solutions together with their customers, with the result that the necessary safety standards are complied with at all times.
Which safety measures are included in fall protection?
Real fall protection in industrial operations requires a holistic safety concept, because not only is the illusion of safety dangerous for the employees working on the job, but also for the responsible persons and the company itself. In addition to assessment and planning, the following safety measures are therefore necessary:
Substitution refers to the replacement of sources of danger, i.e. these are either completely eliminated or else “deactivated” to the extent that no further hazard exists to persons or physical objects. For example, caustic or poisonous cleaning agents are replaced with neutral agents.
2. Technical industrial safety measures
To be able to install an appropriate and effective fall protection system, it is essential to use high-quality and above all proven products such as anchorage devices and fasteners. In addition, technical industrial safety measures for individual and collective protection increase safety on the job:
Anchor points: allows a restricted area or a specific working environment to be secured
Cable and rail systems: Systems with a moveable anchor point which enable safe movement options along the cable/rail run
Enclosures: Machine covers, e.g. protective casing for drills and lathes, ensure that no-one can reach into the machine.
Scaffolding: mobile or fixed scaffolding is more stable and safer for climbing than ladders.
Barriers: these pre-emptively prevent employees, as well as the industrial climber himself, from accessing specific sources of danger.
Railings: especially on large-scale equipment, such as a long paper machine, railings prevent penetration to dangerous fall edges or potential sources of danger.
3. Organisational industrial safety measures
Next, organisational industrial safety measures must be complied with in order to ensure real fall protection on industrial premises and in industrial halls:
Access restrictions: the accident risk is reduced by restricting the group of people who have access to a plant or to equipment, for instance by means of a chip card system.
Shift arrangements: setting fixed rules as to the number of people who may be on the job also improves safety.
Instruction: Employees working on a machine or in a plant and using fall protection require special instruction, e.g. the locations at which care is required, and what the dangers are.
4. Personal industrial safety measures
Personal industrial safety measures are aimed at those who are actually active at the source of danger. This protective equipment is personalised, and as a rule it must not be shared, e.g. safety footwear
Anti-fall PPE harnesses
Who is liable in the event of a fall accident?
In Austria, if a fall accident occurs despite safety precautions, e.g. an industrial climber slips during his work, an accident report must be made to AUVA. This must take place within 5 days, or within 3 days for a fatal accident. In order to exclude negligent conduct, an assessor will inspect the accident site and the fall protection system. The basis of this assessment is the installation document and the test logs which must be created annually. If these are not available or not kept carefully, then there is already a risk of being held accountable for this breach. Furthermore, it must be checked whether the fall protection was planned and installed appropriately and effectively. If faults are proven in the inspection of the substructure, or in planning, installation, documentation, PPE, and rescue measures, then it has to be decided who bears responsibility. As a rule, it is a court who decides whether the managing director of the affected industrial operation, the safety expert, or the installation company is made liable.
Summary: Fall protection is anchored in law
It makes complete sense to treat fall protection as a holistic safety concept. On the one hand, industrial operations must comply with the legal foundations, with all their laws and standards. On the other hand, these thus protect from the accusation of negligence in the event of a fall accident. Real fall protection is based on the totality of the safety measures, and these must be systematically designed on the basis of the STOP principle. A trained safety expert and an experienced installation company with regularly tested experts are the best precondition for optimally protected industrial halls and premises.
Would you like to find out more about sustainable safety concepts in industrial operations? Then download our manual about fall protection in industry now, free of charge.