An energy absorber is an important component of personal protective equipment for working at height. It is used in combination with lanyards in order to reduce the forces which arise during a fall, and thus to ensure optimum protection of the secured person.
The energy absorber takes up the impinging force and thus prevents significant loads from acting on the user. The shock absorber is its most frequent form. In the event of a fall, the energy is intercepted and dissipated by the progressive tearing of the strap. This significantly reduces the risk of injury.
When energy absorbers are used, it is important to comply with the applicable standards and requirements. Regular inspection of the personal protective equipment against falls from a height is also essential for ensuring maximum safety.
By reading this post, not only do you gain further knowledge about the shock absorber and its deployment options, but you will also have a greater consciousness of your safety when working at height.
Where are energy absorbers used?
Energy absorbers are used in various areas, especially for working at height when working while using personal protective equipment or also rope access technology. Here are some application areas:
- Lattice pylons: Energy absorbers are used for protecting workers on lattice pylons, for example during the installation or servicing of antennae or transmission equipment.
- Industry: Energy absorbers are used in industry when working in locations at height, such as production and warehouse halls, steel constructions or bridges.
- Hydro-electric plants and barrages: Personal protective equipment with an integrated shock absorber provides suitable protection for service tasks on power stations and barrages.
- Pitched and flat roofs: Energy absorbers are used when working on roofs, in order to protect workers from falls and to ensure safety during the tasks.
To overcome the challenges in these different application areas, energy absorbers must fulfil certain standards and requirements, in order to ensure effective fall attenuation and absorption of the forces which arise. For example, in Germany the German version, DIN EN 355, of the European standard governs the prerequisites for load capacity, strength, and length.
In addition, energy absorbers need to be robust and durable, in order to withstand the tough conditions in the work environments named above. Shock absorbers play a decisive role in personal protective equipment, by minimising the risk of falls and ensuring the safety of the workers.
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What is the structure of a shock absorber?
As an impotent component of personal protective equipment against falls from a height, it consists of several elements which act together to reduce the forces which arise in the event of a fall, and it thus averts injuries.
- The core of the shock absorber is the fabric strap. It is highly durable and extremely tough. The special sewing technique - loops which are sewn together - ensures high strength and reliability.
- Two carabiners are attached to the ends. Their purpose is to connect the fabric strap to the personal protective equipment, such as a harness. The carabiners can be locked on one or both sides, depending on the user’s requirements and needs.
- As a rule, the shock absorber is housed in a bag. This protects the fabric strap from external influences such as dirt or moisture. At the same time the bag allows simple handling.
The function of the shock absorber is essentially: In the event of a fall, the force which acts is dissipated by the tearing of the loops of the fabric strap, and is thereby reduced. In this way, the shock absorber makes a significant contribution to safety when working at height, and it protects the user from severe injuries.
What happens during a fall protected by a shock absorber?
In the event of a fall, the shock absorber works through the progressive tearing of the strap. This strap is sewn together into loops in a special way, and it gradually tears open in a controlled fashion, in order to absorb part of the energy from the fall. This significantly reduces the fall force acting on the protected person. The force acting on a falling person is called shock force.
Attention when using lanyards equipped with an integrated shock absorber: It is essential that the total length after the strap tears open is included in the calculation of the fall height. The length of a shock absorber which has been subject to shock force can be different, depending on how many loops were torn open during the fall.
For lanyards with a shock absorber, allow for the maximum length and the corresponding fall height. It is imperative that the length of the energy absorber when torn open is included in the calculation of the fall height, and also in the required length of the lanyard! You will find further information in the wiki post about fall height..
Is it possible to reuse a shock absorber after a fall?
A shock absorber is a life-saving safety device which is used in personal protective equipment against falls from a height. After a fall, the question arises whether the shock absorber can be reused.
In this case, there is no question of reuse: If the shock absorber has been exposed to the forces arising from a fall, even just once, it can no longer be used. Shock absorbers are designed for a single use, and must be disposed of after a fall. The shock absorber loses its full functionality after just one fall.
How can an older shock absorber be inspected to see whether it is still in working order?
Inspection and testing should be performed as per the applicable standards and regulations. For this, all components should be inspected for damage, wear, and deformation. In particular, the seams, the harness material, and the connectors should be subject to thorough inspection.
Defective or damaged equipment can increase the risk from a fall. It is advisable to comply with the manufacturer’s instructions and, if there is uncertainty, to obtain the advice of a specialist. A shock absorber should be used only if it has been thoroughly inspected, tested, and found to be safe for use.