17.06.2021 | Persoonlijke veiligheidsuitrusting PVU

Illusion of safety in industrial operations - How real fall protection is created

The illusion of safety is dangerous because workers and colleagues on the job depend on the existing safety concept.

1 Beoordelingen

As the yelling starts, the department manager and the managing director in Kärnten, Austria are busy in a meeting. Shocked heads jerk upwards, and for a moment the room is still. The first to jump up from their chairs then sprint into the production hall below.


The sight of the worker dangling there in his safety harness from the ceiling fixture at a height of 10 metres is terrifying. His face is pallid and he seems to have lost consciousness. Beneath him, colleagues run chaotically around the enormous machine and bellow instructions which are almost incomprehensible. “Get him down, for God’s sake”, the managing director’s voice thunders through the space. “OK, boss”, a technician calls back. “But how?”


This situation is a classic case of the illusion of safety, i.e. insufficient or incorrect safety precautions. The fallen employee certainly secured himself using personal protective equipment; however, real fall protection consists of many coordinated protective measures which must be planned and implemented systematically.


In this example, these would be rapid and clearly regulated rescue measures, as well as wearing the safety harness correctly to avoid losing consciousness caused by cable strangulation. The illusion of safety in industrial operations conceals the danger from a fall from height which has disastrous consequences. In order to avoid this, companies require an authoritative and reliable safety concept. 


Read on and find out how to convert the illusion of safety into real fall protection in industrial operations.


How does the illusion of safety arise in industrial operations?

In the case of the fallen worker in the industrial operation in Kärnten, safety precautions did exist, but they were insufficient or incorrect, and so the fallen person became endangered. Safety experts refer to such a case as an illusion of safety. 


The technical industrial safety measures such as cable, attachment points, and barriers were indeed present, and the worker was also wearing his personal protective equipment, but the safety harness was incorrectly attached, and so it interrupted the worker’s blood supply as a result of the fall. In addition, the organisational industrial safety measures were insufficient, because no-one present knew what the rescue plan was, and they were unable to immediately rescue the fallen colleague from the life-threatening situation. 



What are the dangers concealed in industry by an illusion of safety?

Because the first-aiders reached the incident quickly, it was possible to tend to the fallen service technician quickly, and he left hospital after a few days. However, not all industrial accidents turn out so fortunately, and the dangers to companies from an illusion of safety should not be underestimated:


  • Injury or death of the employee because of a fall from height
  • High costs from the injured person’s absence, machine stoppages, increasing insurance premiums, etc.
  • Investigation and potential consequences of negligent conduct with respect to the responsible person, e.g. managing director or safety expert
  • Loss of image for the company
  • In the worst case: Threat to the existence of the industrial operation



cta hanbuch absturzsicherung


How do industrial operations create real fall protection?

In operations with real fall protection, the risks to persons, physical objects, and the company itself can be significantly reduced. Fall accidents may of course still occur despite this, but the likelihood is very much reduced, and classification as an accident without negligent conduct is ensured. The following six aspects should be factored in for a holistic safety concept.


Fall prevention in 6 steps:


1. Inspection of the substructure:

Before a fall protection system is installed, the first step must be to determine the actual base or substructure, so that the fall protection products tested to DIN EN 795 (Anchorage devices) can be selected correctly. For example, the customer believes that his aluminium trapezoidal sheet roof is made of steel, and passes this incorrect information on to the installation company, which then orders the incorrect fastening materials such as bolts or clamps on this basis. If these products are installed, then the fall protection provided is not real, but illusory. 


2. Planning:

In order to ensure that the selected anchorage devices are installed correctly and effectively, a specialist experienced in fall protection should plan the safety system. For this, he or she will also consult with experts from other specialist areas, for example with a structural engineer, to clarify the number and position of the drillings in steel girders. Installation companies or safety experts obtain the specialist knowledge required for planning the fall protection system in special planning training courses for which they receive certification. Tools like INNO|plan support the planners to achieve real fall protection in plants.


3. Installation:

The illusion of safety is also created by installation errors, such as when product descriptions and installation instructions are not complied with. As a rule, every anchorage device is delivered with the appropriate, tested fasteners and with easily comprehensible product descriptions in up to 25 languages. In addition, detailed installation checklists are available which, for example, specify exactly which drill bits, clamps, etc. have to be used.


The background to this careful work is that, because of their controlled verification, the products and instructions included provide real fall protection. This guarantee promise is invalid if alternative, unregulated, or non-conforming products/and or aids, e.g. from hardware stores, are used. This is because the fasteners may appear similar, but there is no evidence that they can withstand a pendulum fall from a height of several metres.


4. Documentation:

In the next step the fall protection system must be documented meticulously using images, because this test log forms the basis of the mandatory annual inspection, and also of the investigation in the event of a fall accident. The installation and acceptance log is then signed and issued to the customer, in order to confirm that the equipment fulfils the applicable safety standard in every respect. By means of the intuitive INNO|doc installation tool, the documentation is completed rapidly and professionally, because the testers complete all checklists on their Smartphones and upload the related images directly from their phones.


5. Anti-fall PPE:

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is also an important factor for avoiding an illusion of safety in industrial operations. Firstly, every user of the fall protection system must be provided with their own correct PPE which is coordinated to the individual areas of application and to the actual equipment. It is also necessary to take into account individual requirements such as potential chafing of cables at fall edges. Secondly, industrial climbers must participate in anti-fall PPE training


6. Rescue measures:

Finally, the rescue measures consisting of the rescue plan and rescue system are essential components of real fall protection. If the fallen worker in our example had been left suspended for longer than 20 to 30 minutes, there would have been the risk of suspension trauma, in which the blood supply is interrupted, potentially leading to death. Users will find background knowledge, for example at Tutorials at MARK Save a Life on YouTube. 



So what is fall protection?

In Germany, fall protection in the technical regulations for workplaces (ASR) is defined as: “intrinsically effective equipment which impedes a fall even without the conscious participation of the worker, e.g. a peripheral guard [...] or cover”.


In industrial operations, the fall protection system secures and optimally protects all people working in them from a fall, and in the event of a fall. This means a holistic safety concept on the basis of appropriate and effective devices which prevent a fall in areas where there is risk (primary fall protection) or intercept falling persons and/or materials (secondary fall protection). 



Summary: Industrial operations require real fall protection

The illusion of safety is dangerous because workers and colleagues on the job depend on the existing safety concept. If this is insufficiently planned and implemented, then not only may human life be at risk, but also the company’s existence. Because after every fall accident there is an investigation, with all its consequences, to exclude negligent conduct by the responsible persons. This well-known saying certainly applies here: Better safe than sorry. 


CTA Handbuch zur Absturzsicherung in der Industrie
CTA Handbuch zur Absturzsicherung in der Industrie