Working at height is a common activity in most workplaces, such as in the construction industry. Employers take a variety of measures to prevent falls from height. Of the various measures, one such measure is the use of fall arrest safety nets. These come under passive fall protection measures when working at height.
Safety nets are specially designed to progressively deflect or stretch when a fall occurs. The net absorbs the impact of the fall. It provides a soft landing, thus reducing the likelihood of harm or injury.
Benefits of using fall arrest safety nets:
If anyone falls from height onto a safety net, it provides a softer landing for a worker. This is far safer than falling in a safety harness, wherein a worker may experience suspension trauma.
Complicated working at height rescue procedures can be avoided as the worker can simply climb out from the net after a fall.
Safety nets allow for more free movement of personnel, which isn’t the case when workers are tired of falling arrest systems.
Safety nets provide collective protection against personnel falling and materials falling.
In the UK and EU regions comply with the following standards:
- BS EN 1263-1:2014 – Temporary works equipment – Safety nets – Part 1: Safety requirements, test methods
- BS EN 1263-2:2014 – Temporary works equipment – Safety nets – Part 2: Safety requirements for the positioning limits
The standard specifies four classes of net with maximum mesh sizes (lM) and nominated values of energy which may act on the net (EA and EB) as follows:
- Class A1: EA = 2,3 kJ; lM = 60 mm
- Class A2: EA = 2,3 kJ; lM = 100 mm
- Class B1: EB = 4,4 kJ; lM = 60 mm
- Class B2: EB = 4,4 kJ; lM = 100 mm
There are 4 systems of safety nets:
- System S: Safety net with border rope
- System T: Safety net attached on brackets for horizontal use
- System U: Safety net attached to supporting framework for vertical use
- System V: Safety net with border rope attached to a gallow-type support
All safety nets should generally be tested on an annual basis to check for UV deterioration. This is conducted by way of visual examination, length measurement, and weighing. The test requires 2 x 100 KG weights dropped from 6 meters.
If a test is approved, then a certificate together with a pass label is issued for a further period of 12 months. The test pass label must always be attached to the safety net.
All safety nets must have a permanently attached label with information about the net, including:
- Manufacturer’s name and code
- Date of manufacture
- Class of net
- Mesh size
- Energy absorption capacity of the net
- Unique identity or serial number (ID)
If there is no label attached to a safety net or the label is not legible to a user, then the safety net must not be used.
Safety nets must only be installed by an appropriately qualified person. Such competent persons need a fall arrest safety equipment training (FASET) certification, which is the only recognized qualification for safety net installation.
Regular visual inspections
These must be carried out as safety nets. Accordingly, records must be kept for the same. A general visual inspection of the safety net will include checks for:
- Cuts or nicks in mesh
- Damage to stitching
- Damaged or deformed fittings
- Debris in the net
- Defective knots – if the net has knotted mesh
- Heat or friction damage to mesh
- Incorrect installation
- Mesh abrasion
If a safety net does not pass a safety inspection, it must be removed from service and not used.
Article written by:
Mr. Hormuz Siodia, NEBOSH Approved Tutor, Green World Group – Dubai