When working at height is less about moving around – and more about staying put – you need a work positioning system. Here’s how to put one together like a pro.
Work Positioning System vs Fall Arrest System
Before we begin, let’s clarify the safety scope of a work positioning system.
Ideally, a work positioning system will limit any scope for free fall
In the absence of a work platform, a work positioning system will help secure or suspend a worker in place against an elevated vertical surface while they work.
Designed and used correctly, it will hold the worker very close to the structure. This should ensure there is minimal slack within the system.
That lack of slack should limit any scope for free fall – ideally to 600mm or less. Further safety precautions are required if free fall scope is higher than 600mm.
However, a work positioning system is not a fall arrest system
Just to be clear. A fall arrest system will arrest a significant fall event – a work positioning system will not.
That’s why you should never rely on a work positioning system for fall arrest. And why you should always put additional fall protection in place wherever free fall scope exceeds 600mm.
Additional fall protection may include a back-up connector – such as a retractable lifeline, vertical lifeline or shock absorbing lanyard. This back-up connector then attaches to your harness and to a secondary anchor point.
Who Needs a Work Positioning System
A work positioning system is useful for a range of height workers:
Electrical and telco workers who perform repairs or maintenance on poles or tower structures often need time in one spot to get the job done.
Bracing their feet against a ladder or the structure itself, they might use a pole strap or work positioning lanyard to stay in position and to work hands-free.
Rope access workers
Because they’re already suspended, a rope access worker would use a work positioning system more for added comfort and longevity.
For example, their system may include a work seat (or a full-body harness with built-in seat) to provide more support for longer.
Confined space workers
In a confined space, a pulley or haul system will often raise and lower workers to their work site.
In this case, a work positioning system or key elements – such as a work seat – can be attached to the haul system. Again for extra comfort and longevity.
How to Create a Work Positioning System
To create a work positioning system, connect one end of a work positioning lanyard to a secured anchor point – and the other to a full body harness. Work seats can be incorporated into the system for longer durations.
Step 1: Choose a Work Positioning Harness
Choose a full-body harness with D-Rings that have been designed for work positioning (check manufacturer’s notes to confirm).
Depending on your exact system, you’re looking for a harness with:
- Side D’s (one on each hip)
- Forward D’s (near top of each leg)
- Front-Centre D (front-centre of harness)
Side D’s and Forward D’s are built to share the load and must be used as a pair. However, you can use your Front-Centre D on its own.
Step 2: Add a Work Positioning Lanyard
All work positioning lanyards are adjustable. However, they come in different forms and connect to your harness in different ways. For example:
- A Pole Strap is designed for use with two attachment points. So it attaches to either your Side D’s or Forward D’s.
- A Progress Lanyard is designed to be used as a direct attachment. So it connects to your Front-Centre D.
- A Grillon is flexible. It can be used with any of your D-Rings.
Step 3: Connect to a Secure Anchor Point
The security of your anchor point is paramount to your safety.
So when work positioning (or working in limited free fall), remember that your anchor point and/or the structure must be rated to a minimum of 12 kN.
To ensure your anchor point meets this standard, it should be assessed by an engineer. Alternatively, seek advice from a suitably qualified, competent person.
Also, consider your anchor point in the context of your system. For example, if your pole strap could slip from its anchor point uninterrupted all the way down the pole, you’ll likely risk a free fall far greater than 600mm.
Again, this is why having a back-up fall arrest system in place is so important.
Step 4: Boost with a Work Seat
For tasks that require a longer timeframe, you may wish to incorporate a work seat into your work positioning system.
A full-body harness with a built-in drop seat may suffice. But if not, you can attach a work seat to your system in a few different ways. This will depend on your system and where is best to hold the weight.
For rope access workers, a work seat would typically attach to the descender. But if using a pulley or haul system, the work seat would usually attach directly to the haul system.
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Need Help? Give Us a Call
As always, we’re here to help you put the perfect system together for your work, site and situation. Don’t hesitate to call our height safety specialists on (07) 3862 2533 for expert advice before you buy.