Your legal duty to test and recertify equipment
Personal fall protection equipment re-certification and testing
Your legal duties
Legislation requires that Personal Fall Protection Systems are re-certified by a competent person as a minimum once a year. As an employer or if you control work at height (for example facilities managers or building owners who may contract others to work at height) you can be held responsible should an accident occur, particularly if the equipment is found to be faulty and/or uncertified.
Inspection and recertification is more than ticking a check box and issuing a certificate. The type of equipment installed may mean some or all of the following standards and regulations may require you or your business to ensure compliance not only by certification but also training by a competent company/person on a scheduled basis.
- Work at Height Regulations 2005
- Competence – Regulation 5
- Inspection of Work Equipment– Regulation 12
- Duties of Persons at Work – Regulation 14
- Requirements for Personal Fall Protection Systems – Schedule 5
- BS EN 7883:2005 Code of practice for the design, selection, installation, use and maintenance of anchor devices conforming to BS EN 795
- BS EN 365: 2004 Personal protective equipment against falls from a height
- General requirements for instructions for use, maintenance, periodic examination, repair, marking and packaging
- Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER)
- Maintenance – Regulation 5
- Inspection – Regulation 6
- Information and Instructions – Regulation 8
- Training – Regulation 9
- Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (as amended)
- Compatibility of personal protective equipment – Regulation 5
- Maintenance and replacement of personal protective equipment – Regulation 7
- Information, instruction and training – Regulation 9
- Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
- Maintenance of workplace, and of equipment, devices and systems – Regulation 5
Instructions for periodic inspections
When it comes to periodic inspections, instructions must be clear and concise and include:
A warning emphasising the need for regular inspections and that the safety of those using the equipment depends upon the continued efficiency and durability of the equipment.
- A recommendation with regards to the frequency of inspections. This should take into account legislation, equipment type, frequency of use as well as environmental conditions and should include a statement that periodic inspections should be carried out a least every 12 months. Interim inspections might be needed between detailed inspections where the risk assessment has identified a hazard that could cause significant deterioration in the equipment, for example paint, chemicals or acidic or alkaline environments.
- A warning emphasising that periodic inspections must only be carried out by a competent person and in accordance with the relevant standards
- An instruction when deemed necessary by the manufacturer, such as due to the complexity, innovation of the equipment or where critical knowledge is required for the dismantling, reassembly or assessment of the equipment (e.g. a retractable type fall arrester), that periodic inspections must only be conducted by the manufacturer or person/organisation authorised by the manufacturer.
- A requirement to check the legibility of the product markings.
Instructions for repair
Where repair is permitted by the manufacturer, repair instructions must include a statement that repair should only be carried out by a competent person who has been authorised by the manufacturer, and that the repair procedure must be in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
It is important that you ensure you commission a competent company/person to assess the risks appropriately in accordance with the work at height hierarchy. Work at height is a specialised area of Health & Safety.
Competency can be demonstrated by certification as well as experience. In the case of the re-certification company it is essential that they are affiliated to a recognised industry representative group(s) so that they are updated regularly on changes to legislation and standards that relate to their line of business, particularly the services and products they offer.
If in doubt about competency, EN365 sets out clear guidance as to required capabilities of the person carrying out periodic examination of systems as follows:
This person should be capable of identifying and assessing the significance of defects, should initiate the corrective action to be taken and should have the necessary skills and resources* to do so.
A competent person may need to be trained by the manufacturer or his authorised representative on specific PPE or other equipment, e.g. due to its complexity or innovation, or where safety critical knowledge is needed in the dismantling, reassembly, or assessment of the PPE or other equipment, and may need to have that training updated due to modifications and upgrades.
*(Resources would include the correct calibrated equipment to carry out the task, such as pull testers to complete a pull test of an eyebolt or swage end fitting of a life line system).
Although many re-certification companies offering re-certification have themselves undergone inspections by their insurers as part of their Indemnity, Employer and Premises Insurance, following conversations with Insurers, the BSIF (British Safety Industry Federation) now believes that these inspections do not validate Risk Assessments, Operating Method Statements and Equipment Inspections as is believed by these companies, but simply evaluate the financial risk of a potential claim. Companies who believe their systems have been competently inspected by their insurers could be in difficulty when trying to defend themselves should an HSE inspection take place.
It is extremely rare for Insurers to be Health and Safety Specialists and to therefore have the competency outlined above to be able to carry out inspections.
Rescue policy and risk assessment
You are legally required to have a Rescue Policy, Risk Assessment and the necessary rescue equipment in place for all work at height activities. Also you need to have fully trained personnel on site ready to use the equipment and complete a rescue should someone fall from your building.
This is a necessity in the case of “fall arrest” equipment installations and may also be required where “restraint” systems have been installed as there is the possibility of potential misuse or a risk that the wrong PPE combination is being used, leading to a “fall arrest” situation.
Your responsibility to providing a safe working environment does not simply mean installing work at height safety solutions. Once equipment has been installed it must be maintained at least once a year by a competent company/person and all those using the equipment must have the appropriate level of instruction, supervision and training.
If something does happen and there is a fatality, your company’s health and safety culture will be examined thoroughly under the Corporate Manslaughter Act.
Periodic inspection procedure
This flowchart from prEN795:2011 provides and example of periodic inspection procedures for lifeline/anchor systems.