Equipment designed to protect against falls from a height (except equipment only intended for rescue and some components permanently attached to a structure) must be CE marked, and is considered complex (category III) category to the PPE directive. CE marking is achieved by testing to an appropriate specification (in most cases, a European harmonised standard), in conjunction with assessment of documentation, and assessment of the ongoing conformity of the product. All three of these stages must be undertaken by a European notified body, such as SATRA.
Testing of fall protection equipment is typically carried out on the whole product as presented for sale, although testing and approval of components (such as connectors) can be carried out where they are interchangeable between larger products. In addition, consideration must be paid to the whole system of fall protection, including components worn, components carried and / or operated, and the method of fixation to the structure. In most cases, a system of fall protection will be made up of several component products, each one CE marked in its own right, meaning that the end user will need to consider the compatibility of products as well as the manufacturer.
Any fall protection system needs to consider a number of factors, including:
- the distance the user falls before being brought to a halt
- the force applied to the user’s body throughout the arrest of the fall
- the likelihood of introducing additional hazards, such as ‘swing-falls’ (or ‘pendulum effect’) or the striking of sharp objects
- the possibility of rescue following a fall.
Although the distance the user can be allowed to fall will vary depending on the environment in which the product is being used (nominally the distance to the ground), the force which can be applied to the user is limited throughout Europe to 6 kN. This limit is evident in most fall protection standards, either in terms of requirements, or the basis for the tests themselves.