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 worn components, components carried and/or operated, and the method of fixation to the structure.
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.
In Europe, 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 regulation. 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.
In America, equipment designed to protect against falls from a height are required to be assessed by an accredited organisation to prove compliance. Approval is achieved by testing to the appropriate standard(s), assessing user information and marking documentation and assessment of the ongoing conformity of the product on a 2-5 yearly basis. This process can be carried out by an ISO 17025 lab which is accredited to carry out the testing, such as SATRA.