Man anchors provide backup protection against falls

Man anchors offer essential extra protection against falls when working in areas where guardrails are unsuitable, for example because the work takes place around a temporary opening.

A number of recent HSE reports have touched on such circumstances, including one incident that led to a fatality and numerous severe injuries.

Among them was an incident in Hertfordshire in August 2013, in which a roofer fell through an open skylight; it had previously been covered by boards, but these were removed leaving only a thin membrane disguising the hole.

In December 2014, a Wokingham worker fell from a shed roof on to a neighbouring greenhouse, shattering the glass and puncturing a lung.

But the worst incident was in October 2012, when a wooden platform over a ninth-floor stairwell collapsed; one worker was killed in the fall and another severely injured, while a third individual below them was hit by falling debris.

Karen Morris, HM inspector of health and safety, said of the last incident: “The risks of falling from height are well known, and the risk of joist hanger failure is well documented.

“All those who have a role in planning and managing work on site must take responsibility for ensuring that serious risks are properly controlled.”

Temporary guardrails are an option, and can be installed quite easily in a wide variety of locations, providing edge protection against falls and against falling equipment and materials too.

But as an extra layer of protection against falls, or where guardrails are unsuitable, man anchors are the last line of defence.

Rather than providing a physical barrier against falling, man anchors tether the individual to a heavy weight to prevent them from moving too far from it – including preventing them from falling downwards a dangerous distance.

Finally, on roofs with fragile skylights and other weak spots, consider installing walkovers to ensure employees and contractors cannot step on any part of the roof where they could break through.