Leading edges are unprotected sides that develop as construction takes place. These unprotected sides pose a fall hazard for workers, which is why fall protection measures need to be taken. However, leading edges ‘move’ as additional sections of a floor or roof are finished, and as such the fall protection solution chosen must be adaptable.
Leading edge safety
The ever changing nature of leading edge work is part of the difficulty for providing safety. Another aspect is that these types of edges are often rather sharp. So any solution that should protect workers from a fall, or that arrests a fall should it occur, must be able to withstand the cutting ridge. You would not want a worker to fall, have their fall arrested, but have their lanyard tear due to the contact with the sharp edge and fall further because their equipment failed.
To take leading edge work into account some lanyards are equipped with sharp edge protection. This is a protective layer that prevents tearing should the lanyard come into contact with sharp edges. This is also a very helpful attribute when working in environments where other sharp objects may come into contact with the lanyard, for example pointed stones or jagged metals.
As for the ever changing location of the leading edge, fall protection measures need to be adjusted. As the structure changes different hazards may arise, so a flexible risk assessment attitude needs to be in place. After all, with a proper assessment the risks to workers’ health and safety become evident. Then a suitable method can be chosen to combat these hazards.
Safely working at height
The preferred methods for providing safety while working at height won’t do for leading edge work. You cannot take the fall hazards away as the work needs to be executed at height. Installing guardrails is also no viable option as workers need to be able to reach the edges to perform their job. Not to mention the edges constantly change.
This means a personal fall arrest system will most likely offer the best solution (we say most likely as each situation differs, and so does the best suitable solution for that situation). With an self-retracting lanyard workers can move around from and to the edge they are construction, while also having the insurance that the system will arrest a fall should it happen.
For this solution you do need to calculate several factors of the system properly, such as the available fall clearance. Another point to keep in mind is that, as the edge extends and workers get further from their anchorage point additional hazards may arise, such as swing falls.
Download safety plan template
In short, leading edge work is dangerous because of the ever changing nature of the work location. With every newly constructed edge new hazards can arise that need to be acted on promptly. For this reason we advise extra diligence in assessing the risks and setting up a good safety, or fall protection, plan. To get you started we’ve made a basic template, you can use this as your starting point.