Using a fall arrest solution for fall protection means preventing a person from striking a lower level, should a fall occur. There is, however, a second, often overlooked, hazard that needs to be accounted for, the swing fall.
When a swing fall occurs, a person literally swings in their fall, a bit like a pendulum. During their swing they are at risk of striking the structure or a nearby object, oftentimes with great force.
The risk of a swing
The risk of a swing during a fall, or a fall with a pendulum effect, occurs when users are a distance away from their anchorage. The reason being that, as the distance between the user and their anchorage point increases so does the length of their lanyard. Should a user fall, the long lanyard can cause a considerable swing that could have a person striking a nearby surface.
The length of the lanyard also influences the speed of a swing, the longer the lanyard the more speed a user can gather. This speed in combination with a possible impact can result in serious injury or even death.
Sometimes a user travels so far that the lanyard becomes so long that should they fall they will hit the ground. Which is something that should be avoided at all cost.
Preventing swing falls
Thankfully, there are ways to prevent swing falls. The first is to remove the risk of a fall completely. Where it is possible, work in fall restraint. This way the risk of a swing is eliminated. There are situations where working in restraint is not possible and users have to use a Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS).
The second way to prevent a swing fall is to decrease the distance to an anchor point. For example by adding a special anti-pendulum anchorage to the corner of a roof. This will decrease the size (and speed) of a swing because the distance between the user and anchorage is limited.
Anchor points for preventing swings
Anti-pendulum anchor points are installed near, for example, a roof edge where there is an increased risk of a swing fall. The user is attached to the main fall protection system, e.g. an engineered lifeline or single anchor point in the middle of the roof. Users require to attach their lanyard to the anti-pendulum anchor before reaching the roof edge.
Understanding the hazards
Another measure to help prevent a swing fall is by educating users about the hazard. With training, and repeat toolbox talks, they will be more aware of the risks of a greater distance to an anchor point. They can they take measures to keep their lanyard length to a minimum and use anti-pendulum anchors whenever necessary.
Swing falls are hard to predict and cannot be calculated as easy as the fall clearance. But they are no less of a risk. Being aware of the risk and using the right equipment, means minimizing risks. To help you familiarize yourself or your staff members with swing fall hazards we’ve put together a mini quiz with situation sketches. Can you identify all the swing fall hazards? This quiz can also form a good addition to a toolbox talk about swing falls. Download it here.