Working at Heights – Prevent Your Fall

There are many different types of aluminum mobile access towers available, made by a variety of manufacturers, however the supplier, and the end-user, for their safety, should ensure that the equipment is fit for purpose. Always check to see that the tower is certified and has approval to the accepted standard EN1004.

There are with two different, universally accepted erection methods for aluminium towers, the 3T, through the trapdoor, and the AGR, advance guard rail method. The 3T, through-the-trap’ method allows the person erecting the tower to position themselves at minimum risk during the installation of guard rails to the next level. It involves the user taking up a working position in the trap door of the platform, from where they can add or remove the components which act as the guard rails on the level above the platform. It is designed to ensure that the operator does not stand on an unguarded platform at any time.

The AGR makes use of specially designed temporary guard rail units, which are locked in place from the level below and moved up to the platform level. The temporary guard rail units provide collective fall prevention and are in place before the operator accesses the platform to fit the permanent guard rails. The progressive erection of guard rails from a protected area at a lower level ensures the operator is never exposed to the risk of falling from an unguarded platform.

No other method of erection should be used. Both the 3T and the AGR methods of erecting a mobile tower ensure that the user will always have the correct guard rail height. It is very important, and vital to the safety of the user that the correct guard rail height is achieved not only when the mobile tower is completely erected, but during the build of the tower. Failing to have the correct guard rail height is dangerous and can lead to falling from the tower causing injury or death.

The most important document to have before starting to erect a mobile tower is the manufacturer’s instruction manual, no one should start any tower build without this. Often users can be complacent and think that because they have built a tower many times, and they are experienced they do not need to use the manual, however, the tower they are using could be from another manufacturer with a different process, or perhaps there has been a change in the tower requirements. All manufacturers have a legal obligation to produce an instruction manual for their equipment which explains the erection sequence, and all suppliers must provide an instruction manual. If the tower has been hired, then the hirer has to provide this information.
This must be passed on to the person erecting the tower. Falls must be prevented where there is a risk that a fall could result in personal injury.

Should you use a safety harness and lanyard as fall protection when working on a mobile tower?

Harnesses and lanyards should not be used when working on an aluminum tower, personal fall protection is not necessary. Providing, the correct erection procedures have been followed by using either the 3T or AGR method, if this has been done then all guardrails have been correctly installed and the tower has collective fall protection.

If a harness or lanyard is used then in the event of an arrested fall on a mobile tower you are likely to cause the tower to overturn increasing the risk of injury to yourself and also to others in the vicinity.

If the manufacturer’s instruction manual has been followed correctly then toe boards will have been installed whenever necessary. Although toe boards can be seen by some users as an easily left out or insignificant item, it is most important that they are used, not to protect the user, but to prevent any tools falling from the tower causing injury to people passing or working on the ground.

It is extremely important that when using an aluminum tower from one manufacturer that parts from another tower are not used unless the tower is the same make.

Mobile towers may look similar to each other; however, some towers have different dimensions, these may only be small differences but they do make the mixing of tower components very dangerous as the components will not fit together properly.

It is also of great importance not to mix components from another manufacturer even where the fit is the same. As an example manufacturer 1’s tower is approved to EN 1004 which means it has had stringent testing and fit for purpose, manufacturer 2’s tower can look the same, but it has been made cheaply using inferior product parts, and a poor manufacturing process. Using towers like this is dangerous and can lead to accidents.

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