Working at height comes in many forms, as well as the required safety measures. In this article, we will clarify when and what type of fall protection is needed when working in suspended platforms and gondolas, based on the American OSHA requirements and the European Standards (EN).
Working from inside a suspended platform
Also referred to as a swing stage. In this case, we will discuss the safety measures for a two-point suspended platform. This type of scaffold is suspended by wire ropes that are connected to anchorage (outrigger beams or davits for example) located on the roof of a structure.
Fall protection in a suspended platform – OSHA requirements
According to the American OSHA standards, each employee on a scaffold more than 10 feet (3 meters) above a lower level needs to be protected from falling to that level. Additional to that, there is a specific standard that states:
“Each employee on a two-point adjustable suspension scaffold must be protected by both a guardrail system and a personal fall arrest system” – 29 CFR 1926.451(g)(1)(ii)
So in this case, a fall arrest system and a guardrail system are required. The fall arrest system used on suspended platforms is to be attached by a lanyard to a vertical lifeline that hangs suspended from a higher level or a structural member of the scaffold. This solution makes sure that when a suspended platform collapses, the workers hang suspended on the secondary (vertical) wire ropes.
When a lanyard is attached to a structural member of the scaffold, the suspended platform needs to be equipped with additional support lines that are independently fixed and automatic locking devices that are capable of stopping a fall of the platform in the event of one or both suspension ropes fail.
Fall protection in a suspended platform – EN requirements
The European Standard EN 1808 also states that the platform needs to be equipped with guardrails, as well as intermediate rails and toe boards. But, in contrast to the OSHA standard, the EN 1808 states that a collective safety precaution has to be taken in form of a secondary break on the hoists.
Independently attached secondary wire ropes need to be suspended from the anchor point and run through the hoist separately. When the main wire rope breaks, the secondary break will be activated by the sudden speed increase and it will clamp to the secondary wire rope to prevent the platform from falling.
The maximum allowed inclination of the platform shall be not more than 14 degrees when the secondary break is activated. In this case, the platform doesn’t fall down.
Working from a building maintenance unit
A building maintenance unit (BMU) is a machine that is permanently installed on the roof of a mid- or high-rise structure. It consists of a roof car that is fixed or runs over a track. A (telescopic) jib with a gondola facilitates access to large parts of the facade of the structure for maintenance purposes.
Fall protection in a BMU – OSHA requirements
The OSHA standards refer to BMU’s as powered platform installations and state that when a gondola is suspended by two or more wire ropes and the breakage of one wire rope causes the gondola to fully tilt, each employee has to be attached to a secondary vertical lifeline by means of a full body harness and lanyard to arrest a fall.
In case secondary wire ropes are used to prevent the gondola from tilting if one wire rope breaks, the workers need to be connected to a horizontal lifeline that is anchored to the gondola itself for body restraint.
Fall protection in a BMU – EN requirements
Since it is obligated by the EN requirements that a gondola is suspended on four wire ropes, where two of them form the secondary break system, the gondola will not fully tilt when one of the wire ropes break. A maximum inclination of 14 degrees is allowed, so the gondola won’t fully tilt when cable breakage occurs.
Because of this, fall protection inside a gondola is not specifically required by the EN standards itself.
Local laws and requirements
We have discussed the OSHA and EN requirements that prescribe when fall protection is needed in suspended platforms, cherry pickers or BMU’s. Keep in mind that these requirements are often complemented with local regulations.
For example, local laws, employer requirements or other bodies might obligate the use of fall protection when working from inside a gondola or suspended platform, even if the general standard doesn’t require this. So, always make sure you are aware of local laws and regulations as well!
At XSPlatforms, we always recommend to use fall protection when working from a (suspended) platform at height!
Download fact sheet
We have created a simple factsheet about what type of fall protection is needed when working from inside a gondola, suspended platform system or a MEWP. On the sheet, you will also find the special PPE set that has been compiled by XSPlatforms to be used in these situations: