Safety nets and soft landing systems
Safety nets and soft landing systems can be used as leading edge protection to mitigate the consequences and distance should a fall occur. They are not a substitute for the use of fall prevention measures but can be used in conjunction with them if the risk of a fall cannot be eliminated.
Nets are a complex energy-absorbing system, which must only be installed (referred to as ‘rigged’ in the industry), maintained, modified and removed (referred to as ‘de-rigged’) by trained and competent people.
Consideration should always be given to rigging the net from ground level using remote attachment devices. Only if this is not possible should an alternative method be considered. For example, using a MEWP to gain access at height to net attachment points. The same should also be considered for any work when modifying and de-rigging the net.
The way in which a safety net system is rigged and maintained is critical and therefore must only be undertaken by trained and competent people.
Nets should be positioned as close as possible to the working level to minimise the height of a fall.
Safety net systems must be inspected by a competent person after installation and a handover certificate prepared to confirm their safety. They must then be inspected on a weekly basis to ensure they are still fixed correctly and will arrest a fall.
When a person falls into a net, the material deforms as it absorbs the load and it is therefore essential to provide adequate clearance below the net to allow deformation to occur without the person striking the ground or another object.
The net installer should be informed immediately if a net has arrested a fall as it will almost certainly require replacing. Work above a net which has been subjected to a fall should stop until the net has been inspected. The net inspection should be carried out by a competent person, usually the manufacturer, to ensure it is safe for subsequent use.
It is essential that your risk assessment covers your procedures for rescuing someone from a rigged net and for providing first aid while in the net.
Soft landing systems
There are different types of soft landing systems available such as bags that are:
- inflated on site, or
- filled with small polystyrene pieces or air pockets, which are supplied pre-filled by the manufacturer
These systems can be used to reduce the risk of injury should a fall occur during work such as the installation of floors or roof trusses. They are positioned directly below workers, filling any void and reducing the distance of the fall, which may reduce injuries or their severity.
The installation, maintenance, modification, and removal of any soft-landing system is critical and must only be undertaken by trained and competent people working to manufacturers’ instructions.
Soft landing systems must be inspected by a competent person after installation and a handover certificate prepared to confirm it has been correctly assembled and positioned. They must then be inspected on a weekly basis to ensure they are still safe for use as a fall arrest system.
More information on safety nets and soft landing systems can be found in HSE guidance on roof work.