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Fall protection and CDM: The vital questions you need to ask

11 July 2017

Construction Design and Management (CDM) regulations can often be viewed as little more than a 'tick box exercise’. Fall protection specialist MSA Safety warns Chris Shaw that this attitude must change.

MSA Safety is urging all principal designers, as defined by the Construction Design and Management (CDM) regulations, to ask every time they specify fall protection: ‘Has the fall protection I have specified been tested on the same type of roof to the one it will be fixed to?’ and ‘Is the standard of protection you have specified actually the product installed on the structure?’

The CDM regulations, last updated in 2015, require a health and safety plan to be incorporated at the very outset of any construction works but, says Tim Bissett, technical manager for the Latchways brand at MSA, many principal designers specify in good faith without knowing the risks that exist.

“These days there are many different types of roof used in construction," Tim observes, "Not all designers use a concrete roof, but that is the only material that fall protection anchors need to work on to meet current standards. What about secret fix roofs? Standing seam roofs? Warm flat roofs? All these perform very differently to concrete when a force is exerted upon them.”

Tim continues: “Working in fall protection we all have a huge and collective responsibility to protect people working at height and I would ask everyone involved to ask two simple and related questions before specifying a fall protection solution. Firstly: Has the fall protection system been directly tested on the structure type it will be attached onto? Secondly: Have you ensured that the quality of the fall protection system you have specified is, in fact, the exact same as the system that will actually be installed?

“It may sound a given, but many contractors - in good faith - think they are substituting like for like, but actually that pivotal question of suitability for use on a specific roofing system is key and one of the main reasons that the MSA Latchways team tests on every type of popular roof type in use. If the equipment you have specified is changed without your knowledge, you could be held legally liable in the unfortunate event of an accident.”

Tim concludes: “As an industry there is a responsibility to ensure we are advising and educating architects, contractors and specifiers to see their specification through, which means bringing thinking to CDM and lifting fall protection up from being simply a tick box item - it’s far too important for that.”