Working at heights is risky for an operator, and if appropriate safety measures are not observed, a fall may result in injury.
Working 1.8 metres or more above floor height is classified as working at height. This also includes the risk of suffering a free fall, or where a fall from a lower height may cause serious injury.
By law, every worker must wear personal protective equipment and non-compliance may result in a fine. An item of individual protective equipment is one intended to attach a person to an anchor point to avoid a fall from a height or to arrest the fall safely.
In the event of a fall, the protective equipment used must respond appropriately. During the fall, the accelerated movement acquired by the body under the action of gravity is directly related to the mass of the individual and the fall height.
Evaluating a PPE´s properties against risks of falls from a height
To ensure that the equipment is safe, it must be laboratory tested to assess its quality. The tests check the suitability of the equipment and its compliance with regulations and legislation. The selected personal protection equipment must comply with the test requirements established in the corresponding technical standards, which specify the characteristics and performance that the individual protection equipment must meet.
AITEX has the entire infrastructure to carry out all types of compliance testing to approve a PPE for falls from a height to European and American safety standards. The specially designed equipment for this purpose is the fall tower and the large capacity Dynamometer.
The fall tower
The facility is designed to conduct free or guided fall tests, and can reproduce a worker or climber falling from a certain height.
The fall tower infrastructure provides evaluation services, following the corresponding standard, of the following equipment types: harnesses, safety ropes (including self-retractable safety ropes), life ropes, impact dampers and energy absorbers, fall arresters and components or subsystems such as connectors, auxiliary ropes, belts, straps, pulleys and sleeves.
One of the main requirements of the standards is the dynamic test, in which a standardised test dummy equipped with the corresponding PPE is suspended by its attachment points, is raised to the determined height and released in free fall. The test measures its dynamic elongation (which is the deformation it suffers after the first fall), and the maximum impact force (what the wearer experiences in a fall).
The large-capacity dynamometer is used to perform static tests, to determine a system’s behaviour under stress.
A dynamometer is a device that uses a load cell that continuously records and analyses the data of each test over time. It allows a specimen to be subjected to an axial force to breaking, by elongation and compression, or to a series of cycles to observe fatigue behaviour under a known elongation and deformation loading and strength. The dynamometer also evaluates the compression of a material, and records the resistance of the material and how well it recovers and returns to its original state.
The equipment achieves breaking forces of up to 600-650kN (approximately 65,000 kg of force) in a test field of up to 7 meters, with a maximum diameter of 80 mm for ropes, to meet the current demands of our clients.
The equipment has two test areas and different sets of clamps: a roller system, pin system and large capacity hydraulic jaws with two types of jaws adaptable to the material to be tested, allowing us to test different types of materials.
AITEX is approved notified control body Number 0161 and has recently been approved as a UUIA Laboratory, (Union internationale Des Associations D’alpinism). The UUIA label certifies that UIAA requirements are met; this demonstrates that the tested product meets the relevant standards and is recommended for use by climbers.
AITEX is Spain’s only private laboratory with these facilities, and the ability to evaluate an item of PPE against falls from a height under the corresponding regulations.