Falls from height were the most common cause of workplace fatalities in 2011/12 with 17 fatalities and 3,067 major injuries reported and accounting for almost a quarter of all fatal injuries to workers. The Work at Height Regulations (2005) apply to all working at height situations where there is a risk of fall liable to cause personal injury. It requires every employer, so far as reasonably practicable, to provide sufficient work equipment to minimise the distance and limit injury if a fall does occur. The distance that a person can fall can be reduced with safety nets or fall arrest systems.
In working environments such as oil and gas refineries, search and rescue, large scale construction and industrial cleaning, a protective coverall may be required to protect the wearer from contamination and can be flame resistant to protect against heat and flame risks. Layering coveralls and harnesses can be risky, as it means the wearer must ensure the coveralls and harnesses are compatible, so extra training must be given and comfort could be compromised.
To combat these problems, Floeire, part of the Nomex® Partner Program, has designed and patented the new FallX fall arrest suit, a coverall made from DuPont™ Nomex® Comfort that combines a harness and a flame resistant coverall. The entire coverall is heat and flame resistant and is CE certified, removing the need for separate inspections, additional training and compliance worries. In addition to these properties the suit will also reduce the force of the fall, as the force is absorbed through the whole suit and not just the weight bearing points on a normal harness. The complete FallX fall arrest suit weighs approximately 1.5kg, compared to a conventional harness without a protective coverall, which weighs around 1.2kg. This lightweight solution helps reduce wearer fatigue and improve wearer compliance.
Nomex® Comfort fabric Ripstop fabric, made by Nomex® Partner Program weavers Sofileta, is an inherently flame resistant high temperature meta-aramid fabric that does not have any FR chemical treatments applied throughout the textile process. It does not melt or drip or support combustion in the air, so offers the wearer a high level of protection from the risks of heat and flame. After flame engulfment during testing, the suit also passed the drop test, further proving the reliability of the fabrics suitability and quality.
The FallX fall arrest suit offers the wearer a variety of benefits, with comfort, multi-compliance cost-effectiveness and ease of use being the key benefits. Due to the construction of the suit, it is comfortable and allows a freedom of movement not usually available when wearing a harness. As a result it can be worn all day, even when sitting down our crouching. Eamonn McCann, who helped develop the new suit explained, “Separate harnesses and coveralls worn together can be uncomfortable and necessitates the procurement of two fully compliant products, so we designed the FallX suit to make it so much easier for the wearer. The suits can be washed the same way regular coveralls are, helping to take some of the impurities such as dust and grime out of the webbing, something not possible with conventional harnesses. In general they are easier to use, easier to train on and easier to maintain.”
The coveralls offer added protection as the harness element is inside the coverall rather than on the outside. This means the webbing is protected from entanglement as well as exposure to normal day to day grime and dirt accumulations. This added protection is a welcomed benefit, as workers in small and confined environments can easily get stuck, accidentally hooked on or snagged, reducing the risk when working in tight or small environments. Inspection of the suits is also simplified compared to separate harnesses and coveralls. By opening up the suit you are able to check straps, joints, buckles and connection points before donning the suit.
Eamonn continued, “We met with companies in various industries to trial the suits to make sure that they would really make a difference. It has taken us ten years, from the first idea to the final product, but we are absolutely thrilled with the results”.
Elaina Harvey, Nomex® Account Manager at DuPont, commented “This is an innovative piece of kit and there is nothing else like this on the market. Wearers can feel confident that the suits they are wearing when working at height have been manufactured to the highest quality through companies with different expertises working together”.
Through the Nomex® Partner Programme all garments made using the Nomex® fibre must undergo rigorous testing to prove that the quality and performance exceeds the standard quality criteria. All certified Nomex® fabrics carry distinctive labels inside the garments so customers can ensure their garments are from a reputable supplier they can trust.