Fall Protection in Masonry Buildings

Installed Crash Deck

Harnesses in conjunction with lanyard and/or inertia reels are a fall arrest system that serves to catch the operative after the fall in a masonry building.

When using harnesses for upper floor installations in a masonry building, it places  responsibility on the operative to ensure they are constantly connected to an appropriate anchor point. Each connection should be subject to its own risk assessment for stability, fall/swing radius, obstructions to name a few.

During floor installations, sometimes it requires the operatives to be beyond the leading edge and freedom of movement is essential to avoid associated risks. Fixed lanyards do not provide the operative with the required flexibility of movement.

If an operative were to fall whilst in a harness, there is a risk of suspension trauma. Especially if they are not recovered quickly.

In the precast industry they are widely used in stairwells, I believe this to be a reasonable application due to the inherent void for the stairs. Inertia reels can be used vertically from the crane hook block during stair installation. Giving freedom to the operative to access the stairwell. However, care should be taken to plan a safe method of escape from the working area should the need arise.

To be clear, there are instances in that fall arrest systems, including the above mentioned may be used but only if the prevention of the fall is unavoidable and the adverse risks have been competently assessed.

Common problems

  • Poor installation of Airbags that is unregulated or unaccredited
  • Poor maintenance of Airbags with no service history
  • As cheaper option it is preferred by main contractors
  • No protection of external windows or doors when using airbags
  • Fall protection of internal voids such as staircases are inadequate.


  • Safety decking
  • Pre-Start checks
  • FASET installers

“Employers and those in control of any work at height activity must make sure work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people. This includes using the right type of equipment for working at height.” This is the law as written by HSE in the work at height regulations 2005.

By the very nature of construction, buildings go up. Our responsibility is to prevent anything or anyone coming down dangerously.

As most will know, the hierarchy of risk control is firstly to eliminate the risk then to substitute the task for something safer, isolate the hazard from the people at risk, introduce controls to reduce the risk then finally as the last measure, protect the persons at risk from harm.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the operation, in the precast flooring industry we see too often that contractors and installers ignore the initial steps of risk assessment by going straight to protection of their workers by way of fall ‘arrest’ systems. These systems are designed to catch the operative rather than prevent the fall in the first place.


In my experience, airbags are rarely the safest choice when working at height and should never be used in steel frame buildings above ground floor level. Add the manual handling risks, potential for working below flooring installers and practical inability to protect the entire working area, we believe by risk assessment, airbags should be the last option utilized in masonry structures.

Airbags surrounding a vehicle are widely used in the industry to enable safe access to the flatbed delivery vehicle. If the space is available on site this does provide the crane and operative unobstructed overhead access to the precast units and mitigates other risks with harness and inertia systems.

Although I have seen some good examples of maintenance and inspection of airbag fall arrest, largely across the industry airbags are poorly maintained and, in some circumstances, rarely or never inspected or tested. Currently, there is also no Fall Arrest Safety Equipment Training recognized formal training or accreditation for the system installation.

PSS’ Solutions

We believe, that when installing precast floors, the safest way to eliminate the fall risk is to install a temporary platform below the working area, eliminating the risk of fall from height. This should cover the entire internal area of the building and be installed by trained and competent personnel.

At PSS, our preferred solution for upper floor installations within a masonry building is our platform decking system. This system is fast to erect and dismantle, it is subject to FASET approved guidelines for the inspection and maintenance of the equipment. Training is given to all operatives to ensure competence of personnel.

For your next project, how will you decide to protect your workers?

Take a look at our high quality precast concrete flooring to ensure the best results when working from heights.