There is always a possibility that workers will have to change over or cross over between various systems to complete their tasks while working at heights. It is vital that these two manoeuvres are performed safely.

As per the European Standard EN 636 “Personal fall arrest systems”, there are a variety of systems that can be used to work at height. These systems include restraint systems, work positioning systems, rope access systems, fall arrest systems, and rescue systems.

Changing over between systems involves disconnecting from one system and reconnecting to another. A typical scenario of this might involve climbing a fixed ladder. When reaching the top, the worker would need to disconnect from the vertical lifeline system, for example, and connect onto a horizontal lifeline system to safely continue to their location of work, situated away from the ladder.

Crossing over on a lifeline system means passing over an anchor point or obstruction somewhere on the system. A typical scenario involves a worker moving along a horizontal lifeline system that comes into contact with an intermediate anchor point, where this point prevents the hooks on the shock absorbing lanyard connected to the worker’s harness from moving along the lifeline. In this instance, the worker would need to disconnect their lanyard hooks from the current anchor point and reconnect them beyond the intermediate anchor to be able to continue moving along the horizontal lifeline.

In both scenarios, it is imperative to remember that the worker should never completely disconnect from one system, or anchor point on that system, until they are safely connected to the next system or anchor point. For this reason, it is recommendable that workers should use a double-legged shock absorbing lanyard in these or similar scenarios.

Here’s a practical step-by-step explanation of a possible changing over scenario using a double-legged shock absorbing lanyard on a fixed ladder: The worker must firstly connect the double-legged lanyard to the fixed ladder and climb up safely. When reaching the top, the worker must position themselves with a work positioning lanyard so that their hands are free to safely perform the change-over.

The worker must then disconnect one of the legs of their double-legged lanyard and connect it to the horizontal lifeline. At this stage, the worker would be connected to two different fall arrest systems simultaneously: the ladder and the horizontal lifeline.

Once safely connected to the horizontal lifeline, the worker can disconnect their remaining lanyard leg from the fixed ladder and connect it to the horizontal lifeline. With both legs of the lanyard safely connected to the lifeline, the worker is safe to disconnect their work-positioning lanyard from the ladder and connect it to the side D-ring of their harness. Free from the ladder and safely connected to the horizontal lifeline by both legs of the double lanyard, the worker is able to proceed safely to their area of work.

A practical step-by-step explanation of a possible crossing over scenario is as follows: There may come a time, when connected to a horizontal lifeline, that a worker encounters an intermediate anchor point or points preventing the hooks on their lanyard from continuing to move along the lifeline. At this stage, the worker must disconnect one of the legs of their double-legged shock absorbing lanyard and reconnect it to the lifeline on the other side of the intermediate anchor point

Only once the reconnection of the leg has been safely secured should the worker start to disconnect the second leg of their lanyard and move it to the other side of the intermediate anchor point to join the lanyard’s first leg.

Once both legs of the lanyard have crossed over the obstruction and are securely connected, the worker can continue moving along the lifeline.

DOUBLE LANYARD VS SINGLE LANYARD

When choosing the suitable lanyard to work safely at heights, one must consider the assembly of the fall arrest system being used.

A single-legged lanyard cannot be used when the worker has to disconnect and reconnect to various static anchor points along the route, or when there are intermediates in the system that need to be crossed over.

A single legged lanyard CAN be used:

• When changing over from a vertical lifeline (via a mobile fall arrestor) to a horizontal lifeline, provided the worker stays connected to one anchor point at all times and the ensuing route is suitable for a single lanyard (i.e., it does not feature intermediate anchor points or obstructions).

• In a restraint situation where the static anchor point and the lanyard restrict the worker’s movements in reaching the fall risk area, such as routine maintenance on rooftops and gutter cleaning where the worker needs to reach the edge of the roof.

• When the movement along the horizontal lifeline is continuous and uninterrupted by intermediate anchor points.

When a worker is placed in a situation where there is the potential for them to fall from a height, their lanyard must feature a shock absorbing element, as this helps to reduce the forces exerted on the body if a fall does occur and is potentially lifesaving.