Owing to the prospect of construction and infrastructure projects in South Africa being rolled out, and with maintenance at completed projects ongoing, the demand for fall-protection gear, such as harnesses and accompanying accessories, is likely to increase, says personal protective equipment manufacturer MSA Africa former fall-protection products manager Emmanuel Manaka.
“Similar to the requirement of wearing hard hats at construction sites, it will become a standard for workers to wear harnesses as well,” he says, noting that the company has seen an increase in the number of workers wearing harnesses for fall protection at construction sites.
Manaka attributes this trend to increased stringent control and regulations from the Department of Labour and the South African Bureau of Standards with regard to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and full-body harness standards for employees working at heights, particularly owing to small fall incidents, as well as the construction incident in Meyersdal, Gauteng, which occurred earlier this year.
The incident involved the collapse of a house in Meyersdal Eco Estate near Alberton, in August. Seven workers were killed, while nine were hospitalised.
According to South African standards, including SANS 50365:2008 and companies’ code of practice, a person working above 1.8 m must wear a full-body harness. Despite these standards, many workers working at this specified height – and higher heights – currently do not wear harnesses, Manaka says.
“Nevertheless, if the law becomes more rigorous, fall-protection equipment supply will become a booming market.”
Further, companies and safety officers at construction sites are also increasingly demanding product certification and product inspection certification, as well as training certification, which Manaka says are all clear indica- tions of the rising awareness of the importance of fall-protection equipment.
He adds that MSA Africa has received several requests for these certifications from companies.
Manaka points out that not only are more stringent fall-protection requirements emerging but also new trends for the fall-protection-gear industry.
These include manufacturers reducing the weight of full-body harnesses using lighter material, but without comprising their strength and the quality of the stitching; harnesses being increasingly manufactured from Nomex and Kevlar materials, which are flame resistant and high strength, for the welding market, as opposed to the traditional nylon fabrics; and also efforts to manufacture harnesses that are suitable for women.
Manaka says the harnesses that are being manufactured to suit women are cross-chest harnesses and lighter in weight.
Other trends include the increasingly popular concept of customisation, as larger companies require uniquely designed harnesses that suit their precise specifications.