OHS Code Explanation Guide

Published Date: July 01, 2009
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Part 22 Safeguards

Section 320 Safety nets

The term “safety net” includes both personnel and debris nets. Personnel nets are designed to safely catch workers who fall from a height; debris nets are designed to catch small, lightweight debris, tools, building materials, and other materials that might be dropped, pushed, knocked off or blown from a structure.

Personnel nets are made of a variety of natural and synthetic materials. Ropes or strips are used to produce webbing that is strong enough to withstand the force of a person falling, and a mesh size small enough to minimize personal injury.

The mesh size of debris nets depends on the application. These nets are available in many sizes and strengths depending on the size and weight of the debris to be contained. Safety nets for debris can provide overhead protection in cases where workers are required to work beneath an area exposed to falling debris. In general, safety nets tend to be most commonly used by the construction industry.

ANSI Standard A10.11-1989 (R1998), Construction and Demolition Operations – Personnel and Debris Nets, establishes safety requirements for the selection, installation, and use of personnel and debris nets during construction, repair, and demolition operations. The standard allows nets to be made of natural e.g. manila, sisal, hemp, etc. or synthetic fibres. Procedures to be used by manufacturers during the testing of their products for compliance with the standard are also described.

To meet the requirements of the Standard, personnel nets must be permanently labelled with the following information:

(a) name of manufacturer;
(b) identification of net material;
(c) date of manufacture;
(d) date of prototype test;
(e) name of testing agency; and
(f) serial number.

The Standard does not require debris nets to be labelled.

The ultimate strength of safety hooks and shackles is specified in subsection (2) to ensure that hooks and shackles are sufficiently strong. Connections or joints between safety net panels must be as strong as the net panels themselves. Safety nets should be installed as close as practicable under the walking or working surface on which workers are walking or working, and never more than 6 metres below that surface. Safety nets must be installed with sufficient clearance underneath to prevent contact with the surface or structure below (see Figure 22.22).

Figure 22.22 Example of safety net in use

Out of necessity, safety nets are often secured to some type of supporting structure. As a result, a professional engineer must certify any structure to which a personnel safety net is attached. The certification must indicate that the structure is capable of withstanding any load the net is likely to impose on it e.g. depending on the circumstances of the work site, one or more tool-laden workers falling the maximum distance of 6 metres.