A manufacturer of fall protection equipment, 3M Fall Protection, formerly Capital Safety, has worked with the Union of Water and Sanitation Alsace Moselle in France (Syndicat des Eaux et de l’Assainissement – SDEA) to improve its approach to working at height and in confined spaces. The partnership is the result of a regional campaign to improve safety across all of its water treatment sites. Following the success of a pilot implementation in Dettwiller, Bas Rhin, SDEA is now rolling out the new strategy across its 116 sites in France alongside installer Alpinistes du Bâtiment.
The Union of Water and Sanitation Alsace-Moselle (SDEA) is a specialised wastewater-purification organisation in France responsible for the drinking water and the treatment of waste water for more than 500 towns across the area.
The operating facilities at each SDEA facility consists of buildings and technical infrastructure of considerable height and depth. Safe access is required to these locations when operating, maintenance and repair work is to be carried out. While some of the work areas were already equipped with collective and individual protection systems, there was a lack of consistency and action procedures across the sites as a whole.
A consultative approach
Raphael Voegelin, Quality, Safety Environment and Sustainability Manager at SDEA, addressed the situation as part of a company-wide initiative to improve the safety of any work areas that were not properly equipped for workers who worked at height or in confined spaces.
Initially, 3M Fall Protection’s demo-van was invited to visit the SDEA facility as part of a Safety Day. The demo-van is part of the company’s fleet of specialised vehicles that bring on-site, hands-on fall protection demonstrations to the workforce. The mobile drop test unit enabled SDEA workers to see the effects of falls from height as well as familiarising themselves with the arresting forces they may experience during a fall.
Following the visit, SDEA asked 3M Fall Proetction’s experts to carry out a full audit into its safety procedures and provide a tailored, integrated solution which complies with regulatory requirements and best practice. The process was carried out in three phases, the first being an audit of the existing situation followed by an analysis with short- and long-term recommendations, and then a presentation of the report to the SDEA management team. This visit showcased 3M Fall Protection’s knowledge and expertise which led to the opportunity to work further with the organisation, supporting its campaign for safety when working at height and in confined spaces.
Creating a safer culture
In order to create a safer culture at SDEA, employees attended the 3M Fall Protection ITFH training centre in Paris, where training was provided on the products needed for their applications and ways in which they could create a professional training centre inside SDEA. 3M Fall Protection suggested the creation of an internal training facility at the Dettwiller sewage plant. For this, 3M Fall Protection trained employees on how to deliver effective training on working in confined spaces and at height. A second training day was then carried out with the SDEA management team as part of the first installation of equipment. During this session, employees were trained on the different types of equipment that could be used for each application in order to make their work place safer.
One example of where 3M Fall Protection improved operations for SDEA is in the fat processing area of the facility where an area which was not completely secure was identified.
Recommendations were made in the short term to lay a provisional anchoring system and to secure all of the ladders being used (why was it needed, what problem was this system solving?). In the long term, SDEA will implement a training plan along with the purchase of provisional anchoring equipment. Supporting the installation was professional steeplejack company, Alpinistes du Bâtiment.
Raphael Voegelin said: “We chose 3M Fall Protection for this major project as they provide an expert approach to working at height. They have a wide range of products and high-quality solutions for every stage of the journey, which has changed the way we work for the better. We were particularly impressed by their technical ability throughout the many steps involved in overhauling a health & safety strategy of this scale. 3M Fall Protection was professional at every level and continue to act as our partner for working at height.”
Dany Halleux, Sales Manager North / East of France for 3M Fall Protection, added: “This project is a prime example of the consultative approach that we can provide to customers. As a innovative company our main goal is to bring every worker at height home safely. We are proud to have been associated with SDEA in ensuring that its facilities are aligned with the strong safety culture of the union itself.”