From user information on obligations and responsibilities, to knowledge training, the correct design of anchorage devices, competence with respect to legislative and regulatory obligations, and the ability to elaborate and execute specific services, Giancarlo Vitali raises some alarm bells. He is president of Linea Vita by COMED Srl, a Bergamo-based company specialising in high-elevation fall protection systems and the first Italian business to register a trademark aimed at protecting high-elevation workers.
“It is not a question of business. Prevention and protection in high-elevation work play out across the fields of information and training to save human lives. Promoting a new culture of safety is what is required.” This is the challenge that Giancarlo Vitali has carried forward for over 20 years as president of Linea Vita by COMED Srl, a Bergamo-based company specialising in high-elevation fall protection systems. He is also Deputy President of the AIAS APC-High-Elevation Work Association (APC-Lavori in quota), which promotes workplace safety.
What does ‘Linea Vita’ or ‘lifeline’ mean?
“The term emerged in northern Europe in the nineties, especially in France. Initially, lifelines were applied in the sports world and leisure activities as ‘safety anchors’ used during rope courses. They later entered the world of work as an actual security system.”
Did lifelines change when going from sports to construction applications?
“Today, my company is the leader in this sector in Italy and a lifeline is no longer just a structural anchorage device supplied to a work site. In fact, a ‘Linea Vita’ is defined as an on-top safety system which is permanently placed on an upper structure as a means of preventing and protecting workers from high-elevation falls. Within these systems, there are permanent structural anchorage devices, but also parapets, staircases, skylights, specialised structures, walkways, and barriers.
The company was the first in Italy to address lifelines by registering a trademark for them.
“The term ‘Linea Vita’ was introduced in 1996 and later registered by COMED as a trademark. At that time, the local health authority (ASL) and Territorial Joint Committee (CPT or Comitato Paritetico Territoriale) of Bergamo wanted to come up with a solution for avoiding high-elevation falls which had become numerous and frequent during roof maintenance activities.”
The use of lifelines as a deterrent…
“High-elevation falls and deaths are the first cause of accidents in construction. The national average indicates that one in three workers die as a result of falling from an elevation.”
What are the obligations within the legislative framework?
“In some regions, legislative measures have been taken to counteract this phenomenon. They involve adopting technical regulations which have different scopes of application but essentially require that the upper structures of all buildings, whether new or existing, be made safe for maintenance workers using the appropriate fixed safety devices.”
Do rules vary from region to region?
“Regional technical regulations impose more stringent measures than the Italian Legislative Degree 81/08 SMI since regions can legislate independently on safety matters. The problem is that regional regulations differ since they are of a regional, sub-national nature. Meanwhile, technical standards are updated through a series of publications and changes which apply equally to all.”
Does the objective remain to make safety measures more effective?
“The assumption is that a ‘Linea Vita’ must always meet the current technical standards or, in any case, be subject to specific design, installation and commissioning factors. Often, however, compliance with regional regulations, which provide for sometimes controversial performance and content components, creates a series of misinterpretations and equivocal and unclear terms and definitions. This can lead to the creation of non-compliant and unsafe systems.”
Does this create confusion within the market?
“Yes. This is because we create commercial conditions where a so-called certified system is supplied to a client or end-user which, in fact, should not be used at all. With the documentation relating to the project and the certification of anchorages, it is obligatory, necessary and essential to develop precise indications on how to use systems and provide them in a way that gives employees operational safety information.”
So, training also plays a key role then?
“To make an anti-fall system most effective, it is always necessary that high-elevation workers have specific skills, training and practice in using systems. Today, however, there are too many non-accredited entities doing unauthorised training.”
Do you think it is necessary to re-educate the market by bringing the importance of the design phase to the foreground?
“It is necessary to rely on qualified technical professionals with specific certified skills. Today, in fact, it has become a common practice to apply directly to installers for a ‘Linea Vita’ project. This omits the important design phase in which professionals with specific expertise develop the right solutions, verify that regulations are met at all steps, and respond by issuing a specific certification of compliance.”
And what about the customer’s responsibilities?
“It is necessary to inform customers with regard to their need to exercise care in judging responsibility during the decision-making phase, in management issues and in directing workplace safety. Legislative Degree 81/08 SMI outlines their specific obligations and the client remains the primary person who has to take responsibility for employee health and safety issues during work time. Under the Decree, the client needs to assume responsibility for 19 items with penal consequences that are related to safety.”
Is there too little attention paid to this issue or is it too superficially addressed?
“Things can get confused. Obligations may be stressed to a client rather than the need or, better yet, advantages, including tax ones, that might result by supplying a work site with a permanent safety system for protecting workers at high-elevation and the client as well if they need to go up. It is also commonplace to pay attention only to economic aspects.”
What are the major points of criticism?
“90% of these cases are related to the installation of anchoring devices with a non-compliant technical dossier, the failure to verify the anchorage using a qualified technician, and an installation carried out by installers without the specific expertise. Also, there can be a lack of elaboration in the technical query sheet which is attached to the dossier and the characteristics of the work are often missing. Even without taking into account a lack of elaboration for an operative safety project, there is also the fact that clients are often not issued a regulation technical certification on project compliance signed by a qualified technician.”
How can a breakthrough be made in the industry?
“We have put in place a network of companies at the national level which bring together skills and professionalism. The APC High-Elevation Work Association for Specialized Training (Associazione di formazione specialistica APC Lavori in quota), at the AIAS Academy, provides tools, guidelines and handbooks for the various figures involved, from the client to the designer, worker, and building administrator.”
FIND OUT MORE
Read also Linea Vita by COMED Srl: “Safe, effective and compliant systems for saving lives.”
Visit the Linea Vita website by COMED