For people working at heights, Personal Protective Equipment against falls is absolutely essential. Regular inspections are also required to ensure that your equipment remains functional over the long term. There are qualified people to do this, such as Eric Cooper, one of our experts in the service centre.

Millimetre by millimetre and with total concentration, Eric Cooper lets a harness slide through his fingers. The harness was sent in by someone who cleans the exterior of buildings and wears it just about every day. Eric is dealing with the harness at our company headquarters in Neuwied, where he is inspecting the article, which as part of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) may prevent a fatal accident in the event of a fall. Eric checks carefully for any damage to the straps, fittings or seams. If a harness is worn out, it can rip – which would mean that a fall could be fatal.

Eric worked as a carpenter, scaffolder and roof cleaner before joining SKYLOTEC in 2011. “I know all about the danger of heights,” he says, whilst checking for rust on the metal parts and any traces of fire. He knows from his previous job how important it is to have fully functional equipment. And as a service technician working for us in Neuwied, he is now responsible for ensuring that people working on roofs, wind turbines or in machine maintenance can rely on their equipment at all times. Eric hasn’t found anything wrong with the building cleaner’s harness. He enters this in a detailed report and signs it. “We sign off safety with our own names,” says Eric.

Experts with routine: qualified in PPE

When he says “we”, he means the four-strong team in the service centre, which Eric has been managing for four years. All kinds of products are sent to him and his team at SKYLOTEC on a daily basis from individuals or companies all over the world. These include harnesses, ropes and fasteners and rescue and abseiling devices. By law, this kind of equipment must be inspected at least once a year. This is the only way of guaranteeing that the PPE remains fully functional over time. Is it OK to continue using a harness that’s showing signs of use? Is it still safe to use ropes or fasteners in their current condition? Questions like these can only be answered reliably and competently by professionals. That’s why experts like Eric Cooper, who are qualified in PPE and have many years of experience, work in our service centre.

Since SKYLOTEC offers a wide range of products for just about every area of application, the items to be inspected vary a great deal from one delivery to the next, as do the details that the team of service technicians needs to assess. That’s why Eric believes that discussions between the specialists are absolutely essential: “We work very well together as a team. If I’m not sure if it’s safe to continue using a harness, for example, I can rely one hundred percent on the advice of a colleague.” There is a huge amount of combined knowledge in his team, as some of the service technicians have been working for SKYLOTEC for ten or even twenty years.

The four-eyes principle and good intuition

“We receive several tonnes of goods for compulsory inspections every year. This means that we have developed a watchful eye and good intuition as to whether the equipment is still usable,” says Eric. But they also can’t do without the four-eyes principle. This means that the products are not just subjected to a visual inspection. “Hardware such as rescue devices are also opened up so that we can check them in detail,” the service technician explains. If the articles are still suitable for use, we send them back to our customers. If they are damaged, on the other hand, the customer is sent a repair estimate. However, products often need to be replaced completely because they are too badly damaged or are worn out.

Variety and excitement

Along with his colleagues, Eric doesn’t just work at the company headquarters in Neuwied. When necessary, the service technicians also travel to visit our customers and carry out the inspection on site. This ensures some variety in their jobs, which is important to Eric: “Mr Rinklake, our boss, once asked me what my job needed to be like for me to enjoy working at SKYLOTEC. I replied that I should never be allowed to get bored.” And that has never happened so far. When he is checking products, reassembling them or advising customers, he is constantly having new experiences. “We are always developing new ideas for how we can improve things. That’s another challenge that makes this job exciting,” says Eric as he picks up the next harness waiting for its annual inspection…

Expert training course

Did you know? Inspections don’t have to be carried out by a manufacturer. If you want to carry out regular PPE inspections in your own company, you can take a training course for a qualification in PPE in accordance with DGUV 312-906 (previously BGG 906). Over the course of a two-day seminar, you will learn, for example, how to detect damage to harnesses or fasteners and how to assess whether equipment is fit for purpose. Find out more about these training courses on our website.

Replacement limit

Even if it is stored and cared for in the best conditions and inspected regularly, PPE can only be used for a certain amount of time. According to the recommendations specified by the DGUV 112-198 regulation, the maximum service life or “replacement limit” is as follows: harnesses should no longer be used after a maximum of eight years, ropes and fasteners after a maximum of six years. In the event of a fall, PPE must be replaced immediately.