The Ins and Outs of PPE Inspection

In the rope access industry, we live and breathe safety. It’s at the core of all we do and, as we rely so much on our equipment to keep us safe, we know how critical regular inspections of our harnesses, karabiners and ropes are.

However, rope access technicians are not the only people who work at height and though the methods of access may differ slightly between trades, the access equipment used will all share the same principles and will be required to conform to similar standards. With that in mind, it doesn’t matter if you climb masts and pylons, fit satellite dishes to buildings, use ladders or erect scaffolding, if your using Work at Height PPE for the job that you do, then it is legally required to be covered by a regular inspection regime.

What needs to be inspected?

The PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) at Work Regulations 1992 require employers to ensure that all fall arrest equipment is maintained in good working order and to replace it when required. This means that if you employ anyone to work at height, you are responsible for ensuring that their equipment is in safe working condition.

The Work at Height regulations of 2005 further strengthen the requirements by adding that equipment must be inspected at suitable intervals and after every situation in which exceptional circumstances may have damaged the equipment.

All PPE for working at height is subject to inspection – fall arrest harnesses, lanyards, ropes, ascending and descending devices, connectors, anchor lines, etc.

How often should inspections take place?

There are three types of inspection that PPE should be subjected to:

  • Pre-use inspection
  • Detailed inspections
  • Interim inspections

The regulations state that these inspections must be carried out by a competent person, and they must have the authority to reject equipment which does not pass the checks.

The pre-use inspection should take place, naturally enough, before every use of the equipment. A visual check for damage, and where appropriate, a functional check of equipment such as ascending and descending devices, connectors, buckles, anchor lines and fall arresters should be conducted in good light and should take several minutes to complete. In the world of rope access this will usually be undertaken by the rope access technician using the equipment and may be backed up by a further check from their Level 3 supervisor.


A detailed inspection should be done by an impartial person, and Aspect3sixty are fully certified, accredited and experienced to offer such an inspection service. During the thorough and detailed inspection, the equipment will be subject to the requirements of BS EN 365: 2004, or for equipment used in arduous conditions those set out in BS 8437: 2005 and INDG367.

Under normal wear and tear BS EN 365:2004 recommends that equipment be inspected every 12 months. Equipment used in construction and demolition, where greater damage could occur, should be checked every 3 or 6 months.

An interim inspection, again by an impartial inspector, should be undertaken if the equipment is used in unusually detrimental conditions, for example, unexpected sharp edges or potential chemical contamination.

Who needs to perform inspections?

Anyone using PPE to work at height must inspect their equipment and have it independently assessed on a regular schedule. The regulations make no allowance for the size of business. So even if you only have minimal PPE for working at height you are still as required to perform checks before use and arrange for the equipment to be checked for wear and tear as much as a huge construction company that owns hundreds of fall arrest harnesses for employee use needs to.

Further information

If you would like any advice on the legal inspection requirements of your companies Work at Height PPE or if you would like to discuss how rope access could be the answer to your access requirements, then please get in touch with us at