No fall protection equipment — regardless of how effective — can save an employee unless it is correctly selected for the job application and used properly.
There are two OSHA standards that regulate 29 CFR 1926.502 (Fall Protection in Construction) and 29 CFR 1910.66 Appendix C (Fall Protection in General Industry). Keep in mind either standard can be applied depending on the type of work being performed. There are three basic jobs that require fall protection: restraint, positioning and fall arrest. To perform these jobs safely the worker must know the correct anchors, body wear and connecting devices to use.
A- Anchor point or anchor connector: The anchor point is the strong heavy component that the anchor connectors would be bolted, wrapped, screwed or fastened to. It must support the forces generated in a worker fall. Recommended guidance for these forces are 1,000 lb. for restraint, 3,000 lb. for positioning and 5,000 lb. for fall arrest.
B- Body wear: This is the webbing or belts that fasten to the worker’s body. The job application determines if the user needs a body belt, positioning belt, restraint belt or full-body harness. The full-body harness is the preferred and recommended body wear for warehousing and manufacturing applications.
C- Connecting device or connecting means: This connects Part A (anchor) to Part B (body wear) and consists of a family of either lanyards or self-retracting devices. Lanyards can come in various lengths, the most popular being 3-ft. and 6-ft. For restraint and positioning there is no energy-absorbing capability. For fall arrest there must be some type of absorbing section, either internal or pack-type. Self-retracting lifelines or lanyards are automatic tensioning lines that pay out and retract at a certain speed and lock or brake when the speed is exceeded. These units are usually 6 ft. to 20 ft. for the shorter, smaller units and up to 200 ft. for the longer ones.
Self-retracting lanyards or lifelines have become very popular the last few years. With the development of the smaller units it gives the user the capability of wearing them on his/her back, and depending on hook type can be connected to the anchor connector or choked (wrapped) back onto itself. This eliminates some of the anchor’s connectors that may be used. We see more workers going to the self-retracting units to achieve more flexibility in performing their jobs.
Workers are only as safe as the equipment they are using and their training level in understanding how to use it. 29 CFR 1926.502(d)(21) (Fall Protection in Construction) states “personal fall-arrest systems shall be inspected prior to each use for wear, damage, and other deterioration, and defective components shall be removed from service.”
R - Retrieval or Rescue: Preplanning for retrieval or rescue in the event of a fall or distressed worker should be taken into consideration when developing a proactive fall-management program.
Training for workers is paramount for them to understand when, what, how and why to use fall-protection equipment. The best equipment on the market won’t help the worker if they fall and the equipment wasn’t engineered, designed and tested to perform the work, and deployed and used properly. There are three levels of workers using fall protection in the workplace, authorized, competent and qualified; each must understand their role when fall protection is being used.
Workers need to identify which job application they will be performing and match the appropriate equipment to correctly assemble their A-B-Cs to safely preform the job task. Items that must be in place for a safe fall-protection program include: proper job-safety analysis of each job, a written fall-protection plan with retrieval procedures, proper worker training on pre-use and proper use of equipment, and yearly audits of workers utilizing fall protection.
A free webinar on this topic occurs Nov. 12 at 2 p.m. Eastern (tinyurl.com/qblltgd).
Author bio: John Eckel, CSP, CET, CFPS, CHM, is senior technical training specialist at Miller Fall Protection and Honeywell Safety Products in Franklin, Pa.