Sourced from 3M and OSHA.gov
According to OSHA, Fall Protection was the number one most cited OSHA violation in 2021. Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that 5,333 workers died on the job in 2019 (3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers) - on average, more than 100 a week or about 15 deaths every day. About 20% (1,061) of worker fatalities in the private industry in 2019 were in construction - accounting for one in five worker deaths for the year.
OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry, and eight feet in longshoring operations. In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.
Personal fall arrest systems play a critical role in the safety of workers and consist of anchorage, connectors, a body belt or body harness, and may include a lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline, or suitable combinations of these.
A connector is the crucial link between the worker's harness and the anchorage point connection. The type of connector needed will vary depending on whether the worker needs the connection of a personal fall arrest or positioning and travel restriction. A personal fall arrest connector is often a shock-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lifeline equipped with an energy-absorbing element to reduce the force transmitted to the user's body in the event of a fall. A positioning and travel restriction connector is usually a lanyard intended to minimize the potential of entering a fall hazard zone or free-falling from a distance of less than 2 feet.
Types of Connectors
Lanyards can come in the form of positioning lanyards, which control where a worker can go to keep them from hazards, or shock-absorbing lanyards that contain an energy-absorbing unit to limit fall arrest forces experienced by a worker during a fall.
Self-Retracting Lifelines (SRLs) retain tension on the lifeline at all times, staying out of the worker's way while providing safety. This helps shorten the fall distance, minimize trip hazards, and offer greater mobility and maneuverability, which may help increase productivity. Lengths range from 6 to 175 feet.
Vertical Lifeline Systems allow for safety, mobility, and productivity in vertical climbing environments. They include rope grabs and cable-based ladder safety systems and can be portable or permanent, mobile or manual, assisted or non-assisted.
Choosing Between Shock-Absorbing Lanyards and SRLs and Understanding Features
When choosing a connecting device such as a lanyard or self-retracting lifeline, it's important to consider the conditions of your work environment. Getting the best use of a connecting device depends on selecting the right product for the application and the environment.
Fall Clearance: More than 17.5 feet
An energy-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lifeline can be used. A Competent Person must be involved in determining adequate safe working clearances and are responsible for selecting the appropriate PPE.
Fall Clearance: Less than 17.5 feet
If less clearance is present, the use of a self-retracting lifeline is recommended. A Competent Person must be involved in determining adequate safe working clearances and are responsible for selecting the appropriate PPE.
Lanyard or Lifeline Material
Web material is appropriate for general applications indoors or in less-harsh environments. For extremely harsh environments, cable or Kevlar®/Nomex® fiber web offers extra durability and is generally more suitable for abrasive or high-heat situations.
Single-leg or Twin-leg Configurations
Single leg styles are suitable for a single anchor point connection to work within a specific range of movement. A twin-leg style offers a protective connection as the worker moves from one anchor point to the next for 100% tie-off.
Check Out Our Video Regading The Fall Clearances Associated With SRLs and Lanyards
Choosing A Vertical System and Components
Vertical environments require specialized systems selected for the specific application. Permanent systems need to stand up to the elements for extended periods of time and require corrosion-resistant galvanized or stainless steel construction. Temporary systems are often synthetic, making them lightweight and easy to move from one location to another.
Flexible Cable Ladder Safety System
A permanent vertical fall protection system for often accessed structures such as ladders, towers, or tanks allows the worker to move up and down the entire height of the system. A sleeve connects the worker to the system and locks onto the cable in the event of a fall, allowing the user to regain their footing.
Rigid Rail Ladder Safety System
Consists of top and bottom entry/exit gates, rail joints, and multiple mounting bracket options designed to mount the rigid aluminum rail to the structure. A shuttle connects the worker to the system and locks onto the rail in the event of a fall, allowing the user to regain their footing.
Climb Assist Ladder Systems
Extremely tall or lengthy structures can be more easily accessed with an assisted system, which provides weight relief to reduce worker fatigue and improve climbing longevity. Various systems are available for both inside (wind turbine) and outside (oil rig) applications for added versatility.
Cable and Synthetic Rope Grabs
Portable systems allow the user to move up and down the entire height of the lifeline without disconnecting and having to find new tie-off points along the way. All-purpose synthetic type systems are standard, while wire rope cable systems are for harsh environments. Mobile systems that automatically follow the user and manual systems that the user must fix in place for positioning or restraint are available.
Blended rope lifeline assemblies feature additional abrasion and UV resistance for added durability, longevity, and safety. Wire rope (cable) lifelines are also available for harsh environments. Various styles and lengths are available to suit any need.
Winch/SRL Anchor Type Ladder Safety System
Ladder-mounted masts and posts are ideal for manhole entry and retrieval applications where a permanent fixed ladder exists. These systems attach to the underground ladder and provide an anchorage point for a winch or 3-way self-retracting lifeline.
ANSI Z359.14 Self-Retracting Devices Standard
On June 17, 2021, the American National Standard for the Safety Requirements for Self-Retracting Devices (SRDs) was approved with an effective date of February 1, 2023.
After February 1, 2023, SRD manufacturers will be required to conform to this latest revision of the ANSI/ASSP Z359.14 standard document. The requirements of this revised standard supersede any corresponding requirements in ANSI/ASSP Z359.14-2014, ANSI/ASSP Z359.1, ANSI/ASSP Z359.3, and ANSI/ASSP Z359.4 American National Standards.
All SRD products manufactured after February 1, 2023, and claiming compliance to ANSI/ASSP Z359.14-2021 will be required to conform to the most current revision of the document. Products manufactured to previous revisions of the ANSI Z359.14 standard may continue to be used as long as the product continues to meet the inspection requirements as defined by the manufacturer and conducted at the recommended intervals by a Competent Person.
General Tips to Help Reduce the Risks Associated with Working at Height
- Ensure your health and physical condition allow you to safely withstand all of the forces associated with working at height. Consult with your doctor if you have any questions regarding your ability to use this equipment.
- Never exceed the allowable capacity of your fall protection equipment.
- Never exceed the maximum free fall distance of your fall protection equipment.
- Do not use any fall protection equipment that fails pre-use or other scheduled inspections, or if you have concerns about the use or suitability of the equipment for your application.
- Some subsystem and component combinations may interfere with the operation of this equipment. Only use compatible connections.
- Use extra precautions when working around moving machinery, electrical hazards, extreme temperatures, chemical hazards, explosive or toxic gases, sharp edges, or below overhead materials that could fall onto you or your fall protection equipment.
- Use arc flash or hot works devices when working in high-heat environments.
- Avoid surfaces and objects that can damage the user or equipment.
- Ensure there is adequate fall clearance when working at height.
- Never modify or alter your fall protection equipment.
- Prior to using fall protection equipment, ensure a rescue plan is in place that allows for prompt rescue if a fall incident occurs.
- If a fall incident occurs, immediately seek medical attention for the worker who has fallen.
- Do not use a body belt for fall arrest applications. Use only a full-body harness.
- Minimize swing falls by working as directly below the anchorage point as possible.
- Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment when installing, using, or inspecting the device/system.
At ABATIX, we offer a comprehensive selection of 3M Fall Arrest Connectors and Fall Protection equipment. You can always rely on our team of knowledgeable reps to help you make the most informed decisions. Contact your local ABATIX rep today.