Fall Protection Basics

Written on Thursday, May 21, 2009

Each year, falls consistently account for the greatest number of fatalities in the construction industry, and are always a major concern in other industries.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has specific regulations for employers whose workers are in danger of injury from falls on the jobsite. When a worker is exposed to a potential fall of 6 feet or greater, the employer must select either a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system to protect the worker from a fall.

Personal Fall Arrest Systems

A Personal Fall Arrest System is made up of 3 key components: an anchorage connector; body wear; and a connecting device.

The Anchorage is commonly referred to as a tie-off point (Ex: I-beam, rebar, scaffolding, lifeline, etc.). The Anchorage Connector is used to join the connecting device to the anchorage (Ex: cross-arm strap, beam anchor, D-bolt, hook anchor, etc.).

Anchorages must be capable of supporting 5,000 pounds (22kN) of force per worker and must be high enough for a worker to avoid contact with a lower level should a fall occur. The anchorage connector should be positioned to avoid a “swing fall.”

Body Wear is the actual personal protective equipment worn by the worker (Ex: full-body harness).

The only form of body wear acceptable for fall arrest is the full-body harness. Body wear should be selected based on work to be performed and the work environment. Side and front D-rings are for positioning only.

The Connecting Device is the critical link which joins the body wear to the anchorage/anchorage connector (Ex: shock-absorbing lanyard, fall limiter, self-retracting lifeline, rope grab, etc.).

Potential fall distance must be calculated to determine type of connecting device to be used – typically, under 18-1/2 ft. (5.6m), always use a self-retracting lifeline/fall limiter; over 18-1/2 ft. (5.6m), use a shock-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lifeline/fall limiter. The connecting device should also be selected based on work to be performed and the work environment. Shock-absorbing lanyards can expand up to 3-1/2 ft. (1.1m) when arresting a fall; attach lanyards to the harness back D-ring only; never tie a knot in any web lanyard – it reduces the strength by 50%.

(Source: MillerFallProtection.com)

Written by: Carissa Kelley

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