How to Ensure Workplace Safety with Fall Protection Equipment

How to Ensure Workplace Safety with Fall Protection Equipment

By Seth Skydel

Protecting workers from safety and health hazards on the job is undoubtedly a primary focus in your operation. It’s also likely you have implemented policies, programs, and practices that promote injury prevention, employee safety and overall workplace wellness.

Central to those efforts in crane and construction operations is an understanding of the ANSI/ASSP Z359.1-2020 Fall Protection Code that specifies minimum guidelines for a managed fall protection program.

The standard also establishes roles for personnel defined in code sections in the ANSI/ASSP Z359 series.

In place since the early 1990’s, ANSI/ASSP Z359 has been expanded substantially. Today, there are standards for fall protection equipment, training, and other compliance concerns.

The Fall Protection Code standards address program management, system design, training, qualification and testing, and equipment for the processes used to protect personnel working at height in a managed fall protection program. The code addresses several types of systems, including fall restraint systems, work positioning systems, rope access systems, fall arrest systems, and rescue systems. 

Fall protection equipment suppliers can be instrumental in helping you adhere to ANSI/ASSP Z359 standards. 

For example, Elk River defines the different classifications of full body harness systems:

Class A Fall Arrest: Class A full body harnesses are designed to support the body during and after the arrest of a fall with a single dorsal D‐ring on the back that connects a fall arrest lanyard or other fall arrest component.

Class D Suspension: Class D full body harnesses are designed for suspension or controlled descent from a height, with an abdominal D‐ring that can be attached to a descent system or work positioning system.

Class E Retrieval: Class E full body harnesses are designed with shoulder‐mounted D‐rings that support the worker in a position that reduces the worker’s profile during passage through a limited access area.

Class L Ladder Climbing: Class L full body harnesses are designed with a sternal D‐ring so that the user can be connected at front while avoiding a long connection to the dorsal D‐ring. These systems are typically mounted on or adjacent to ladders or towers.

Class P Positioning: Class P full body harnesses are designed to position the worker during a work operation with side positioning D-rings at the hip position.

Class R Arc Resistant: Class R full body harnesses are designed to provide protection for workers who could be exposed to thermal hazards of momentary electric arc or flame.

A legal personal fall arrest system consists of at least four components, including a full body harness, an energy absorbing device, an anchorage connector, and an anchor. Fall protection equipment that meets or exceeds current and applicable standards is available from suppliers like Elk River, and Honeywell, which offers a range of fall protection safety harnesses and tools.

Maintaining Fall Protection Equipment

Along with the right equipment, under OSHA regulations workers must be trained to properly inspect fall protection systems prior to use. OSHA also provides detailed harness inspection guidelines.

Elk River outlined typical inspection points:

  • Stitches for fraying or breaking, including pulled, missing, or cut stitches, hard or shining spots, and the discoloration of stitching, depending on the cause.
  • Webbing for cuts, abrasions, nicks, excessive wear and tear, or water damage. Hardware for proper function, including hooks, carabiners, and d-rings, and connection configurations such as quick connects, mating buckles, and tongue buckles.
  • Rope for frays, cuts, or other deformities.
  • Cable for cut wires, corrosion, or kinks.
  • Tagging Systems that identify the harness, model, date of manufacture, name of manufacturer, limitations, and warnings to ensure the safety harness is within its service life.

The lifespan of a fall protection equipment should be considered as well. Be sure to keep the equipment clean and free from dirt, sunlight, grease, oils, and other harmful materials and substances, and store the equipment in a cool, dry environment, away from direct sunlight, fumes, or corrosive elements.

It’s also important to clean harnesses to prevent dirt and debris from building up on the equipment.

If you’re looking for advice on establishing a compliant and effective fall protection program, the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) provides a Fall Protection Toolbox that covers Creating a Fall Protection Plan, Implementing Industry Best Practices and Proper Equipment Use and Training. ASSP fall protection courses are also available.

Overall, ASSP noted, creating a culture of safety — a Total Worker Health approach is essential to worker well-being.

Understanding and applying effective principles and practices can help your organization move from a compliance focus to a risk-based approach to safety management. 

Seth Skydel is a writer with 38 years of experience covering the trucking, utility, construction, and related markets.


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