Safety Week 2016: Personal Fall Arrest Systems

May 3, 2016

OSHA rules dictate that workers need fall protection when working more than six feet above a surface (such as a poured floor or the ground). Guardrail systems, controlled access zones, and safety monitors are common passive systems that identify fall hazards and prevent falls.

When passive systems aren’t enough, workers must wear personal fall arrest systems, which usually consist of a harness that is worn over the shoulders and under the legs, a lanyard, an anchor, and a lifeline or deceleration device. When used properly, this system will limit a worker’s free fall and brings the employee to a complete stop before they can impact the ground, equipment, or another surface.

Harnesses must have the capacity to hold any individual worker’s weight and contain self-locking snap hooks that prevent accidental opening. Anchors must be able to support 5,000 pounds (the stress of a falling body). Because of this unique capacity, harnesses shouldn’t be attached to other objects, such as guardrails, hoists, or other equipment. Lifeline ropes and lanyards must be made from synthetic fabrics resistant to rot and chemicals (such as acids) that may be encountered on the jobsite.

As a back up to all the systems mentioned above, some jobs will use safety net systems to catch falling workers and equipment. OSHA dictates that safety nets must extend from the closest walking surface, extend out eight to 13 feet from the leading edge, and be capable of supporting 400 pounds.

To help minimize accidental falls, take time to read and incorporate these precautions into your daily work pre-plan:

  • Inspect harnesses before every use and nets and roping at least once a week.
  • Turn in any equipment that may be damaged or defective.
  • Check lifelines and lanyards for knots or for signs of wear.
  • Avoid tying of to rough or sharp anchorages.
  • Don’t use harnesses to hoist material.
  • Wear a tool belt or apron. Do not carry tools in hand or secured by your harness.
  • Remove fallen materials or tools from nets at the end of every shift.