In the news, a South African man recently fell about 26 feet from an aerial lift platform. He fractured his arm and ended up with some serious head injuries. We don't know if the company that the man worked for took safety precautions or had fall protection equipment. However, it can be safe to assume that fall protection would have been helpful in that crucial moment. Knowing some components of fall protection can help you to feel more comfortable using the equipment and avoid problematic accidents.
Personal Fall Protection System
The personal fall arrest system, or PFAS, is the most common type of fall protection equipment. There are three main components, or ABCs to this kind of fall protection: anchorage points, bodywear, and connective devices.
Anchorage points, though self-explanatory, are crucial for keeping you anchored to one spot so the wind doesn't toss you around. These should hold at least 5,000 pounds per employee in order to be adequate fall protection equipment. They must have a safety factor of at least 2.
Permanent Anchor Systems
Permanent anchor systems stay put for long periods of time so workers don't have to constantly reinstall them. Bolt-on wall anchors, concrete D-ring anchors, and beam trolley anchors are some common ones. Only install these if supervised by a qualified professional.
Temporary Anchor Systems
Whether reusable or for one-time use, these devices are more limited in scope. However, they still need to be able to withstand 5,000 pounds of force. Though it may be tempting, don't wrap a lanyard around a horizontal beam.
Horizontal and vertical lifelines are also safe, approved anchors. Check these out on the Fall Protection Training from Hard Hat Training.
Bodywear equipment directly attaches to your body. This changes depending on what task you are doing, but in every instance, manufacturers design them to keep you safe.
This type of body wear is made to give you maximum mobility and to evenly distribute the force of impact. This can be accomplished via straps going over the shoulders, waist, chest, pelvis and legs. It has a shoulder attachment for the D-ring, or a ring that has a tensile load of 5,000 pounds.
Body belts are slightly different because they can restrain and position the worker, but not stop falls. Therefore they are great for keeping a worker away from the edge but not in for an actual fall. This consists of an adjustable strap around the waist with a D-ring attached to it.
Chest harnesses also position and restrain elevated workers. Like the body belts, they wouldn't be very helpful in preventing a fall. Take a look at other equipment recognized by OSHA.
Connective devices are the type of fall protection equipment that connects the bodywear to the anchorage point. They consist of different kinds of hooks and lanyards.
These hooks connect to the anchorage points and are held to certain standards. For example, they must have a minimum tensile strength of 5,000 pounds and be proof-tested for 3,600 pounds of force. Make sure the snap hook is compatible with the device you connect it to.
Lanyards are a type of deceleration device that can reduce shock absorbed by the body. This is why you shouldn't use a regular rope or cable since they don't absorb shock and will cause injury. Otherwise, you can experience over 2,500 pounds of force during a fall when OSHA regulations require 180 pounds or less.
You can use many different types of fall protection. However, being aware of the most common types can help you recognize what you should and shouldn't be using. Enrico Fermi said that "ignorance is never better than knowledge," so educate yourself and save lives with Hard Hat Training!