Personal Fall Protection
When workers are exposed to fall hazards while working at elevations of more than five feet, or over water, fall protection is required. Typically, guardrails or other barriers are used to protect workers. In situations where guardrails are not practical, or when working from two-point suspended scaffolding, personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) (such as safety harnesses, lifelines, lanyards) are required. In some situations, positioning device systems such as restraint (tether) lines or aerial lifts are used to provide protection from falling off an unguarded edge. Personal fall protection systems must:
- Prevent a worker from falling (positioning device systems), or
- Arrest the fall of workers without causing injuries.
- Prevent workers from striking or falling to a lower level (PFAS).
Worker trauma from falls from elevated work surfaces can be minimized by the proper selection and use of personal fall protection systems.
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What should you know about fall protective equipment?
- Inspect your equipment before each use.
- Replace defective equipment. If there is any doubt about the safety of the equipment, do not use it and refer questionable defects to your supervisor.
- Replace any equipment, including ropes, involved in a fall. Refer any questionable defects to your supervisor or check with the manufacturer.
- Every piece of fall arrest equipment should be inspected and certified at least yearly or more often by a trained and competent person. Keep written records of inspections and approvals.
- It is advisable to use energy absorbers if the arresting forces of the lanyard alone can cause injury.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions about:
- the purpose of the device,
- hazard warnings,
- instructions and limitations on use,
- the stretch distance of the harness,
- instructions for fitting and adjusting,
- recommendations for care (cleaning, maintenance, and storage) and inspection,
- the purpose and function of the fall arrest indicator,
- a warning if a fall occurs or inspection reveals an unsafe condition that the device be taken out of service until it has been determined safe for use or destroyed, and
- instructions for proper application, use, and connecting to full body harness of any evacuation device.
How do you inspect the webbing (body of belt, harness or lanyard)?
- Inspect the entire surface of webbing for damage. Beginning at one end, bend the webbing in an inverted "U." Holding the body side of the belt toward you, grasp the belt with your hands six to eight inches apart.
- Watch for frayed edges, broken fibers, pulled stitches, cuts or chemical damage. Broken webbing strands generally appear as tufts on the webbing surface.
- Replace according to manufacturers' guidelines.
How do you inspect the rope?
- Rotate the rope lanyard and inspect from end to end for fuzzy, worn, broken or cut fibers. Weakened areas have noticeable changes in the original rope diameter.
- Replace when the rope diameter is not uniform throughout, following a short break-in period.
- The older a rope is and the more use it gets, the more important testing and inspection become.
How do you inspect the buckle?
- Inspect for loose, distorted or broken grommets. Do not cut or punch additional holes in waist strap or strength members.
- Check belt without grommets for torn or elongated holes that could cause the buckle tongue to slip.
- Inspect the buckle for distortion and sharp edges. The outer and center bars must be straight. Carefully check corners and attachment points of the center bar. They should overlap the buckle frame and move freely back and forth in their sockets. The roller should turn freely on the frame.
- Check that rivets are tight and cannot be moved. The body side of the rivet base and outside rivet burr should be flat against the material. Make sure the rivets are not bent.
- Inspect for pitted or cracked rivets that show signs of chemical corrosion.
What should you know about hardware (forged steel snaps, "D" rings)?
- Inspect hardware for cracks, dents, bends, rust, signs of deformation, or other defects. Replace the belt if the "D" ring is not at a 90 degree angle and does not move vertically independent of the body pad or "D" saddle.
- Make sure that any hardware is not cutting into or damaging the belt or harness.
- Inspect tool loops and belt sewing for broken or stretched loops.
- Check bag rings and knife snaps to see that they are secure and working properly. Check tool loop rivets. Check for thread separation or rotting, both inside and outside the body pad belt.
- Inspect snaps for hook and eye distortions, cracks, corrosion, or pitted surfaces. The keeper (latch) should be seated into the snap nose without binding and should not be distorted or obstructed. The keeper spring should exert sufficient force to close the keeper firmly.