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All fall protection products fit into four functional categories. 1. Fall Arrest; 2. Positioning; 3. Suspension; 4. Retrieval.
A fall arrest system is required if any risk exists that a worker may fall from an elevated position, as a general rule, the fall arrest system should be used anytime a working height of six feet or more is reached. Working height is the distance from the walking/working surface to a grade or lower level. A fall arrest system will only come into service should a fall occur. A full-body harness with a shock-absorbing lanyard or a retractable lifeline is the only product recommended. A full-body harness distributes the forces throughout the body, and the shock-absorbing lanyard decreases the total fall arresting forces.
This system holds the worker in place while keeping his/her hands free to work. Whenever the worker leans back, the system is activated. However, the personal positioning system is not specifically designed for fall arrest purposes.
This equipment lowers and supports the worker while allowing a hands-free work environment, and is widely used in window washing and painting industries. This suspension system components are not designed to arrest a free fall, a backup fall arrest system should be used in conjunction with the suspension system.
Preplanning for retrieval in the event of a fall should be taken into consideration when developing a proactive fall management program.
Fall Protection Systems
Listed below are different types of fall safety equipment and their recommended usage.
Class 1 Body belts (single or double D-ring) are designed to restrain a person in a hazardous work position and to reduce the possibility of falls. They should not be used when fall potential exists; positioning only.
Class 2 Chest harnesses are used when there are only limited fall hazards (no vertical free fall hazard), or for retrieving persons such as removal of persons from a tank or a bin.
Class 3 Full body harnesses are designed to arrest the most severe free falls.
Class 4 Suspension belts are independent work supports used to suspend a worker, such as boatswain's chairs or raising or lowering harnesses.
Rope Lanyard Offers some elastic properties for all arrest; used for restraint purpose.
Web Lanyard Ideal for restraint purposes where fall hazards are less than 2 feet.
Lanyards Designed for corrosive or excess heat environments and must be used in conjunction with shock absorbing devices.
Shock Absorbers When used, the fall arresting force will be greatly reduced if a fall occurs.
Rope Grabs A deceleration device which travels on a lifeline, used to safely ascend or descend ladders or sloped surfaces and automatically, by friction, engages the lifeline and locks so as to arrest the fall of an employee.
Retractable Lifeline Systems Gives fall protection and mobility to the user when working at height or in areas where there is a danger of falling.
Safety Nets Can be used to lesson the fall exposure when working where temporary floors and scaffolds are not used and the fall distance exceeds 25 feet.
Rail Systems When climbing a ladder, rail systems can be used on any fixed ladder as well as curved surfaces as a reliable method of fall prevention.
Effective January 1, 1998, body belts are not acceptable as part of a personal fall arrest system. (Note: the use of a body belt in a positioning device system is acceptable and is regulated under paragraph (e) of 29 CFR 1926.502). An employee who uses a body belt as a personal fall arrest system is exposed to hazards such as falling out of the belt, serious internal injuries, and technical asphyxiation through prolonged suspension.
Inspection and Maintenance
To maintain their service life and high performance, all belts and harnesses should be inspected frequently. Visual inspection before each use should become routine, and also a routine inspection by a competent person. If any of the conditions listed below are found the equipment should be replaced before being used.
1. Belts and Rings: For harness inspections begin at one end, hold the body side of the belt toward you, grasping the belt with your hands six to eight inches apart. Bend the belt in an inverted "U." Watch for frayed edges, broken fibers, pulled stitches, cuts or chemical damage. Check D-rings and D-ring metal wear pads for distortion, cracks, breaks, and rough or sharp edges. The D-ring bar should be at a 90 degree angle with the long axis of the belt and should pivot freely.
Attachments of buckles and D-rings should be given special attention. Note any unusual wear, frayed or cut fibers, or distortion of the buckles. Rivets should be tight and unremovable with fingers. Body side rivet base and outside rivets should be flat against the material. Bent rivets will fail under stress.
Inspect frayed or broken strands. Broken webbing strands generally appear as tufts on the webbing surface. Any broken, cut or burnt stitches will be readily seen.
2. Tongue Buckle: Buckle tongues should be free of distortion in shape and motion. They should overlap the buckle frame and move freely back and forth in their socket. Rollers should turn freely on the frame. Check for distortion or sharp edges.
3. Friction Buckle: Inspect the buckle for distortion. The outer bar or center bars must be straight. Pay special attention to corners and attachment points of the center bar.
When inspecting lanyards, begin at one end and work to the opposite end. Slowly rotate the lanyard so that the entire circumference is checked. Spliced ends require particular attention. Hardware should be examined under procedures detailed below.
Snaps: Inspect closely for hook and eye distortion, cracks, corrosion, or pitted surfaces. The keeper or latch should seat into the nose without binding and should not be distorted or obstructed. The keeper spring should exert sufficient force to firmly close the keeper. Keeper rocks must provide the keeper from opening when the keeper closes.
Thimbles: The thimble (protective plastic sleeve) must be firmly seated in the eye of the splice, and the splice should have no loose or cut strands. The edges of the thimble should be free of sharp edges, distortion, or cracks.
Steel Lanyards: While rotating a steel lanyard, watch for cuts, frayed areas, or unusual wear patterns on the wire. The use of steel lanyards for fall protection without a shock-absorbing device is not recommended.
Web Lanyard: While bending webbing over a piece of pipe, observe each side of the webbed lanyard. This will reveal any cuts or breaks. Due to the limited elasticity of the web lanyard, fall protection without the use of a shock absorber is not recommended.
Rope Lanyard: Rotation of the rope lanyard while inspecting from end to end will bring to light any fuzzy, worn, broken or cut fibers. Weakened areas from extreme loads will appear as a noticeable change in original diameter. The rope diameter should be uniform throughout, following a short break-in period. When a rope lanyard is used for fall protection, a shock-absorbing system should be included.
The outer portion of the shock-absorbing pack should be examined for burn holes and tears. Stitching on areas where the pack is sewn to the D-ring, belt or lanyard should be examined for loose strands, rips and deterioration.