Avoiding potential hazards when working with fall protection
Fall Protection Categories
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.
Cable Positioning 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.