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New Solutions for Fall Protection

Don’t let metal workers fall down on the job

Honeywell Nov17 1

Working in metal construction means working at heights.

Fortunately, safety regulations and best practices help prevent falls that may cause injury or death. On-the-job safety is further ensured by several new fall protection technologies and solutions.

The first line of defense against falls comprises harnesses snapped onto safety lifelines, especially self-retracting lifelines/lanyards (SRLs) or personal fall limiters (PFAs). These sense the high-speed line playout that signals a fall, activate a braking system to arrest the worker’s descent, and safely absorb much of the fall’s energy. However, typical lines may be weakened or cut by sliding over an edge during the fall. And on many construction sites, edges are just about everywhere: from roofs to beams to unprotected sides of upper floors.

Without protection specifically designed for edges, traditional lifelines risk being compromised or severed. In many fall protection applications, a lifeline can come in contact with an edge. And the force upon the worker in these falls is significantly increased.

SRL Models

A variety of new leading-edge SRL models are built to handle edge-related lifeline hazards. Many can now meet the stringent demands of ANSI Z359.14- 2012, “Safety Requirements for Self-Retracting Devices.” This 2014 standard covers equipment where the user may be anchored at foot level or at the working surface (or higher), the line may contact an edge in a fall, and an integral shock absorber at the user end can lessen fall forces on the worker. Safety managers and contractors can select models for either smooth-edge or sharp-edge applications, in a wide range of working lengths.

Look for equipment rated to withstand sliding over or along an edge of a given sharpness during a fall under designated load, so that the line remains intact. Make sure foot-level anchoring features are included. Also, all these new SRLs contain a shock-absorbing mechanism, so that forces on the worker are reduced enough for safety.

Smooth edges—uch as those on wood, concrete or scaffolding—ave a radius less than or equal to 0.06 inch (1.5 mm). Smooth-edge SRLs may feature durable web lifelines with good resistance to cuts, abrasions and chemicals.

Sharp edges—uch as on I-beams or roof ends—ossess a radius less than or equal to 0.0005 inch (0.13 mm). Sharp-edge SRL models feature specially designed, exceptionally durable cable lifelines, and can comply with the strictest safety standard for fall arrest devices: ANSI Z359.12-2014 Class B/Leading Edge.

New leading-edge SRL models can:

• Accommodate 420-pound loads (including worker, clothes, shoes/boots and equipment)

• Attach from overhead down to foot-level tie-off connections

• Provide working lengths of 6 to 12 feet

• Come in single and twin configurations

• Offer a variety of connectors, including tie-backs

Preventing Dangerous Drops

When metal work takes place on any structure over a few feet high, dropped objects can pose a serious hazard. In one unnerving example from New Jersey in 2014, a man delivering drywall was killed by a tape measure that fell off somebody’s tool belt 50 stories above.

In response, manufacturers now offer specialized pull lanyards, designed for clipping to a safety harness or structural member. These lanyards secure different tools or objects during use, via D-rings, carabiners, tapes or tether loops. So a dropped tool can fall only the length of the lanyard, then be retrieved without threatening workers below. Pull lanyards and connection points are available for a wide range of small equipment items, adjusting to almost any tool’s size and type:

• Pliers

• Wrenches

• Screwdrivers

• Gloves

• Pouches/caddies

• Tape measures

• Hard hats

Sub-Pelvic Straps

Users of older safety harnesses should be aware that some models no longer comply with new standards. ANSI/ASSE Z359.11-2014, Annex A, mandates that a safety harness must now include a subpelvic strap: “When supported by the frontal attachment, the design of the full-body harness shall direct load directly around the thighs and under the buttocks by means of the sub-pelvic strap.”

This strap passes under the buttocks without binding the crotch, providing support while relieving pressure on shoulders and legs. A key safety function is redistributing the forces of fall arrest or post-fall suspension. It also helps the worker stay head-up after any fall. This can aid in preventing discomfort and circulatory shock, which may occur if a worker hangs sideways or upside-down for long.

High-quality, leading-edge SRLs, pull lanyards and sub-pelvic straps can prevent metal construction workers from taking a fall, or lessen the danger of any fall that occurs. With new tools like these, on-the-job safety has nowhere to go but up.

Leah Shook is the product marketing manager at Miller Fall Protection, Honeywell Industrial Safety, Smithfield, R.I. To learn more, visit www.millerfallprotection.com.