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Never Fall Behind: Fall Protection Q&As

According to OSHA, there were 351 fatal falls out of 1,008 construction fatalities in 2020. Workers who are six feet or more above lower levels are at risk for serious injury or death if a fall would occur. To protect these workers, employers must provide the right fall protection and equipment for the job. However, providing the right tools is only half the battle. What tools do you need? Do you have enough for your team? Are they working properly and up to OSHA’s standards? Knowing how to use the safety gear provided is equally as important as supplying it to your team. Safety equipment can only protect someone if they know how to properly use it. Let’s chat about a few common fall protection questions:

  1. How to properly be fitted into a harness

For most full-body harnesses, it can be strapped on in 6 simple steps.

Step 1: Hold the harness by the dorsal D-ring and shake it to allow the straps to fall into place and detangle if possible.

Step 2: If the chest, leg, or waist straps are buckled, unbuckle them, and release the straps.

Step 3: Slip the straps over your shoulders and adjust the fit so that the D-ring is located in the middle of the back, between the shoulder blades.

Step 4: Connect or buckle the leg straps. To fasten a tongue buckle, pass the webbing through the buckle and insert the tongue through the grommet. Some buckles may differ depending on your harness.

Step 5: Connect the chest strap and adjust the fit so that the strap crosses the middle of the chest. The straps should fit snug and allow the shoulder straps to remain taut.

Step 6: If any straps hang down after the adjustment, use the loop keepers to keep them out of the way.

  1. How do you use SRLs correctly?

While using a SRL, there should be quite a bit of pre-planning and maintenance to consider. For general fall protection use, the SRL must connect to the back (dorsal) D-ring. For situations such as ladder climbing, it may be useful to connect to the front of the harness above the worker’s center of gravity. This is acceptable if the free fall is less than 2 ft. and footing can be easily regained. Before each use of fall protection equipment, carefully inspect it to assure that it is in good condition. Make sure to check for worn/damaged parts and ensure that all fasteners are present and secure. Check that the lifeline is retracting properly by pulling out the line and allowing it to slowly retract. Inspect the lifeline for cuts, frays, burns, crushing and corrosion. Also check the locking action by pulling sharply on the line. If there is any hesitation in retraction, remove the SRL from service, mark “unusable”, and dispose of the equipment in the recommended manner.

  1. What are the height requirements for fall protection?
    OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in longshoring operations. In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.
  2. Should I use an energy-absorbing lanyard or a self-retracting lanyard?
    The SRL is better from a fall protection standpoint because it results in a shorter free fall while as lanyards result in a much greater fall distance. It’s crucial to consider fall distance when deciding which type of connecting device is safest for the task.
  3. How do you properly clean a safety harness?
    Step by step:
    1. It’s best to begin with the harness on a flat surface, leaving it open for visible inspection.
    2. Use a moist sponge and wipe down the harness to remove excess dirt or dust.
    3. Mix a cleaning solution using laundry detergent or dish soap. Do not use any cleansers that contain chlorine, bleach, or abrasive chemicals.
    4. Dip your sponge into the solution and thoroughly scrub each portion of the harness until a thick lather forms.
    5. Use a different, clean sponge and dip in clear water. Wipe down the harness to remove any suds or soap residue.
    6. Let the safety harness dry in room temperature air. Do not use a mechanical heat dryer or expose the harness to long periods of sun-drying.
    7. When cleaning multiple harnesses, store each one in a separate, dry compartment. Hang them in such a way that they are not crushed, worn, or creased.
    8. Dampen but do not soak the harness. The excessive expansion of the fibers can compromise the fabric’s effectiveness and shorten the harness’s life.
    9. Never put a harness in the dryer. Excessive heat and tumbling can (and will) damage the harness.
  1. How do you store a harness?
    It’s important to ensure that it’s properly stored by keeping it free of moisture, protected from impact and away from extreme temperatures. It’s recommended that harnesses be stored either hanging flat or neatly folded to prevent unnecessary stress/wear.
  2. When does a safety harness expire?
    Harnesses should always be inspected regularly and cleaned as part of a normal equipment maintenance program. Technically, there is no such thing as a predetermined or mandated expiration date on fall protection harnesses. Neither OSHA nor ANSI have current codes or standards that set a specific time period for taking a harness out of service. However, OSHA does have an inspection guideline on the quality of harness in use.
    1. OSHA 1910.140
    2. Remove impacted systems and components
    3. Inspect systems prior to use. OSHA 1926.502
    4. Comply with manufacturer’s instructions
    5. Inspect SRD after subjected to fall arrest. Inspected by user prior to use.
    6. Competent Persons Inspection at intervals based on type and conditions of use. CSA Z259.2.2
    7. Follow manufacturer’s instructions
    8. Inspect before each use
    9. Annual inspection by competent person. Inspect SRD after subjected to fall arrest. CE EN365:2004
    10. Inspect prior to use. Periodic examinations by a competent person must be done at least every 12 months, in accordance with the Manufacturer’s instructions AS/NZS 1891.4
    11. Inspection by a height safety operator before and after each use. Six (6) month inspection by a height safety equipment inspector.

A safety harness inspection should also be personally conducted before each use. When inspecting a harness, look for stitching that may be broken, burnt, or pulled. Closely examine all webbing, belt ends, buckles, and D-rings. These few minutes of examination could save a life. If your items need repair, Ritz Safety can do just that. Visit here for more information.

In need of a safety harness?

Ritz Safety provides a wide selection of safety harnesses to choose from. We also carry self-retracting lifelines, tool tethers & attachments, lanyards, horizontal lifelines, vertical and ladder safety systems, leading edge safety, safety netting and more!

 

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