Effective fall protection requires a combination of products working together, often described as the ABC’s of fall protection.
The anchorage connector, body support and connecting device—form a complete fall protection system for maximum worker protection.
But don’t forget about D, E and F, the other important components of a comprehensive fall protection program: descent and rescue, education, and fall protection for tools.
It’s the only to ensure you and your team get home safely.
Anchorage connectors are secure fall protection anchor points of attachment for lifelines, lanyards or deceleration devices and are designed to hold fast under the forces generated during a fall. Anchorage connectors vary by industry, job, type of installation and structure.
An anchorage connector may be a beam anchor, hook, tie-off adaptor, D-ring plate, tripod, davit or other secure devices that serves as a point of attachment.
Fall protection anchors and anchorage connectors must be independent and capable of supporting 2265 kg (5,000 lb.). per worker attached, or they may be designed, installed and used under the supervision of a qualified person as part of a complete personal fall arrest system that maintains a safety factor of at least two times the maximum arresting force. Anchors must be located high enough for a worker to avoid contact with a lower level should a fall occur.
What kind of anchor do I need?
Body support refers to fall protection equipment that directly supports the worker’s weight and maintains the body in a safe position. Worker comfort, fit, and ease of use are key considerations in the selection of body support equipment like a full body harness that a worker may wear for extended periods during a work day.
Full body harnesses distribute fall arrest forces across the shoulders, upper thighs, chest, and pelvis. Fall arrest harnesses feature a dorsal D-ring for attaching to the connector such as a lanyard and may have other D-rings for use in worker positioning, travel restraint, retrieval or ladder climbing.
They are the only form of body support acceptable for fall arrest and should be selected based on the job task as well as the work environment.
Body belts are strapped around the waist and are used for worker positioning, travel restraint or for added tool carrying options. While they may be used in conjunction with a full body harness, they must NEVER be used for personal fall arrest.
Full Body Harnesses
A full-body harness is the single most important equipment choice you can make for your crew. Fall protection harnesses provide comfort and confidence and directly affect the user’s productivity. They come in general varieties that can be used in many applications or may be specialised for specific uses within different industries.
Body Belts and Workseats
A fall protection belt is a great choice for positioning, restraining from a leading edge, or other situations where there is no possibility of a vertical free fall. Workseats, bosun chairs and seat slings are useful for inspection work, window washing, painting and maintenance.
Choosing the right harness for the job
General fall arrest
The back D-ring is for fall arrest, included on all harnesses.
A front D-ring is the distinguishing factor of these harnesses, enabling connection to a permanent ladder system.
A D-ring located on each shoulder strap facilitates upright retrieval from confined spaces.
Descent and suspension
Descent harnesses typically have a front D-ring for use with descent control devices.
Positioning D-rings located on the hips are used with positioning lanyards and allow workers to use both hands.
With the range of tool tethers available you can secure any tool in a matter of minutes.
Connectors attach the worker’s harness to the anchorage connector. Types will vary depending on whether the worker needs connecting for personal fall arrest or positioning and travel restriction.
A personal fall arrest connector is often a shock-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lifeline equipped with an energy-absorbing element to reduce the force transmitted to the user’s body in the event of a fall.
A positioning and travel restriction connector is usually a lanyard intended to reduce the potential for entering a fall hazard zone or for free falling from a distance of less than 2 feet.
What kind of connector do I need?
Lanyards can come in the form of positioning lanyards, which control where a worker can go to keep them from hazards, or shock-absorbing lanyards that contain an energy absorbing unit to limit fall arrest forces experienced by a worker during a fall.
Self-Retracting Lifelines (SRLs)
Self-retracting lifelines retain tension on the lifeline at all times, staying out of the worker’s way while providing safety. This helps shorten the fall distance and minimise trip hazards, and also offers greater mobility and manoeuvrability, which may help increase productivity. Lengths range from 1.8 to 53 m (6 to 175 feet).
Vertical Lifeline Systems
Vertical lifeline systems allow for safety, mobility and productivity in vertical climbing environments. They include rope grabs as well as cable-based ladder safety systems and can be portable or permanent, mobile or manual, assisted or non-assisted.
Choosing between shock-absorbing lanyards and SRLs
Lanyard or lifeline material
For general purpose applications that are indoors or in less-harsh environments, web material is appropriate. For extremely harsh environments, cable or Kevlar fibre web offers extra durability and is suitable for abrasive or high-heat.
Single or twin-leg configurations
Single leg styles are suitable for a single anchor point connection to work within a specific range of movement. A twin-leg style offers a protective connection as the worker moves from one anchor point to the next for 100% tie-off.
Fall clearance: More than 5 m
An energy absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lifeline can be used.
Fall clearance: Less than 5 m
If less clearance is present, the use of a self-retracting lifeline is recommended.
Descent and Rescue
Employers must have a rescue plan that either provides the prompt rescue of employees in the event of a fall or ensures that employees are able to rescue themselves. Executing this plan may require the use of a rescue system designed for the application.
In addition to technical considerations, consider the amount of training required to use a piece of safety equipment properly and effectively. In general, automatic type descent devices require much less training than user-controlled systems but also are less adaptable to multiple tasks.
Consider whether the device needs to be intuitive and instantly usable by anyone, or if specific personnel need to be trained in rescue tasks for the job site.
Considerations when choosing rescue and descent systems
Automatic, user or co-worker controlled descent
Automatic evacuation and emergency escape devices require the least amount of training and knowledge by the user. Some systems allow the user to control their own descent or allow a co-worker to control the descent for added flexibility. A single rescue system may not fit every scenario, some systems are easy to use for one application, while others require more skill but can be adapted for use in multiple situations.
User or co-worker controlled ascent
In addition to descent capabilities, some rescue systems also incorporate the ability to raise the user or victim. This function is often needed in scenarios where a worker must be rescued by another worker, typically called “pick-offs.” The rescuer descends to the fallen victim, connects to the victim’s system and then raises the victim slightly to enable disconnection of the victim’s fall arrest system, before descending with the victim to the lower level to complete the rescue.
Maximum height of operation
Close attention must be given to selecting the system that can accommodate the height of rescue or descent needed. Systems typically have a maximum usable height based on design and performance. Also consider the overall size and weight of your complete system, and the type and style of lifeline.
Maximum number of users
Systems can typically accommodate either one or two users (at the same time). This becomes extremely important if the system needs to be used for evacuation, or if it must be used for rescue of an unconscious worker. If rescuing a co-worker in a “pick-off” type application, the system must be able to support both the rescuer and the victim.