Choosing the Correct Fall Protection System

By DH Glabe & Associates / March 14, 2018

While the construction and engineering industry does come with a certain amount of inherent risk, contractors can be proactive about safety on projects. OSHA sets strict guidelines regarding fall protection measures because falls are commonly responsible for serious workplace-related injuries and deaths. The National Safety Council finds that falls from height are the reason for the most non-fatal days of missed work. Keeping this in mind, contractors and engineers should ensure that all employees receive regular preventative training. Additionally, when working from any height, workers should be provided with the appropriate fall protection system.

Horizontal and Vertical Lifelines

The use of horizontal lifelines is common in large-scale projects. These are usually composed of a cable that runs horizontally along a fall hazard area, which workers can attach themselves to via a fall protection harness and a lanyard. Vertical lifelines allow workers to ascend and descend various levels of the project without clipping and unclipping constantly. Vertical lifelines are commonly used in conjunction with ladders.

OSHA sets out specific requirements for horizontal and vertical lifelines. Standard features of these systems should include the ability to safely support the necessary number of workers while continuously providing protection. Additionally, these systems should be resistant to all forms of weather. It can be tricky to correctly select the proper system so as not to put too much pressure on the supporting platform. Special engineering analysis is often needed to ensure these systems will keep all workers safe.

Roof Anchor Analysis

Because fall protection systems are common on rooftops, they are required to be regularly inspected. The roof anchor is a vital part of a correctly functioning fall protection system. If it fails, the system does not work, potentially causing a fatal accident or serious bodily injury. Roof anchors can be as simple as a D-ring and plate, or much more complex. They must be analyzed and routinely inspected to comply with OSHA standards. For safety, consider hiring a construction engineer to ensure that you are meeting OSHA requirements.

Anchorage Design

OSHA requires that anchorage systems be properly installed on materials strong enough to properly support workers in the event of a fall. What does "strong enough" mean in this case? According to OSHA section 29 CFR 1926.502(d)(15) the anchor must be able to support 5000 pounds OR be designed by a qualified person as part of a complete system with a two-to-one safety factor.

There are many different types of anchors, including peak anchors, truss anchors, engineered clamps, top plate anchors, strap anchors, concrete anchors, and welded anchors. Within these categories are many more anchorage types. Since anchor design is the backbone upon which a fall arrest systems functions, selecting the right one for your project is of the utmost importance.

Custom-Built Fall Protection Systems

While some fall protection systems are simple, others are not. On larger commercial projects, contractors may need to design a system that fits the specific needs of their site. Designing these systems should be left to professionals, as OSHA has requirements for calculating fall clearance distance (29 CFR 1926.502(d)(16)) and swing fall hazard (OSHA Technical Manual Chapter V: Section 4 (III)(B)).

Are You Using The Correct Fall Protection System?

Ultimately, the best way to ensure you are using the safest system for your particular needs is to hire an engineering firm that is intimately familiar with OSHA safety requirements. On some construction projects, fall protection is covered by the designing engineer, but that is the exception and not the rule. Selecting a professional engineering firm that can analyze and design a fall protection system is a crucial way to keep your workers safe.

For a firm just like this, please contact us at DH Glabe & Associates. We have years of experience and have worked on over 6000 projects in our company's history. Additionally, we are one of the exclusive firms in the country who can confidently design and analyze a complete fall protection system guaranteed to comply with OSHA 1926.502 standards in regards to how it will interface with other temporary works elements. We also provide fall protection testing and inspection of any fall protection systems you have already installed. We are invested in protecting you from all the dangers and liability associated with falls.


Tags: Fall Protection Blog fall protection anchors fall protection engineering OSHA Safety

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