Fall protection plays a critical role in keeping workers safe and secure in potentially dangerous work environments. For those working from heights, on scaffolding, or on rooftops and near leading edges, using personal fall arrest systems (PFASs) prevents workers from perilous falls while maintaining flexibility and mobility for work.
There are lots of different fall protection components to choose from, with a variety of designs, materials used, and functions catered to specific applications. To get a better understanding of how to choose the right components, workers need to understand the ABC's of Fall Protection, otherwise known as the combination of parts necessary to complete a comprehensive fall protection system for worker and jobsite safety. These letters stand for the four necessary components:
A - Anchorages
B - Body Support
C - Connection
D - Descent & Rescue
Read on to learn more about what the ABC's of fall protection stand for and how to choose the right gear for your own personal fall arrest systems.
The ABC's of Fall Protection
A - Anchorages
"A" stands for anchorages or anchor points. The first of our ABC's of fall protection, anchorages provide the necessary foundational strength and support needed for most fall arrest systems. This makes them an essential component in the instance a fall occurs; when a worker slips or falls from their working platform, the anchorage prevents this person from falling and keeps them suspended until rescued.
Most anchorages take on the form of an I-beam, column, or other structural component. They should be directly above a worker to keep the worker from swinging back and forth during a fall. Anchorages can also be fixed in place to maintain a precise safety point or mobile to allow workers extra flexibility.
OSHA requires that any anchorage used for fall protection:
"...shall be independent of any anchorage being used to support or suspend platforms and capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds (22.2 kN) per employee attached..." (OSHA 1926.502)(d)(15)
The requirements also dictate that the anchorage can be functional so long as it is a part of a complete personal fall arrest system maintaining a safety factor of at least two (i), and is under the supervision of a qualified person (ii).
Types of Anchorage Points:
Beam Anchor Clamps: These anchorage points work great to create an anchorage with existing I-beams on the job site. The attachments comprised of two clamps that grip on the sides of the I-beam when fastened. Fixed beam clamps keep the anchor in place while the sliding beam anchors allows workers the added range for work. Both contain O-ring connector points along the side or directly in the center of these clamps to attach other components like lanyards and SRLs.
Concrete Anchor Clamps: Concrete clamps are perfect for creating permanent or temporary attachment points to pour-in-place or already cured concrete applications. The removable wedge anchor installs nicely into cured cement and includes an O-ring and swivel-action for maximum flexibility. Meanwhile, the temporary concrete anchor straps hook on or choke onto embedded rebar to keep you safe while working.
Roof Anchor Clamps: These metal components are catered to a variety of different roofing applications. US Cargo Control offers both under ridge-cap and roof ridge applications that work for single and temporary uses. Simply screw the roof anchor clamps into the roof before working from these heights. The sturdy D-ring allows attachment of lifelines to workers' harnesses to keep them from injuring themselves due to falling.
B - Body Support
The next component of fall protection ABC's includes body support. This involves any component that wraps around the worker's body, attaching to the other elements of the fall arrest system. Full-body safety harnesses are the most used element of this function, providing the most security and reducing the likelihood of the worker slipping out of it.
Choosing the right body harness is essential for proper fitting. One size does not fit all when it comes to harnesses. To make sure the harness does fit, conduct a self-assessment of the following items:
- Does the dorsal D-ring sit between the shoulder blades?
- Are the shoulder straps tight enough so that they don't slide off from the tugging of fall forces?
- Are the pelvic straps tight enough as well?
- Is there plenty of space between the leg strap and leg (four fingers wide) so it doesn't cut off blood circulation and cause injury?
Keeping these items in mind ensures the body harness fits appropriately. Another thing to consider is suspension trauma, or the feeling of losing consciousness when one sits in a suspended position for too long. Body harnesses that fit right help prevent the onset of suspension trauma from occurring sooner than later.
Types of Body Harnesses:
US Cargo Control offers three types of safety harnesses to choose from.
C - Connection
The "C" in fall protection ABC's stands for connection. This includes the lifeline components that connect anchorages to the body harnesses. When choosing the right lifeline, make sure they offer proper connection to the harness and anchorage. Without this, the personal fall arrest system becomes prone to detaching, snapping, or causing injury to the equipment and personnel. Keep in mind, the lifeline must be short enough for the worker to free fall without worrying about hitting the ground.
Types of Lifelines:
Self-Retracting Lifelines (SRLs): Also known as "yo-yos," these devices work by maintaining tension as the worker moves around a certain area. The self-retracting capabilities from the housing unit prevents slack or unnecessary rope from creating a trip hazard on the job. Meanwhile, the built-in brake system quickly arrests workers when a fall occurs, reducing the impact and holding them in place. The connectors easily attach to safety harnesses as well as sturdy anchor points.
Shock-Absorbing Lanyards: These are the most common type of lanyards used in fall protection. Made from bungee material, these reduce impact on equipment and injury on personnel from shock forces occurring from a sudden fall and arrest. Each shock-absorbing lanyard contains an impact indicator that detects sudden descent and decelerates the worker as much as possible.
Adjustable Positioning Lanyards: Shock-absorption is great, but if mobility and adjustability is something you need, then consider using adjustable positioning lanyards instead. This economical option make for easy adjusting as needed using their self-locking snap hooks that connect to the harness and sturdy anchorages. These work perfectly for scaling across different planes as you work and are compatible with most safety harnesses.
D - Descent & Rescue
Lastly, "D" stands for descent and rescue. It's important to always have a rescue plan in place when a fall occurs on the job. When a worker remains conscious after a fall or is suspending from the fall arrest system, self- or mechanically-aided-rescue needs to be implemented immediately. These types of equipment need to be on the jobsite or easily accessible for trained workers to begin rescuing.
Types of Descent & Rescue Equipment:
Emergency Rescue Ladder: This portable ladder works for both self- and assisted-rescues of fallen workers who remain conscious. Measuring 20 feet long and made of durable webbing and alloy steel tubing, this ladder maintains its strength for any and all kinds of workers. The anchorage carabiners designed at the top allows the ladder to connect to any durable point to ensure a sturdy structure for rescue.
Suspension Trauma Straps: Suspension trauma can become a real concern if the fallen worker remains un-rescued for a long period of time. These trauma straps help lessen the onset of these symptoms to allow the worker to stand after a fall. Designed to relieve pressure from falls, suspension trauma straps come in separate strap makes or a continuous loop. Separate straps contain thumb loops that make deploying easy to do, while the continuous loop contains a zipper.
Rescue Safety Equipment Kits: For all-encompassing rescue equipment, choose safety kits so that you don't miss essential emergency rescue components. Available in a variety of lengths of kernmantle rope, each kit contains three types of rescue mechanisms for different situations: a manual handwheel, a telescoping ratchet handle, and a power drill adapter. With different equipment types, these safety kits work for all types of worker rescues.
Fall Protection from US Cargo Control
Whether you work from heights, ledges, or other environments susceptible to falling, knowing the ABC's of fall protection is crucial to keeping workers safe on the job. Beyond the cornerstones of anchorages, body wear, connecting lifelines, and descent/rescue equipment, other pieces of equipment can be used as an all-encompassing protection system, including:
It's important to remember that using fall protection isn't just about compliance; it's a matter of life or death. Employing means of fall protection means taken preventative measures against fatal work-related injuries. Contact our team of product experts for any questions of fall protection equipment to get the safe fall arrest system you need.