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The following information generally applies to all personal fall protection systems and is intended to assist employers and employees comply with the requirements of §1910.140 for personal fall protection systems.
(a) Planning considerations. It is important for employers to plan prior to using personal fall protection systems. Probably the most overlooked component of planning is locating suitable anchorage points. Such planning should ideally be done before the structure or building is constructed so that anchorage points can be used later for window cleaning or other building maintenance.
(b) Selection and use considerations. (1) The kind of personal fall protection system selected should be appropriate for the employee’s specific work situation. Free fall distances should always be kept to a minimum. Many systems are designed for particular work applications, such as climbing ladders and poles; maintaining and servicing equipment; and window cleaning. Consideration should be given to the environment in which the work will be performed. For example, the presence of acids, dirt, moisture, oil, grease, or other substances, and their potential effects on the system selected, should be evaluated. The employer should fully evaluate the work conditions and environment (including seasonal weather changes) before selecting the appropriate personal fall protection system. Hot or cold environments may also affect fall protection systems. Wire rope should not be used where electrical hazards are anticipated. As required by §1910.140(c)(21), the employer must provide a means for promptly rescuing an employee should a fall occur.
(2) Where lanyards, connectors, and lifelines are subject to damage by work operations, such as welding, chemical cleaning, and sandblasting, the component should be protected, or other securing systems should be used. A program for cleaning and maintaining the system may be necessary.
(c) Testing considerations. Before purchasing a personal fall protection system, an employer should insist that the supplier provide information about its test performance (using recognized test methods) so the employer will know that the system meets the criteria in §1910.140. Otherwise, the employer should test the equipment to ensure that it is in compliance. Appendix D to this subpart contains test methods which are recommended for evaluating the performance of any system. There are some circumstances in which an employer can evaluate a system based on data and calculations derived from the testing of similar systems. Enough information must be available for the employer to demonstrate that its system and the tested system(s) are similar in both function and design.
(d) Component compatibility considerations. Ideally, a personal fall protection system is designed, tested, and supplied as a complete system. However, it is common practice for lanyards, connectors, lifelines, deceleration devices, body belts, and body harnesses to be interchanged since some components wear out before others. Employers and employees should realize that not all components are interchangeable. For instance, a lanyard should not be connected between a body harness and a deceleration device of the self-retracting type (unless specifically allowed by the manufacturer) since this can result in additional free fall for which the system was not designed. In addition, positioning components, such as pole straps, ladder hooks and rebar hooks, should not be used in personal fall arrest systems unless they meet the appropriate strength and performance requirements of part 1910 (e.g.,§§1910.140, 1910.268 and 1910.269). Any substitution or change to a personal fall protection system should be fully evaluated or tested by a competent person to determine that it meets applicable OSHA standards before the modified system is put in use. Also, OSHA suggests that rope be used according to manufacturers’ recommendations, especially if polypropylene rope is used.
(e) Employee training considerations. As required by §§1910.30 and 1910.132, before an employee uses a fall protection system, the employer must ensure that he or she is trained in the proper use of the system. This may include the following: The limits of the system; proper anchoring and tie-off techniques; estimating free fall distance, including determining elongation and deceleration distance; methods of use; and inspection and storage. Careless or improper use of fall protection equipment can result in serious injury or death. Employers and employees should become familiar with the material in this standard and appendix, as well as manufacturers’ recommendations, before a system is used. It is important for employees to be aware that certain tie-offs (such as using knots and tying around sharp edges) can reduce the overall strength of a system. Employees also need to know the maximum permitted free fall distance. Training should stress the importance of inspections prior to use, the limitations of the equipment to be used, and unique conditions at the worksite that may be important.
(f) Instruction considerations. Employers should obtain comprehensive instructions from the supplier or a qualified person as to the system’s proper use and application, including, where applicable:
(1) The force measured during the sample force test;
(2) The maximum elongation measured for lanyards during the force test;
(3) The deceleration distance measured for deceleration devices during the force test;
(4) Caution statements on critical use limitations;
(5) Limits of the system;
(6) Proper hook-up, anchoring and tie-off techniques, including the proper D-ring or other attachment point to use on the body harness;
(7) Proper climbing techniques;
(8) Methods of inspection, use, cleaning, and storage; and
(9) Specific lifelines that may be used.
(g) Inspection considerations. Personal fall protection systems must be inspected before initial use in each workshift. Any component with damage, such as a cut, tear, abrasion, mold, or evidence of undue stretching, an alteration or addition that might affect its effectiveness, damage due to deterioration, fire, acid, or other corrosive damage, distorted hooks or faulty hook springs, tongues that are unfitted to the shoulder of buckles, loose or damaged mountings, non-functioning parts, or wear, or internal deterioration must be removed from service immediately, and should be tagged or marked as unusable, or destroyed. Any personal fall protection system, including components, subjected to impact loading must be removed from service immediately and not used until a competent person inspects the system and determines that it is not damaged and is safe to use for personal fall protection.
(h) Rescue considerations. As required by §1910.140(c)(21), when personal fall arrest systems are used, special consideration must be given to rescuing an employee promptly should a fall occur. The availability of rescue personnel, ladders, or other rescue equipment needs to be evaluated since there may be instances in which employees cannot self-rescue (e.g., employee unconscious or seriously injured). In some situations, equipment allowing employees to rescue themselves after the fall has been arrested may be desirable, such as devices that have descent capability.
(i) Tie-off considerations. Employers and employees should at all times be aware that the strength of a personal fall arrest system is based on its being attached to an anchoring system that can support the system. Therefore, if a means of attachment is used that will reduce the strength of the system (such as an eye-bolt/snaphook anchorage), that component should be replaced by a stronger one that will also maintain the appropriate maximum deceleration characteristics. The following is a listing of some situations in which employers and employees should be especially cautious:
(1) Tie-off using a knot in the lanyard or lifeline (at any location). The strength of the line can be reduced by 50 percent or more if a knot is used. Therefore, a stronger lanyard or lifeline should be used to compensate for the knot, or the lanyard length should be reduced (or the tie-off location raised) to minimize free fall distance, or the lanyard or lifeline should be replaced by one which has an appropriately incorporated connector to eliminate the need for a knot.
(2) Tie-off around rough or sharp (e.g., “H” or “I” beams) surfaces. Sharp or rough surfaces can damage rope lines and this reduces strength of the system drastically. Such tie-offs should be avoided whenever possible. An alternate means should be used such as a snaphook/D-ring connection, a tie-off apparatus (steel cable tie-off), an effective padding of the surfaces, or an abrasion-resistant strap around the supporting member. If these alternative means of tie-off are not available, the employer should try to minimize the potential free fall distance.
(3) Knots. Sliding hitch knots should not be used except in emergency situations. The one-and-one sliding hitch knot should never be used because it is unreliable in stopping a fall. The two-and-two, or three-and-three knots (preferable) may be used in emergency situations; however, care should be taken to limit free fall distances because of reduced lifeline/lanyard strength. OSHA requires that a competent or qualified person inspect each knot in a lanyard or vertical lifeline to ensure it meets the strength requirements in §1910.140.
(j) Horizontal lifelines. Horizontal lifelines, depending on their geometry and angle of sag, may be subjected to greater loads than the impact load imposed by an attached component. When the angle of horizontal lifeline sag is less than 30 degrees, the impact force imparted to the lifeline by an attached lanyard is greatly amplified. For example, with a sag angle of 15 degrees the force amplification is about 2:1, and at 5 degrees sag it is about 6:1. Depending on the angle of sag, and the line’s elasticity, the strength of the horizontal lifeline, and the anchorages to which it is attached should be increased a number of times over that of the lanyard. Extreme care should be taken in considering a horizontal lifeline for multiple tie-offs. If there are multiple tie-offs to a horizontal lifeline, and one employee falls, the movement of the falling employee and the horizontal lifeline during arrest of the fall may cause other employees to fall. Horizontal lifeline and anchorage strength should be increased for each additional employee to be tied-off. For these and other reasons, the systems using horizontal lifelines must be designed only by qualified persons. OSHA recommends testing installed lifelines and anchors prior to use. OSHA requires that horizontal lifelines are designed, installed and used under the supervision of a qualified person.
(k) Eye-bolts. It must be recognized that the strength of an eye-bolt is rated along the axis of the bolt, and that its strength is greatly reduced if the force is applied at right angles to this axis (in the direction of its shear strength). Care should also be exercised in selecting the proper diameter of the eye to avoid creating a roll-out hazard (accidental disengagement of the snaphook from the eye-bolt).
(l) Vertical lifeline considerations. As required by §1910.140(c)(3), each employee must have a separate lifeline when the lifeline is vertical. If multiple tie-offs to a single lifeline are used, and one employee falls, the movement of the lifeline during the arrest of the fall may pull other employees’ lanyards, causing them to fall as well.
(m) Snaphook and carabiner considerations. As required by §1910.140(c)(10), the following connections must be avoided unless the locking snaphook or carabiner has been designed for them because they are conditions that can result in rollout:
(1) Direct connection to webbing, rope, or a horizontal lifeline;
(2) Two (or more) snaphooks or carabiners connected to one D-ring;
(3) Two snaphooks or carabiners connected to each other;
(4) Snaphooks or carabiners connected directly to webbing, rope, or wire rope; and
(5) Improper dimensions of the D-ring, rebar, or other connection point in relation to the snaphook or carabiner dimensions which would allow the gate to be depressed by a turning motion.
(n) Free fall considerations. Employers and employees should always be aware that a system’s maximum arresting force is evaluated under normal use conditions established by the manufacturer. OSHA requires that personal fall arrest systems be rigged so an employee cannot free fall in excess of 6 feet (1.8 m). Even a few additional feet of free fall can significantly increase the arresting force on the employee, possibly to the point of causing injury and possibly exceeding the strength of the system. Because of this, the free fall distance should be kept to a minimum, and, as required by §1910.140(d)(2), must never be greater than 6 feet (1.8 m). To assure this, the tie-off attachment point to the lifeline or anchor should be located at or above the connection point of the fall arrest equipment to the harness. (Otherwise, additional free fall distance is added to the length of the connecting means (i.e., lanyard)). Tying off to the walking-working surface will often result in a free fall greater than 6 feet (1.8 m). For instance, if a 6-foot (1.8-m) lanyard is used, the total free fall distance will be the distance from the walking-working level to the harness connection plus the 6 feet (1.8 m) of lanyard.
(o) Elongation and deceleration distance considerations. During fall arrest, a lanyard will stretch or elongate, whereas activation of a deceleration device will result in a certain stopping distance. These distances should be available with the lanyard or device’s instructions and must be added to the free fall distance to arrive at the total fall distance before an employee is fully stopped. The additional stopping distance may be significant if the lanyard or deceleration device is attached near or at the end of a long lifeline, which may itself add considerable distance due to its own elongation. As required by §1910.140(d)(2), sufficient distance to allow for all of these factors must also be maintained between the employee and obstructions below, to prevent an injury due to impact before the system fully arrests the fall. In addition, a minimum of 12 feet (3.7 m) of lifeline should be allowed below the securing point of a rope-grab-type deceleration device, and the end terminated to prevent the device from sliding off the lifeline. Alternatively, the lifeline should extend to the ground or the next working level below. These measures are suggested to prevent the employee from inadvertently moving past the end of the lifeline and having the rope grab become disengaged from the lifeline.
(p) Obstruction considerations. In selecting a location for tie-off, employers and employees should consider obstructions in the potential fall path of the employee. Tie-offs that minimize the possibilities of exaggerated swinging should be considered.
[81 FR 83002, Nov. 18, 2016]