How to Ensure Proper Usage of Fall Protection Systems
Fall protection systems are composed of solid rails, wire rope rails, travel restraints (harnesses with lanyards to keep you away from the edge from which you can fall), and many more. Fall arrest is what people typically mean when you are “tied-off” – there’s a harness with lanyard, and an anchor point.
Proper Harness Usage
Trained, the first thing that needs to be done when wearing a harness is inspecting it. Look for indications of wear and tear everywhere, from straps to buckle to every plastic fitting and grommet. Also find out when the harness was last inspected professionally (the tag should have this piece of information). If you are totally certain that the harness is in good shape, put it on and make adjustments as needed (never too loose nor too tight). Be sure to tuck the ends of your straps safely into the provided fasteners (anything that hangs around could get caught in something or loosened all the way).
Correct Lanyard Usage
When picking your lanyard, you should ask one easy but crucial question: how high is my anchor point from the lower level? Now take a look an see if it is properly attached. If you have a deceleration device on your lanyard, it should be securely attached to your D-ring to ensure correct deployment. For a retractable lanyard, the casing and your anchor point must be attached together. A lanyard that looks like a bungee cord will be worn either way.
Proper Anchor Point
As per OSHA guidelines, anchors used in fall arrest systems must have a minimum capacity of 5,000 pounds for every attached person. Except in cases where you have structural steel or an engineered anchor point (as an aerial lift, for example), you must be aware that the anchor point will hold. Of course, this should be done by no less than a registered professional engineer. Safety is all or nothing. And if your goal is to achieve safety, you should only give your trust to certified experts.
Proper Fall Clearance
On top of that, your anchor point has to restrict your free-fall distance to a mere 6 feet or less. Let’s say you have a 6-foot lanyard with a deceleration device and you’re tied up at your feet. Your freefall should exceed 10 feet for that deceleration device to work (6 feet for the entire length of the lanyard plus the 4 feet between your feet and the D-ring). Such forces can be extremely dangerous for your body’s internal organs. In other words, the anchor point and the D-ring should at least level. Otherwise, other options should be considered, like railings, nets, and the rest.