Providing your employees with the information, training and equipment they need to conduct work at heights efficiently and safely can help mitigate your risk. When protecting your workers at all heights, make sure they remember the ABCDs of fall protection:
Anchorage—The anchorage is the secure point of attachment for the fall-arrest system. The appropriate type of anchorage connector varies by the industry, the job performed, the type of installation and the available structure. The anchorage structure to which the connector is attached must be capable of supporting a load of 5,000 pounds per person or shall be designed, installed and used as part of a complete system that maintains a safety factor of at least two, under the supervision of a qualified person.
Body Support —A full body harness is the best way to achieve body support while working at heights. Harnesses distribute fall forces over the upper thighs, pelvis, chest and shoulders. They also provide a connection point on the worker for the personal fall arrest system.
A well-designed harness should provide enough comfort to wear throughout the workday and should be adjustable across the chest and shoulders and around the legs. For optimal wearability, select a harness with built-in ergonomics, increased padding and lightweight materials. Harnesses that provide comfort and adjustability allow the worker to perform for longer periods of time and thus increase productivity.
Finally, select a harness that is intuitive and easy to use. You don’t want workers struggling in and out of clumsy harnesses, as that decreases productivity and safety.
Connectors—A connector is a device that links the user’s full-body harness to an anchorage. When used as part of a fall-restraint system, the length of the connector must be carefully selected so the worker is restrained or prevented from reaching a fall hazard.
Shock-absorbing lanyards are designed to take the strain out of a fall. They are flexible lines with a connector at each end used to fasten the anchorage to the body support of a fall-protection system. For fall arrest, lanyards should be connected to the back D-ring, located between the shoulder blades and, ideally, anchored above the worker to minimize fall distance.
Self-retracting lifelines afford workers safe movement within the work area and include mechanisms that allow the device to extend and retract as the worker moves around. If the worker falls, the device will sense the sudden acceleration and arrest the fall.
Descent/Rescue—An essential part of the fall-protection program, descent and rescue devices are used to retrieve a fallen worker. Such devices include tripods, davit arms, winches and comprehensive rescue systems. Choosing the right descent and rescue equipment depends on the jobsite, the task being performed and the available workforce.
It is important to note that fall-protection equipment goes beyond personal fall arrest systems. Other equipment needed at the construction site may include ladders, scaffolds, nets and guardrails, depending on the work environment. Always provide workers with the equipment they need to get the job done safely.