The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has issued a series of new standards that set requirements for fall protection equipment and employer training for workers at height. These standards directly affect the equipment used by workers in general industry, including maintenance and repair activities. The standards will, undoubtedly, affect the masonry industry as well.
Key changes in fall protection standards
The current national voluntary consensus standard for personal fall arrest equipment used in general industry is ANSI Z359.1-1992 (R1999), "Minimum Safety Requirements for Personal Fall Arrest Systems, Subsystems and Components."
A new series of fall protection standards, released on Aug. 15, 2007, becomes effective on Oct. 15, 2007, when it replaces ANSI Z359.1-1992 (R1999):
- Z359.0 Definitions and Nomenclature Used for Fall Protection and Fall Arrest
- Z359.1 Safety Requirements for Personal Fall Arrest Systems, Subsystems and Components
- Z359.2 Minimum Requirements for a Comprehensive Managed Fall Protection Program
- Z359.3 Safety Requirements for Positioning and Travel Restraint Systems
- Z359.4 Safety Requirements for Assisted Rescue and Self-Rescue Systems, Subsystems and Components.
Equipment requirements have been expanded (beyond fall arrest) to include work positioning and restraint, with specifications for strength and performance consistent for the series.
Changes in Equipment
Important changes in equipment design and testing include:
- Gate strength for all snaphook and carabiner connectors increases to 3,600 pound-feet, a 10-fold increase over current requirements
- Twin-leg lanyards are now tested to resist a 5,000-pound-foot static load at the point of connection between the two legs
- Full-body harnesses with frontal attachment points are now rated for limited fall arrest, up to a two-foot free fall and a 900-pound-foot maximum arrest force.
Connector gate strength matters
The first improvement in connector design occurred in the ANSI Z359.1-1992 standard with the requirement for self-closing and self-locking connectors. Current designs of snaphooks on fall protection lanyards greatly reduce the potential for accidental disengagement or "roll-out." However, the gate of the snaphook or carabiner has traditionally been the weakest point in the fall protection system.
In some applications, including tie-off to scaffolds and other structural members, the compatibility of the snaphook with the anchorage connector must be carefully evaluated to ensure that the gate of the snaphook cannot be loaded. This allows pressure on the gate to cause the mechanism to be forced open in a fall.
The new standards require snaphooks and carabiners to withstand a static load of 3,600 pound-feet, or twice the maximum loads permitted in a fall arrest system. This ensures that the entire fall protection system has at least a 2:1 factor of safety at each element in the system exposed to potential fall arrest forces.
Improved safety for masonry industry workers
The increased strength of the gate mechanism in snaphooks and carabiners:
- significantly reduces the potential for accidental disengagement of the fall protection system
- provides greater latitude in making compatible connections.
With the higher gate strength, snaphooks and carabiners can now be attached to a variety of anchorage-connecting means that previously were not compatible, because of their sizes or shapes. Please note that the strength of the anchor and anchorage connector must still meet the requirement for 5,000-pound-foot tensile strength (or twice the maximum load, when certified) as described in ANSI standards and OSHA regulations.
Twin-leg lanyards are important safety components that are widely used in aerial lifts with large platforms. The twin-leg lanyard enables workers to maintain 100 percent tie-off while they move laterally to points of anchor within the platform. The increased testing required for twin-leg lanyards ensures that the strength of these lanyards is sufficient to withstand high-impact loads at a junction demonstrated to be a potential weak point on some twin-leg designs.
Connecting elevated work platforms
Improvements in the strength and performance of personal protective equipment do not eliminate the need to exercise care in making connections in aerial lift devices. Remember these important guidelines:
- Tie off only to the anchor points identified by the manufacturer of the lift
- Read and heed all labels and instructions provided by the manufacturer(s) of the personal fall protection equipment
- Follow all safety rules and procedures in your employer's program for safe use of aerial lift devices; these generally include the prohibition against standing on the mid-rail or top-rail of the lift, and maintaining approved connection with the fall protection system at all times when working at height.
The release of new standards for fall protection equipment coincides with similar improvements in the design of fall protection anchorages in modern aerial lift devices. The general consensus of best practice in the industry emphasizes fall restraint within the aerial work platform when working aloft. Restraint systems limit the operator's movements to a point at which the person's center of mass remains below the top rail of the lift platform or basket.
Whenever possible, select a fall protection system that enables operators to perform their duties while tied off to a suitable anchor within the work platform to prevent him from falling outside the aerial lift device. As a general rule, if the operator must perform work outside the confines of the aerial lift platform, he should be tied off to a separate fall arrest anchor located on an approved structural member, rather than the aerial lift device.
Connecting on scaffold structures
The primary fall protection system for scaffolding is the guardrail. In a properly erected scaffold structure, a top rail, mid rail, and toe board are installed to prevent a fall. Masonry work is often performed on an open face of the scaffold with guardrails removed to facilitate access to the work area. Wherever practical, the scaffold floor should be placed close to the face of the wall to reduce the unguarded opening to one foot or less.
When scaffold work exposes the mason to a fall hazard, the optimum fall arrest system provides a suitable anchor overhead, mounted either to a structural member, such as a beam or column, or to the scaffold. Some scaffold manufacturers now provide tie-off points for fall arrest systems. Always verify the strength of the anchor point before connecting, and always use a fall arrest system that includes an energy absorber. Anchors for fall arrest must be rated for 5,000 pound-feet (or twice the maximum load, when certified).
When connecting a fall arrest lanyard directly to the scaffold structure, be sure the connection does not place load on the gate of the snaphook in the event of a fall. The improved snaphooks and carabiners certified to ANSI Z259.1-2007 will have increased gate strength, but workers should not rely solely on the higher strength of their connectors to protect against forced roll-out in an accidental fall. Always verify by visual inspection that your snaphook has closed and locked after making a connection. The best-made connector will not function properly unless it fully encloses the structural member, and the gate has closed and locked before work continues.
In conclusion, new ANSI safety standards provide masonry workers with fall protection equipment that meets higher strength and performance requirements than ever before. To obtain copies or information about the new ANSI Z359 standards, contact the American Society of Safety Engineers at 847-699-2929.
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