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Updated Fall Arrest Standards

1/14/21  |  Jim Lanz, Rexel Technical Consultant

Over the past few years, both OSHA and ANSI have updated fall arrest standards. Are you aware of the new compliance requirements?

These are important if you have employees or sub-contractors working at height inside or outside your facility and if you have fixed vertical ladders in or outside your buildings.

Updated Fall Arrest Standards – Fixed Ladders

Here is the scoop. Let’s start with the fixed ladder regulations. Many companies are updating their equipment to meet this newer standard even though OSHA is not enforcing the updated fall arrest standards until the year 2036. Although enforcement is grandfathered for a couple of decades, the rule is in place. You can imagine what a court would do with an injury case if you did not meet the current standards.

On top of that, the existing standard just doesn’t make sense! Fixed vertical ladders that are over 24 feet in height require fall protection. Historically, cages on those ladders were considered adequate by OSHA. Remember that fall protection or prevention devices are required in industry when a worker’s feet are four feet above the surface and six feet above the surface in construction. In the new rule, the cages are no longer considered fall arrest protection, and a personal fall arrest system must be installed. Many facilities are enhancing the safety of fixed vertical ladders that are much lower than the 24-foot standard. 

Cages have been shown to do more harm to a fall victim and can make rescue very difficult if the victim is tangled in the metalwork. We have been providing inspections and hazard remediation systems at many facilities throughout the Northeast. I am in favor of 100% tie-off protection for the worker throughout the ladder climb and his arrival and entry to the roof or deck. This economical solution is now readily available as a turnkey system.

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Updated Fall Arrest Standards – Self-Retracting Lanyards

Another updated fall arrest standard results from ANSI testing of self-retracting lanyards (SRL) used when the worker is near a “leading edge.” When a worker could fall from a flat roof or deck with a sharp edge, the SRL must withstand the forces applied as it is dragged over that edge. The deceleration device must activate even if the fall is slowed due to the friction of the connecting device material as it is dragged over the leading edge of the roof or deck. Now, most personal fall arrest system manufacturers are producing SRLs that meet the new, leading edge (LE) ANSI requirements. Your Safety Manager must implement these new LE rated SRLs to meet the standard anytime the application would require them.

And finally, manufacturers have created SRLs that reduce the fall arrest impact even further by creating type B rated SRLs. These self-retracting lanyards can make a big difference on the loads placed on the victim in a fall from height. The downside to a type B is that it takes a longer distance to slow the fall to a stop. The ANSI standard for type B is 54 inches versus the existing type A at 24 inches upon activation of the impact shock absorber. Picture your car moving at 60 MPH. As you slam the brakes for a sudden stop, you feel the weight of the vehicle straining against the brake system for a very short time. If you have plenty of room to stop and gently apply the brakes, you do not get a sense of strain; however, your braking distance has increased.

We Can Help You Stay on Top

Keep these updated fall arrest standards from OSHA and ANSI in mind when choosing your personal fall arrest systems. And know that we are here to help with training and product recommendations by knowledgeable, trained Safety Specialists. Contact us today!