What Capital Safety Wants You to Know When It Comes to Fall Protection
Professional football players need the best protective equipment available to stay safe on the playing field, from helmets to pads to mouth guards and beyond. Construction workers who work on Lambeau Field, the historic football stadium in Green Bay, Wisconsin, face even greater hazards and need the best protective equipment as well—particularly fall protection when they are working at height. They also must use appropriate equipment and use it properly to stay safe.
Two construction crew members who worked on the renovation of Lambeau Field know the value of quality fall protection equipment and proper training firsthand: the first fell from a steel beam six stories above ground. Less than two months later, another worker slipped from a beam and fell. Both escaped injury and possible death because of their fall protection equipment. Fortunately, these workers not only walked away after these accidents—remarkably,they were able to go back to work the same day.
But what if they had been using the wrong products, or the wrong anchorage points, or had failed to take into account swing fall hazards or sharp edge hazards? Those workers may never have returned to work!Traditional webbing lifeline (with energy absorber) failure. Traditional cable lifeline (with energy absorber) failure.
Many personal fall arrest systems rely on lifeline materials to perform under less than ideal conditions. But there are some applications where use of the wrong product—for example, where a lifeline contacts with a sharp edge—could have catastrophic results.
Product testing and certification organisations in the U.S.and around the world, including the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and CE in Europe, have been reexamining how lifelines in fall protection systems perform when subjected to these “sharp edge” applications. They’ve also placed a new focus on “leading edge” applications.
Through this analysis, they have concluded that these two environments are unique in fall protection and involve increased risks due to the lifeline cutting, fraying or becoming otherwise compromised.
Understanding Leading and Sharp Edges
A sharp edge is one that, for practical purposes, is not rounded and has the potential to cut most types of lifelines. The ANSI standard for sharp edges, for example, involves testing the fall arrest device’s lifeline over a piece of steel bar with a radius of no more than 0.005” (5 one thousands of an inch). If the lifeline is cut or severely damaged, the device fails the test and
does not comply with ANSI.
To visualize a leading edge, imagine a worker installing steel decking on a new building. Now imagine the worker’s fall protection system is anchored at foot level behind him. As the worker
moves out and away from the anchor point while installing the decking, the worker is exposed to a potential fall over the edge of the building or the edge of an elevated platform.
In sharp edge applications the primary risk is the lifeline can be frayed or severed. Examples of other related risks with falls over leading edges include:
Increased Fall Distance
When workers are attached at foot level, as they often are in leading edge applications, they will fall farther than they would if they were anchored at shoulder height or above. The image on the previous page (see Image A) demonstrates the sequence of events that happen when a worker falls off a leading edge, and why a worker needs additional clearance. The required clearance when anchored at foot level varies byproduct so make sure to reference the product instructions.
Self-retracting lifelines react to a fall when the lifeline accelerates out of the housing at a certain velocity, generally about 4.5 feet per second. When self-retracting
lifelines are anchored at foot level, the lifeline does not achieve the required acceleration during a fall until after the user’s D-ring passes over the leading edge and below the level of the anchor. This means the user has already fallen about 5 feet before the self-retracting lifeline device will engage to arrest the fall.
Increased Fall Arrest Forces
Falling further means the impact on the body through the fall protection system will potentially be higher when the fall is arrested. This is why many leading edge and sharp edge rated products contain additional energy-absorbing devices.
Increased Potential for Swing Hazards
If a worker falls, and is off to one side, he may swing like a pendulum. While this in and of itself is dangerous, the danger is compounded if the worker is on a sharp edge and the lifeline saws back and forth across that edge.
New Standards Call for Different Equipment
Previously, the industry made attempts to prevent hazards in sharp and leading edge applications.These solutions included attaching an energy absorber to standard self-retracting lifelines,protecting edges and elevating anchor points. While these efforts have been helpful, many organisations have now incorporated leading edge/sharp edge criteria into their standards, or are working toward this. This includes ANSI, CSA and CE standards for self-retracting devices.Through their testing and analysis, ANSI confirmed a number of assumptions,including the fact that products not specifically designed for foot level tie-off—the type of anchoring most often used in these applications—will generate forces far exceeding accepted safety parameters in the event of a fall.
Compliant Products Available Specifically for Leading and Sharp Edge Applications
Nano-Lok edge Self Retracting Lifeline (SRL)
The Nano-Lok Edge is Capital Safety’s newest advanced technology—a personal SRL that can pass the most stringent leading edge standard set by ANSI Z359.14. It includes an 8-foot (2.4 meter) working length,an ergonomic and compact/lightweight design, and comes in single or twin 100% tie-off units. It’s specifically designed for foot-level tie-off and sharp edge applications and is ideal for direct connection to most harnesses. In addition, the Nano-Lok locks quickly—stopping a fall within inches—and provides more protection at low heights. Tension is always kept on the lifeline,which reduces dragging, snagging and trip falls.
EZ-Stop Leading Edge (LE)
Capital Safety’s EZ-Stop LE shock absorbing lanyards combine a set of “industry-first” advancements.They feature the world’s smallest and lightest shock absorber and are built with cable lanyard legs for leading edge work, foot leveltie-off or applications with abrasive surfaces or environments.
The Ultra Lok SRL-LE is made of galvanized steel wire for added wear resistance and is 35% stronger than standard SRL cables with approximately 15% more surface area. It includes an external energy absorber to control arresting forces and help reduce cable damage.
The Rebel SRL-LE is an economical solution that allows users to tie off at foot level and was put through extensive sharp edge testing to ensure absolute protection against sharp, abrasive and leading edges. It features a stackable space-maximizing design and an impact indicator to provide easy verification of whether the equipment has been involved in a fall.