The ABCs of Fall Protection

One of the ways to protect yourself from a fall is using a personal fall arrest system.  A personal fall arrest consists of three main components; the anchor point, the body support, and the connecting devices.  The three components are often referred to as the ABCs of Fall Protection. 

The anchor point is commonly called the tie-off point.  It is the secure point of attachment to stop a fall.  The anchor point could be a structural member or a component engineered specifically for fall protection.  The anchor is what the worker attaches to and provides the foundational strength for the fall arrest system.  The anchor point must be able to support the intended loads.  OSHA states that anchorages used for attachment of personal fall arrest equipment shall be capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds.

The body support is typically a full-body harness.  The harness is designed to distribute the forces of a fall over the upper thighs, pelvis, chest, and shoulders.  The body harness provides a connection point to the worker in the personal fall arrest system.  When properly worn, a full-body harness will keep the worker upright in the event of a fall.  When a full-body harness is properly worn, the D-ring is in the middle of the worker’s back, the leg straps are tight and the chest strap is secured at the middle of the chest level.  One way to check the leg straps to see if they are tight enough is the finger test.  That is when the worker places their hand flat on their leg and can only fit their fingers underneath the straps. 

The connecting device is what connects the worker’s full-body harness to the anchor point.  The connecting device could be an energy-absorbing lanyard, a self-retracting lanyard, a rope grab, or a retrieval system.  The two most popular connecting devices are the energy-absorbing lanyard and the self-retracting lanyard.  In the event of a fall, the energy-absorbing lanyard slows the worker’s rate of fall and eventually stops the fall.  The lanyard will typically allow a worker to fall about 3-4 feet while it slows and reduces the forces of the fall on the worker.  A self-retracting lanyard acts like a seatbelt.  It allows for the worker to move freely but maintains a taught line so in the event of a fall the braking mechanism acts quickly to stop the lanyard and limit the fall.

As with all safety equipment, especially equipment that is designed and used to help save lives; it must be inspected prior to use.  Any signs of damage, wear and tear, or evidence of a previous fall; then the equipment must not be used and taken out of service.  If any piece of a personal fall arrest system has been subjected to a fall of any type, then it must be taken out of service immediately.  If there is any doubt, do not use it.

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