A fall arrest system is a mechanism implemented to protect workers performing duties at great heights from serious injury or death as the result of falls.
While you have no doubt been trained in fall arrest and are probably confident in your ability to work within the confines of such a system, in real life you need to use it correctly and be very careful not to ignore or forget any components or procedures. Doing so could very well lead to you sustaining serious injury or worse. Below are 5 factors to consider when using fall arrest anchors and their components.
1. Effective anchor points
Fall arrest anchors are ideal in environments with reduced clearance. They give provision for a shorter distance of free fall and minimize the risk of injury that might occur during a free fall from a high point. This is key for the protection of workers. However, if you do not have solid anchor points, you are still at risk of serious injury and death. This is because if anchor points are not secure, they could dislodge and fail to prevent you from falling
Most regulations state that your anchor points need to be capable of supporting 5000 lbs. per employee attached. All of your anchors should be secured to a strong surface, preferably steel which will not bend or crack of compromised.
2. Proper elimination & protection
You can either eliminate a hazard or protect your workers against it. This is made possible by simply switching your working environment. Some of the prevention methods while using fall arrest anchors include installation of scaffolds, barriers or handrails, and guardrails. In case these protection solutions are not applicable, you can use effective and efficient fall protection tools including lanyards, retractable lifelines, and harnesses.
For individual fall protection, you might use a restraint system with a fall arrest anchor to prevent workers from falling. When a fall arrest anchor is used with an appropriately rated connecting device and harness, it will prevent the fall in an effective manner. However, it should be engineered and designed professionally for a particular working environment. This is a very important precaution that should not be ignored.
3. The components
While it is one things to be well-educated and trained on fall arrest, it is quite another to have knowledge of all the aspects of a system. Forgetting one part could render the system ineffective and result in serious injury or death from a fall.
Components of a fall arrest system minimally include anchorage, connecting device, and body support. The anchorage is normally a stable point where a connecting device is attached with the other end attaching to a lanyard and harness. The body support offers a point of connection to the worker for the even distribution of forces across the body during a fall. As a result, serious injuries will be prevented.
4. The relevance of the wire rope & rigid rail
A fall arrest anchor is made up of wire rope systems and rigid rail systems. These systems are used in supporting the worker.
A wire rope system consists of cable that is fastened to many anchorage points. The cable is connected to a lanyard and harness and allows a worker to shift horizontally or vertically along the cable as needed. Rigid rail systems consist of a trolley that moves along a track as opposed to using anchor points. Cable systems offer flexibility regarding setup and are better for longer lengths. Rigid rail systems minimize any potential sag, preventing a fall within a shorter distance as compared to a wire setup. Therefore, it helps in reducing injuries that occur after a fall.
5. Know the need for protection
Every employer needs to guarantee their workers with a safe and secure working environment. While using a fall arrest anchor, there are various heights that have been set for workers to operate in. Whenever this plateau is reached, a fall arrest system must be utilized to be in compliance with laws and regulations.
Whenever you realize the need for free fall protection, develop a well-written plan included with well-detailed work procedures. This will lay out clear expectations for your employees and detail how to implement precautions against falls.