Falls are the leading cause of death in construction. In 2018, there were 320 fatal falls to a lower level out of 1,008 construction fatalities (BLS data). These deaths are preventable.
If you are an employee who works at elevated levels six feet or more above lower levels that are not protected by handrails or safety nets, you must wear a personal fall protection device. You must also wear a personal fall protection device when you’re working on suspended scaffolds that have only one or two suspension points. Federal regulations located at 29 CFR § 1926.451 also prescribes requirements on the use of a personal fall protection device on other types of scaffolds. The personal fall protection device is the only thing between you and possible death or serious injury if you should happen to fall.
What is a personal fall protection device?
A personal fall protection system includes a harness you wear around yourself, a lanyard with a deceleration device and a substantial anchorage. If your job requires that you move between anchor points, (e.g., climbing a ladder on a water tank) you should wear two lanyards. Attach to the point you are moving toward before unhooking the second lanyard from the previous anchor point. This way, you are constantly protected.
Inspect Harness Before Each Use
To ensure maximum protection from personal protective equipment, you must inspect and maintain it, as well as wear it.
Lanyards with a deceleration device should be nylon rope or equivalent with a minimum of one-half inch diameter and 5,000 pound breaking strength. They should be tied off to an anchoring device of equal strength so that if you should fall, you won’t drop more than six feet. As with all other portions of the device, lanyards should be inspected end-to-end before each use.
If any part of the system fails inspection, it must be removed from service immediately. Before disposing of it, destroy it to avoid other people using it.
Care and Maintenance
Don’t allow acids, caustics, or other corrosive materials to come in contact with fall protection devices, lanyards, or lifelines. Avoid dropping devices on the ground and keep them away from sharp tools or objects. Cutting or rough punching extra holes in a device can weaken it, as well as void the manufacturer’s warranty. Never use gasoline or other drying solvents on any harness. Instead, lightly coat leather products with leather conditioners such as saddle soap. Be careful of products that contain ingredients such as neatsfoot oil, which may degrade the stitching. For fabric harnesses, use only the special dressing recommended by the manufacturer. Store all harnesses in separate, dry compartments or hang them up so they won’t be damaged.