Fall protection systems are used to reduce or avoid any injuries sustained by workers who fall at a job site. Unfortunately, it is possible for companies to use fall protection equipment that is not compatible with other components of the system. Failure to check compatibility in a fall protection system could lead to serious injuries and even death in the workplace.
Checking Compatibility of a Fall Protection System
The importance of compatibility of components in a fall protection system is apparent, but how does an employer properly inspect compatibility to ensure that employees are kept safe? The first step in inspecting compatibility is to choose someone at the workplace who is qualified to complete such an inspection. They should have an intimate knowledge of the fall protection system, and if there are any concerns, it may be necessary to outsource the inspection to an expert.
There are certain aspects of the system that should be given close attention. Connections between each component in the system should be designed to properly attach and snap as necessary. These connecting components should also be designed to withstand the weight associated with any pieces of equipment that are attached to these connectors, and the weight of an employee who may need to be supported by such a component must be taken into consideration. Each connection is typically required to hold a minimum of 5,000 pounds in order to be considered adequate protection.
Load testing of building maintenance units is an important step in the process of checking compatibility of components. Performing a load test ensures that the system will work as intended. It is important for employers to do a load test that uses approximately two times the weight that the system would need to support on a regular basis. This strenuous load test is designed to make sure that the system can withstand even the worst conditions.
Avoiding the Disengagement of Snaphooks or Carabiners
Using snaphooks or carabiners that are not compatible with a fall protection system can result in a dangerous situation in which these pieces of the system suddenly disengage. There are some steps that employers can take the avoid disengagement to maximize safety in the workplace.
- There should never be more than one snaphook or carabiner attached to the same ring or loop in the system.
- Snaphooks and carabiners are not designed to be attached to each other.
- It is important for employers and workers to read all instructions related to each individual component of a fall protection system before attaching snaphooks or carabiners.
When Components Are Made By More Than One Manufacturer
Some employers simply check to ensure that each type of component is compatible with the other components of a fall protection system without manually ensuring compatibility. This means that the employer may go through an inventory list that only provides information about the piece without listing the name of the manufacturer.
The problem with this assumption is that fall protection equipment is not always interchangeable. For example, all tie-back lanyards are not created equal. Compatibility between two pieces of equipment made by different manufacturers can be particularly confusing because of labeling on these items. There may be wording that indicates that one component is compatible with another component, but it is important for employers to talk to each manufacturer before using fall protection system components from more than one manufacturer.
Many employers miss the important step of checking the compatibility of components when installing a fall protection system. Using equipment that is not intended to support the weight that needs to be supported on a job site or using components from different manufacturers could lead to a dangerous situation. Research is the key to make sure employees are properly protected by the equipment they are provided and trained to use.