Falling is one of the most dangerous hazards for workers who build, repair and maintain bridges. However, the risk can be easily averted with the proper fall protection equipment and fall arrest training. Custom designed and standard fall restraint lifeline cables and harnesses are available for working on all types and sizes of bridges.
Fall Protection Equipment for Bridges
Fall protection systems are incorporated into bridges of all types in nations around the globe. They are used in short, long, low and high bridges because even falls of 20 feet can cause serious injuries.
The primary pieces of equipment used for fall protection are lengths of stainless steel suspension cables that are manufactured to withstand harsh weather conditions. The cables are used in conjunction with personal lifelines, harnesses and other equipment to offer workers flexibility when performing routine maintenance tasks, such as inspections, light replacement and painting.
In addition to the cables and lifelines, horizontal platforms can be added to provide walkways where none exist. The platforms can be set at an incline or decline and are useful for working underneath a bridge and for conducting a fall protection system inspection. Vertical platforms and ladder systems can also be used to provide workers with fall protection on high towers. If space limitations do not allow for platforms, then a traction hoist and davit system may be installed.
The equipment for bridge fall protection is sturdy and durable, and when properly operated, it provides reliable protection in all weather conditions, including strong winds, rain, ice and snow. This permits workers to safely respond to emergency situations at any time. In addition to quality materials, the equipment is manufactured with expert craftsmanship and comes with full fall arrest training for workers and regular inspections designed to maximize the protection it provides.
Maintenance Recommendations for Fall Protection Equipment
A fall protection system inspection must be included in every bridge’s list of scheduled maintenance tasks. In addition, most manufacturers and dealers recommend an inspection before each use. Inspections should begin with a visual overview of the equipment’s condition, paying special attention to deterioration and other forms of damage.
To remain in compliance with the regulations established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), inspections must be performed by competent individuals who are trained to identify hazardous situations and conditions specific to each piece of fall protection equipment.
Annual Recertification Checklist
Every 12 months, the following maintenance duties for fall protection systems must be performed:
- The tension of each line must be tested and reset according to specifications.
- All hardware components must be checked for wear.
- All moving parts must be lubricated.
- Load testing of davits must be performed.
- Load testing of tiebacks must be performed.
In addition to the above checklist, anchorages, beams and trolley systems must be inspected for structural damage, loose connections and smooth operation.
Retractable lifelines must also go through an inspection that includes the following points:
- Line breaks and anomalies
- Cable slippage on swaged fittings
- Rust, corrosion, dirt and debris
- Anchorage point integrity
Training for Bridge Fall Protection
Reputable fall protection dealers do not only sell the equipment. They also provide each client with full training in its use and maintenance. This training may be provided through several methods, such as classroom coursework and hands-on exercises. Although the coursework is custom tailored to each client, typical topics include strategies for limiting access to authorized personnel, maintaining all types of equipment and calibrating equipment.
Some manufacturers and dealers of fall protection equipment also offer national programs that can be attended by several clients at once. These programs may include trainer courses so that companies can save time and money by training their own personnel.