Five Common Mistakes when Using Fall Protection Equipment
We’ve all heard the old adage “A bad workman blames his tools” – indeed, this is a phrase bandied about quite a bit on construction sites, often in a playful manner. However, using tools and equipment is a serious business and we’re all well aware that tools and equipment will only perform at their best when used correctly. This is especially important when it comes to safety equipment and some of the most vital safety equipment is the personal protective equipment we use to work at height. Fall protection equipment is designed specifically to reduce the risk of a fall from height but it can only do so when used properly. Here are some of the worst misuses of fall protection system components.
- Rebar Snap Hooks – (aka Pelican hooks) – these eliminate the need for an additional anchorage connector and are large enough to connect multiple objects. However, it’s vital to ensure that the anchorage connector D-ring is larger than the snap hook to avoid side-loading the snap hook. When using a rebar snap hook, you should know the gate strength of the hooks and be aware that some hooks have two stress points that should align with the strongest points on the hook.
- Anchorage Connections – most lanyards are not designed to accommodate being wrapped back on themselves – using one in this way risks equipment failure due to incorrect gate loading or damage to the lanyard material from point loading. To avoid misuse, there should be an unobstructed load path between the anchor and the potential fall path or the worker.
- Anchorage Strength – the anchorage in any fall protection system must be strong enough to support the person wearing it. Workers often think that connecting to anything on the building is better than not connecting at all, but all anchor points and anchor posts must be strength tested to ensure proper support.
- Anchoring Below Dorsal D-ring – this is a common mistake with regard to workers anchoring below their feet. It pushes equipment to its limits and can cause the lanyard or anchorage to fail, or exceed the allowable force on the body, which increases the risk of a serious injury. In order to mitigate this issue:
- Don’t stand if it is not necessary to do so
- Keep the centre of gravity low to reduce freefall distance and fall potential energy
- Use the correct equipment for the application (for example, use a 12ft freefall lanyard if the only anchorage option is below the dorsal D-ring,
- Using Damaged Equipment – the effectiveness of any equipment may be reduced over time from UV exposure, corrosion and many other factors that can impact condition. All equipment must be stored correctly when not in use in order to protect it from UV exposure, moisture and elements which cause corrosion. Users should be trained on how to inspect the equipment to ensure that it is in good working order and safe to use. Make sure a competent person carries out comprehensive, detailed, formal inspections at least annually. Register your products so that you get notified of any recalls or advisories and develop and maintain a relationship with the manufacturers, distributor, training organisation or consultant body to stay up to date on all advisories and advances in technology.