Personal Fall Arrest Systems

Personal Fall Arrest Systems

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Hi I'm Jill, Chief Safety Officer with Vivid Learning Systems. I'm a former OSHA inspector and I'm here to help you identify and correct workplace hazards.

For this series we are at the beautiful Monterey Bay Aquarium to show you that no matter where you work, safety training is for everyone.

Have you ever seen one of these? It's called a body harness, and when worn properly it protects people from falling or completing a fall, but there's a lot more to a fall arrest system than just wearing the body harness.

A personal fall arrest system includes more than just wearing one of these body harnesses. It includes wearing the body harness, correctly selecting the correct length of lanyard or lifeline, ensuring it has minimum breaking strength of 3 to 5,000 pounds depending on type, ensuring the ropes and straps of the lifelines lanyards and body harnesses are made of synthetic fibers and are not damaged and are inspected. Confirming the anchorage point the person attaches to a kit is capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds selecting the connectors d-rings and snap hooks are made from drop forged, pressed, or formed steel or their equivalent with a minimal tensile strength of 5,000 pounds. Rigging the fall arrest system to limit a person's free fall to 6 feet or less. And having a rescue plan in place should a fall occur.

Let's demonstrate the safe use of a fall arrest system. Today with me I have Jeremiah who is the Safety Manager here at Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Chris who's the safety specialist here. Jeremiah I'm wondering if you could walk us through the right way to fit a body harness and why that's so important. All right we have Chris here, you can see he's wearing a fall protection harness he's got it on appropriately sometimes that's the hardest part is making sure that you can get it on the right way. But you can see we've got the positioning strap here on the midline. This keeps the two straps together and it needs to be right across the middle of the chest, and snug. As well with the leg strap. You can see the leg strap is tight, I can't fit more than my hand in here and that's important because in the event of a fall if these are too loose you could fall through the harness. Now Chris will turn around for us, you can also see that we have the d-ring positioned in the middle of the back, and you should be able to place your hands on either side of it along with the shoulder blades. Here now this ball rest harness has a special feature, it's spring-loaded which brings the d-ring up to the user so it's easy for them to grab and disconnect. This one also has some shock absorbing features here, so that in the event of a fall not only your shock absorbing lanyard but your harness will help reduce the pressure of that fall and the person falling will be more comfortable.

So these are a couple of things you can keep in mind when you're selecting a fall protection harness, and make sure you get the proper fit. Selecting the correct lifeline our lanyard is a critical component of a fall arrest system. You want to be sure that you've selected the correct length and it needs to be done by a competent person. Jeremiah I'm wondering if you could walk us through how it is that you chose the lanyard that you're using today and features of its application.

All right well there are several types of lanyards. This is a retractable lanyard, as you can see it kind of works like a seatbelt. In the event of a fall it's gonna stop and catch the person wearing the fall arrest harness. Now with this particular unit it has a locking handle so it doesn't come loose when someone's engaging it with the d-ring. But what's important about it is that this is a nine foot lanyard and what you need to know is this is a shock absorbing lanyard and so it has an arrest distance as well of 42 inches. So this will actually stretch in the event of a fall. So if you were working on an 8 foot ladder this wouldn't be the appropriate lanyard that you'd want to use because it's gonna stretch an additional three and a half feet, which might cause you to hit the ground. So in that application you're working on a six or eight foot ladder you might want a four foot lanyard to keep you from hitting the ground.

Another important aspect of a fall arrest system is inspecting all of your gear prior to using it. Now we have a couple of pieces here that were taken out of service by the aquarium. Jeremih maybe you could walk us through why they were taken out of service.

Sure so you should always inspect your harnesses before use, and with this particular harness it seems to be in pretty good condition, it's relatively clean, it's not dirty but it does have some corrosion here on this Buffalo. We work in a harsh environment and this is something that you might see commonly with some of our equipment. Also if you turn the harness around somebody wrote their initials right here to mark this unit. We really discourage that you do that. Sometimes a guy'll take a sharpie and write his name right across a brand new harness, and typically we have to take that out of service because it compromises the integrity of the material. If you look at this lanyard here this is a good example of a frayed harness. This has been exposed to the elements, it's got some paint on it but if you look closely at the harness at the lanyard itself you can see that the materials been compromised, so you wouldn't want to use this as a fall arrest safety device.

The anchorage point of a fall arrest system is a critical component, you want to make sure that your Anchorage point can hold the load, which should be between three to five thousand pounds depending on the equipment that you're using. Now you may have heard about people tying off to maybe a sewer pipe or a vent pipe on a roof system that would never be appropriate because they're not rated for that use.

Jeremiah I'm wondering if you could walk us through the Anchorage points that you use here at the aquarium and why you selected the ones that you did. So here at the aquarium you might need to access the roof for any number of reasons. It could include cleaning corrosion control or just routine maintenance. You can see here at Chris's attaching to a d-ring these have been selected in all the areas that we need them. They are pole rated to 5,000 pounds and they're on the crest of the roof so that we can access them from either side. This system works well for us because it allows us to safely access the roof and do the work that we need to and all of our roofs and in areas in the aquarium.

The last thing to remember about your fall arrest system is to have a rescue plan. It's just as important as all the other features that we talked about today. So what if you did fall who's going to rescue you? Or if you're working alone, are you using equipment where you could self rescue.

And finally I'd like to thank Jeremiah for walking us through the equipment today and Chris for demonstrating its use. Really appreciate that, thank you both.

I hope you gained a safety training skill today. If you know someone who needs this go ahead and pass it on.

Safety is everyone's business.

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