Good and Bad Fall Protection Anchor Points
Personal fall protection gear is only as good as the anchor point.
Your personal fall protection gear is only as good as the anchor or tie-off point you choose. Some workers believe certain points are safe when in fact, they won’t hold them if they fall.
“I’ve come across workers attaching lanyards to an overhead pipe thinking that it’s going to be sufficient,” said Lee Braden, manager of safety training and a Certified Master Trainer with United Academy, the training branch of United Rentals. It’s not. Anchor points for lanyards must be rated to withstand 5000 pounds.
Why 5,000 pounds? “An average-size worker can generate very high arrest forces from relatively short falls,” said Braden. For example, someone who weighs 214 pounds free falling 5 feet can generate more than 2500 pounds of force. Using a 2:1 safety factor will equate to 5000 pounds of force.
“It’s amazing how fast you will fall. Many times during training sessions participants will say, ‘I’ll catch myself.’ But no, you really won’t. Within just 2 seconds, you are traveling approximately 44 miles per hour and have fallen 65 feet.”
Overhead pipes aren’t the only bad anchor points. “There are times we see operators of mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPS) tie the lanyard around one of the rails on the platform instead of using the manufacturer anchor point,” said Braden. But if the operator falls, the force could pull the guardrail right along with them.
Here are some more examples of bad anchor points:
- Standard guardrails
- Standard railings, such as a rail on the basket of an overhead lift
- Light fixtures
- Roof stacks
So what is a safe anchor point? According to OSHA, it must be independent of any anchorage being used to support or suspend platforms and capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds per employee attached, or it must be designed and used as part of a complete personal fall arrest system that maintains a safety factor of at least two, under the supervision of a qualified person.
OSHA defines safety factor as “an additional distance added to the total fall clearance distance to ensure there is enough clearance between the worker and the lower level after a fall. It is typically 2 feet.”
Examples of good anchor points might include:
- Permanent engineered and certified anchor points manufactured for fall protection
- Temporary anchor points made up of an anchorage connector (such as a web anchor sling) and an anchorage structure that is strong, secure and immobile, such as a secured I-beam
- Beam clamp
If workers aren’t sure whether a certain anchor point is safe, they should talk to a qualified person such as a registered engineer at their company.
Marianne Wait is an editor and writer who creates content for Fortune 500 brands.
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