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A Guide to Safety Harness and Lanyard Inspections

Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, representing 1/3 of all on-the-job fatalities in the sector. A fall from any height can be dangerous, whether it’s from an open window, a scaffold, a ladder, or an aerial lift that travels multiple stories in the air.

Although falls are a common hazard in many workplace settings, more workers die while working on construction than in any other industry. In fact, falls in construction sites represent 51% of all fall-related accidents in the US.

Most fall-related incidents are caused by:

  • Natural elements -  Rain, snow, and ice can lead to slip-and-fall hazards.
  • Incomplete structures - Unfinished walls, floors, and staircases can cause falls that result in a life-threatening injury. 
  • Site debris - Remnants from cut wood, metal, cement, metal, or rebar scattered around the work site is another major cause of trip-and-fall accidents.

Common construction fall injuries

Construction site falls can lead to serious injuries, including:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Severe abrasions
  • Scrapes and bruises
  • Permanent disabilities
  • Death
  • Bone fractures
  • Amputation

How can construction falls be prevented?

Construction falls can be fatal, but they are also preventable. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates that fall protection equipment, training, and practices must be provided at working elevations of:

  • 8 feet in longshoring operations
  • 6 feet in construction sites
  • 5 feet in shipyards
  • 4 feet in general industry workplace settings

Additionally, OSHA requires that regardless of fall distance, appropriate fall protection systems be provided when working over high-risk machinery and equipment.

OSHA inspection guidelines for fall protection systems

To reduce the risk of fall-related injuries and deaths, OSHA requires businesses to implement an inspection program for their fall protection equipment.

At some point, fall protection equipment can become worn or damaged whether it be from exposure to harsh conditions or frequent use. Storing equipment in an improper environment can also cause deterioration due to mold, mildew, and pests.

Checking the safety and integrity of your fall protection equipment before use ensures the safety of your workers. Safety inspections are also necessary for diagnosing and preventing equipment failures in the event of a fall, performing timely maintenance, and prolonging the life of your gear.

According to OSHA Standards, personal fall protection systems must be inspected by an authorized person at least once at the start of each eight-hour shift. Each piece of equipment must be thoroughly checked for:

  • Wearing or internal deterioration in the ropes
  • Tongues unfitted to the shoulder of buckles
  • Non-functioning parts
  • Loose or damaged mountings
  • Distorted hooks or faulty hook springs
  • Any damage due to deterioration
  • Contact with acids, fires, or other corrosives
  • Any significant defect (mold, mildew, cuts, tears, abrasions, undue stretching)
  • Additions or alterations which might affect its functionality

Any component exhibiting the signs above, should be labelled as destroyed or unusable and be removed from service immediately. Additionally, fall protection equipment should be assessed at least once a year by a “competent person.” More frequent inspections should be performed if required by the manufacturer.

OSHA defines a “competent person” as someone who is capable of recognizing predictable and existing hazards on the work site. Competency here is demonstrated by a person’s skills, knowledge, and experience. It’s not necessarily measured by evaluations or successfully completing training programs.

In the construction sector, a competent person performs the inspection of fall protection systems, lifting slings, and rigging equipment. They are also authorized by their employer to remove any damaged or defective equipment from service.

To ensure that your gear is safe and ready for use, OSHA guidelines require that employers perform thorough safety inspections on lifelines, lanyards, harnesses, and self retracting lifelines.

How to properly inspect your fall protection harness 

A safety harness allows the wearer to attach themselves to an immovable object. It’s designed to protect you from serious injuries in the event of a fall. 

It is critical to inspect the harness and ensure it is in perfect condition before using it. It should be free of any cuts, frays, or signs of splitting. Pay attention to any worn or burnt stitching and damage to buckles, D-rings, belt ends, and adjusters, as all of these can make the gear unsafe to use.

Maintaining the safety of your self retracting lifelines (SRLs)

The challenge with inspecting SRLs is that many of their components are hidden from view. Pressure plates, springs, brake pawls, and even the cable itself are all protected inside the housing. 

When inspecting SRLs, double check if all labels and markings are legible and undamaged. Additionally, check for any signs of deterioration on the lifeline, connectors, and housing.

Book an inspection today

By conducting thorough safety inspections, you can trust that your fall protection gear is free of damage or defects prior to each use. Professional equipment inspection is still the best way to reduce falls and help keep everybody on the job site safe. 

At Southeast Rigging, we specialize in on-site inspections and load testing services for slings and lifting fixtures. Since 1989, we have been helping our clients maintain safe and efficient work environments and conditions. 

Contact us now to book an inspection.

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