Would you climb up the side of a cliff without some sort of protection? So why would you operate an aerial lift without protection or a backup plan in case something goes wrong? Not only is it against the law to not have fall protection, it’s incredibly dangerous. Equally as dangerous is using fall protection or a fall arrest system without proper training. This can give operators a false sense of security, leading them to do potentially dangerous things under the impression of being secured.
What is Fall Protection?
Fall protection is comprised of fall prevention and fall arrest. Fall prevention includes mechanisms that prevent an operator from falling off a boom lift or aerial lift such as wire rope rails, standard solid rails, and travel restraints. Fall arrest, synonymous in the field with being tied-off, includes mechanisms of protection such as harness, lanyards, and anchor points. Fall prevention methods are standard and included on man lifts and aerial lifts when purchased. Fall arrest systems are where many operators are not properly trained and it could lead to detrimental consequences.
Proper Fall Arrest System Usage for Aerial Lifts
To use a fall arrest system properly while operating any lift, whether it’s a boom lift or a reach forklift, you must understand the four components of proper fall protection: proper harness usage, proper lanyard usage, proper anchor point and proper fall clearance.
Using a Harness
Just as you wear a seatbelt in the car, even if you don’t get into a car accident, you should wear your safety harness even if you’ve never fallen before. Before equipping your harness, check to ensure there are no signs of major wear include rips and tears and look to see when it was last inspected. If all signs are good to go, start putting it by grabbing the D-ring in the middle of the back and allow the harness to hang. This gives better access to putting it on and not getting the straps confused. Step into the leg straps and put the shoulder straps on and connect the chest strap. Before moving forward, have a partner check your harness to ensure the straps are not tangled or twisted. Once you are sure there are no twists in the straps, adjust the straps to the proper length to ensure they are not too tight or too loose. As a rule of thumb, the straps should be loose enough slide your hand under it but tight enough that does not allow a closed fist to fit underneath.
After you’ve properly put on your harness, you need to calculate the proper fall distance before selecting a lanyard and anchor point. Grabbing a random lanyard from the gang box is not going to give you your best outcome if the lanyard you grab is 10’ when you have a 6’ fall clearance. Before choosing your lanyard you must understand how far away the lower level is away from your anchor point, not just your harness as the anchor point will hold you to the boom lift. If you are using a deceleration device or a lanyard that is designed to lessen the force of the fall, you need to be sure to include the extra distance in your calculations.
Using a Lanyard
If you are using a lanyard with a deceleration device, you will want to attach the deceleration device directly to your D-ring as to ensure its proper deployment. If your lanyard is retractable, ensure the casing is attached to your anchor point. Regardless of which lanyard type you use, ensure it has not been deployed, as that means it has been involved in a fall. As discussed in fall clearance, it is of the utmost important to ensure the lanyard chosen is the proper length.
Securing to an Anchor Point
OSHA requirements state than an anchor point needs to be capable of hold 5000 lbs per operator attached. Structural steel and engineered anchor points will generally meet OSHA guidelines but other anchors should be inspected by a registered engineer to ensure it meets standards for employee safety. The anchor point chosen should be levelled with your D-ring.
Stay Safe on Aerial Lifts with Fall Protection Systems
Using fall protection and fall arrest systems only successfully work when they are properly worn and secured. When you walk into the basket of a boom lift, whether it is extended or not, you are required to be tied off or secured. Don’t underestimate the importance of your fall protection system.
If you are looking for a new aerial lift due to damaged, weakened or corroded rails or due to concern of its safety, turn to Coast 2 Coast Equipment for your new and used aerial lift needs.