Workplace Solutions Construction safety Facility safety Fall protection Utilities

Safely working at height

Most workers are trained to climb using the “three points of contact” rule, but how do they stay safe when tools and equipment need to go up with them?


Responding is Matt Hahn, product manager, Ergodyne, St. Paul, MN.

The “three points of contact” rule (both feet with one hand or both hands with one foot) is a time-tested method for safe climbing but presents a challenge for workers who need to bring equipment with them. Although standard backpacks, tool belts and toolboxes have their place on the ground or in truck beds, most aren’t properly rated for storing or tethering tools when working at height. Hoist buckets, tool pouches and tool holsters are specifically designed and tested to safely store and support gear while it’s being lifted – making these items a critical element in dropped object prevention, fall protection and general worksite organization.

Considered “portable” containers, hoist buckets are designed to hold tools and equipment being transported to elevated jobsites. The handle of the bucket (or a D-ring or carabiner affixed to the handle) is attached to a pulley system or other lifting element, allowing workers to safely lift and lower gear without being weighed down by it. Hoist buckets commonly come in a variety of capacities. They may also include tethering points for affixing tool lanyards to the bucket and removable or affixed covers that prevent gear from spilling out should the bucket tip.

Tool pouches and tool holsters – considered “stationary” containers – are designed to be attached to worker fall protection, tool belts or the structure on which work is being done. Smaller and lower capacity than hoist buckets, they keep tools accessible while preventing spillage. Pouches often feature covered tops and D-ring tethering points for tool lanyard attachment.

All three solutions must be engineered to support the weight of the intended gear, with the entire bucket, pouch or holster being load-rated and tested as a system. A high-confidence safety factor (5-to-1) means a bucket is statically rated to carry 100 pounds and has been tested to 500 pounds without failure. Additionally, any tethering points attached to the bucket or pouch should be dynamically drop tested at a 2-to-1 safety factor.

Considering the American National Standards Institute/International Safety Equipment Association 121-2018 standard: American National Standard for Dropped Object Prevention Solutions is relatively new, most on the market today haven’t been tested to specific ANSI/ISEA 121 requirements.

To meet the requirements, a hoist bucket or tool pouch needs a secure top closure and lifting mechanism, 121-marked labeling, product instructions, and a certificate of conformity identifying when and where testing occurred.

When it comes to solving the hands-free climbing compliance conundrum, any old bag simply won’t do. By using buckets, pouches and holsters specifically designed and tested for use at height, workers can safely transport the gear they need to get the job done.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)