Legible labels an important part of fall-protection inspections
Answered by Kim Meyer, soft goods product marketing manager, DBI/SALA and Protecta, Red Wing, MN.
The American National Standards Institute outlines good compliance standards for inspecting fall protection equipment, including inspecting the gear prior to each use, and that the equipment be inspected at least once a year by a competent, trained person. While voluntary, the ANSI Z359.1 compliance standard is good commonsense advice. It's like checking the tires on your car before a road trip. It's imperative to make sure the gear is ready to do its job.
Inspection of fall protection equipment is an important part of making sure your equipment is ready for use. With so many hidden factors influencing the performance of equipment, it's important to be able to spot signs of degradation to determine when it's time to replace a harness – a critical piece of fall protection gear. One sign your equipment should be replaced includes illegible labels. Other factors contributing to gear not passing inspection can include dirt, contaminants and corrosion.
Labels are an important part of the inspection process. They should be legible with all information present. Important information includes warnings, materials of construction and capacity of the harness – all important information that should be reviewed for your application. It also contains quick reference information such as model number, size of harness and date of manufacture. This allows for easy reorder of the harness if a newer one is required. Many models contain an inspection log where you can record the date of the inspections, making it easy to keep track of inspection dates. Keeping the labels clean of dirt will help ensure the important information is available to the user for reference before use of the equipment.
Dirt and other contaminants are probably the No. 1 cause of fall protection equipment deterioration. Because the gear is often used in construction environments, it frequently comes into contact with dirt, grease, oil, compounds, concrete, paint and other chemical contaminants. These contaminants infiltrate the webbing and begin to deteriorate the structure of the fibers, weakening the gear and compromising its integrity and – ultimately its performance in a crisis.
Corrosion is another factor that may shorten the life of important fall protection gear. Corrosive environments such as salt water, corrosive acids and alkalis, have a detrimental impact on the webbing and metal components of a harness such as buckles. While plating or a paint coating usually protects the metal components, when the corrosion is strong enough it will often penetrate the protective barrier and – through time – attack the integrity of the component. This will cause rusting and pitting of the material – a clear sign the gear should be pulled out of service.
There are many more factors that can influence the fall protection gear, which is why it's important to do an inspection on the gear before use. If something doesn't look right, always err on the side of safety and remove it from service. At the end of the day, you're talking about a piece of safety gear that will potentially save someone's life – therefore, inspect often.