Meeting new fall protection requirements

The fall protection I currently own meets the old ANSI Z359.1-1992 (R1999). Will it be compatible with new fall protection equipment that meets the updated ANSI Z359-2007 fall protection code?

Answered by Joseph Feldstein, manager, technical services, MSA, Pittsburgh.

In general, fall protection that meets the new ANSI Z359-2007 fall protection code will be compatible with components of a fall protection system that met the previous revision of the standard. However, equipment such as harnesses and lanyards and devices with snaphooks or carabiner connectors that met the ANSI Z359.1-1992 (R1999) standard may not be suitable for use in the same manner as equipment designed to the new fall protection code.

The new ANSI Z359-2007 fall protection code sets new requirements for fall protection. Components affected by the changes in the new standard include full body harnesses, twin-leg lanyards, and snaphook and carabiner connectors.

Older harnesses with front-mounted D-rings may not meet the new strength requirements for fall arrest as specified in the latest version of the standard. Older versions of snaphooks and carabiners will not have the high tensile strength of the connectors certified to the latest standard. They also may be more limited in their compatibility with other components of a personal fall arrest system, regardless of which version of the ANSI standard the other components may meet.

Fall protection that meets the new fall protection code, particularly lanyards and self-retracting lanyards fitted with the new snaphooks and carabiners, will reduce the likelihood of an incompatible connection. This is due to the higher strength of the gate mechanisms, which will resist accidental disengagement (rollout) when combined with various connecting elements of a fall protection system. Fall protection with older snaphooks and carabiners must be attached only to connecting elements (i.e., D-rings or anchor structures) that are compatible in size, shape and strength, and are in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

Combining components from different manufacturers introduces another source of uncertainty over the compatibility of the resulting system. When in doubt about whether components are compatible, contact the equipment manufacturer. Every system for fall arrest, work positioning, travel restraint and rescue must be evaluated for compatibility by a competent or qualified person.

One more thing to keep in mind: Compliance with the new ANSI Z359-2007 standard is voluntary, and equipment meeting the previous version of the standard can continue to be used until the end of its service life. However, replacement equipment that meets the new fall protection code will offer a higher level of protection to workers, thanks to improvements in equipment strength and performance that the standard demands. Although the newer fall protection equipment may be compatible with older fall protection in inventory, care must be exercised when using older equipment to operate these components within the safe limits as originally directed by the manufacturer.

Originally published in the April 2008 issue of Safety+Health.

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