Fall Protection Equipment Inspection and Maintenance
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When implementing a 100% fall protection safety program for your installation teams, no amount of planning, training and documentation will make up for deficiencies in fall protection equipment due to regular wear, improper storage or misuse. Employers must verify that each employee has been trained in inspecting fall protection equipment and in its proper use. Employers must also communicate the required procedures for equipment handling and storage.
All fall protection equipment should be inspected before each use. In addition, a routine inspection by a Competent Person should be performed at least twice a year. If any defects are identified in equipment, it should be removed from service immediately. The following inspection guidelines can be used as a starting point in the development of a more specific and comprehensive company procedure for fall protection equipment inspection.
—Karl Riedlinger / SolarCity / San Mateo, CA / solarcity.com
Body harness. For harness inspections, begin at one end of the harness. Hold the body side of the belt toward you, and grasp the belt with your hands 6 to 8 inches apart. Bend the belt in an inverted U. Watch for frayed edges, broken fibers, pulled stitches, cuts and chemical damage. Broken webbing strands generally appear as tufts on the webbing surface. Any broken, cut or burned stitches can be readily seen.
D-rings. Inspect D-rings and D-ring metal wear pads for distortion, cracks, breaks, and rough or sharp edges. The D-ring bar should be at a 90° angle with the long axis of the belt and should pivot freely. D-ring attachments should be given special attention. If rivets are used, they should be tight and flat against the material. Bent rivets may fail under stress.
Tongue buckle. Buckle tongues should be free of distortion in shape and motion. They should overlap the buckle frame and move freely back and forth in their sockets. Rollers should turn freely on the frame. Check for distortion or sharp edges.
Friction buckle. Inspect the friction buckle for distortion. The outer bars and center bar must be straight. Pay special attention to the center bar’s corners and attachment points.
Lanyard and Connector Inspection
Lanyard. When inspecting lanyards, begin at one end and work to the opposite end. Slowly rotate the lanyard so that you check the entire circumference. Spliced ends require particular attention. The thimble (the protective plastic sleeve) must be firmly seated in the eye of the splice, and the splice should have no loose or cut strands. The edges of the thimble should be free of sharpness, distortion and cracks.
When inspecting steel lanyards, rotate the wire and watch for cuts, frayed areas and unusual wear patterns. When inspecting a web lanyard, bend the webbing over a piece of pipe and observe each side for any cuts or breaks. For rope lanyards, rotating the lanyard while inspecting it from end to end brings to light any fuzzy, worn, broken or cut fibers. A weakened area caused by extreme loads appears as a noticeable change from the original diameter. The rope diameter should be uniform throughout, following a short break-in period. When steel, web or rope lanyards are used for fall protection, a shock-absorbing system should be included.
Shock-absorbing packs. The outer portion of shockabsorbing packs should be examined for burn holes and tears. Stitching on areas where the pack is sewn to the D-ring, belt or lanyard should be examined for loose strands, rips and deterioration. Shock-absorbing packs are a one-time–use device and should be removed from service and destroyed if they are subjected to a fall event. Snap hooks. Inspect snap hooks closely for hook and eye distortion, cracks, corrosion and pitted surfaces. The keeper or latch should seat into the nose without binding and should not be distorted or obstructed. The keeper spring should exert sufficient force to firmly close the keeper. Additionally, carabiners should be inspected. Locking gates on carabiners should work freely and lock as designed. Only locking carabiners are suitable for use in fall protection systems.
Self-retracting lifelines. Fully extend each self-retracting lifeline and inspect the entire length of the lanyard for wear, fraying, nicks and other damage. The lanyard should completely and smoothly retract into the housing. Inspect the housing for cracks and other damage.
Anchors. Inspect the anchors prior to each use. If an anchor is bent, deformed, cut, gouged or otherwise altered, it should be removed from use and inspected by a Qualified Person or disposed of. Never reuse the fasteners for anchors. Instead, use new hardware with each installation. One-time–use anchors should be inspected for manufacturing defects before use and should be disposed of immediately upon removal so they are not mistakenly reused. If existing anchors are already in place, they should be thoroughly inspected. If there is any doubt about the condition of the anchor or about whether it is attached properly to the structure, new anchors should be installed.