Workplace falls are one of the most common and often serious employee accidents. For this reason, employers are required by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) Standard 1926.501 to provide fall protection. This regulation in brief defines fall hazards as those locations where "unprotected sides and edges" exist 6 feet (1.6 m) or more above a lower level. OSHA requires fall protection to be provided "by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems."
Guard rails and safety nets offer excellent fall protection, but they aren't always practical. For example at construction sites, on utility towers, in aircraft facilities and other industries, personal fall arrest systems protect employees who must work on high open leading edges.
Fall arrest systems for leading edges such as open beams and rooftops provide a lifeline of safety for workers in high locations. The safety industry has developed various self-retracting devices (SRD's) that attach to harnesses as fall arrest systems for employees.
Depending on the fall hazard and the industry, SRD’s for leading edges are designed with multiple technologies and materials. For example, arresting a fall at different levels of say 2 feet versus 4 to 5 feet requires a different SRD design and construction materials.
What is ANSI Z359.14?
The reliability of SRD's is a great concern to both employers and employees, which is the point of ANSI Standard Z359.14. This guideline was developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) with the help of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).
ANSI Z359.14 sets industry standard requirements for SRD performance, design, qualification testing, markings and instructions, inspections, maintenance and storage, and removal from service. It applies to manufacturers, distributors, employers and employees.
This standard identifies three types of SRD's. The three types of SRD's are:
- Self-retracting lanyards (SRLs)
- Self-retracting lanyards with integral rescue capability (SRL-Rs)
- Self-retracting lanyards with leading edge capability (SRL-LEs)
It also divides SRD’s into two classes. Class A SRD's are defined as having a maximum arrest distance of 24 inches (610mm). Class B SRD's are defined as having a maximum arrest distance of 54 inches (1,372 mm).
Why Is ANSI Z359.14 Important?
If ANSI Z359.14 is a voluntary standard, then why should I or my company pay attention to it? There are too many OSHA government regulations. The cost of compliance and insurance hurts my bottom line. My competitors will ignore it to their competitive advantage.
Let's start with the basic value of human life and personal safety perspectives of this workplace standard, which is to prevent debilitating or fatal employee fall accidents. No one wants employees or coworkers to risk injury in hazardous locations without proper protection. The development of ANSI Z359.14 included input from safety experts, manufacturers, employers, and employees. It is a best practice standard that levels the playing field among manufacturers and assures employers that they are purchasing a reliable fall protection system. Are ANSI standards really voluntary? OSHA officially recognizes ANSI through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) as a valued partner in achieving national safety consensus standards. It also can reference ANSI standards in clarifying its own regulations.
So what's the difference between a voluntary safety standard, an industry safety best practice, and an OSHA safety regulation? The practical answer is none at all if you've suffered a serious accidental fall or are the surviving spouse of a fatal fall accident. Attorneys and expert witnesses can be quite convincing on this point in front of a jury when a worker suffers a preventable fall or if safety equipment fails. That's especially true when the injuries might have been avoided with the use of industry standard safety equipment. There is a fine line between meeting the law and negligence when your only defense as an employer is that the law didn't require it. In the case of injuries resulting from falls where the worker was poorly protected without outdated legacy equipment, the implications are clear.
MSA - The Safety Company & ANSI Z359.14
As a manufacturer of SRD's, MSA supports ANSI Z359.14 and has implemented its requirements in its product designs, materials, and testing to meet this standard. We recognize the dangers of leading edge exposures to employees high above ground level.
MSA fall protection solutions are trusted to ensure worker safety on a wide range of buildings, towers, and structures. The key to our reliability lies in MSA's unique understanding of load control at the end of a free fall and the required heavy-duty SRD components. For example, the force exerted at the end of a longer worker free fall could snap a simple fabric lanyard or a single cable as it contacts the leading edge. Hazardous industrial work sites require robust SRD designs and construction materials to counteract these forces.
If you distribute, purchase or actually use SRD's, then ANSI Z359.14 represents a vital industry consensus and best safety practice in fall protection. Be sure to inventory your SRD's to make sure that they meet this new standard so you can protect yourself and your team.
In addition to providing fall protection equipment, MSA offers extensive training in their use and application. Our knowledge base of fall hazards is extensive. If you're having a problem, chances are our highly trained experts have seen it elsewhere and solved it before.