This section establishes performance, care, and use criteria for all personal fall protection systems. Employers must ensure each personal fall protection system used to comply with this part, must meet the requirements of this section.
- COMPETENT PERSON – is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in any personal fall protection system or component, as well as in their application and uses with related equipment. They also have the authority to take prompt corrective actions to eliminate the identified hazards.
- DECELERATION DEVICE – a mechanism that serves to dissipate energy during a fall.
- DECELERATION DISTANCE – the total vertical distance a falling employee travels before stopping: the distance from the point the deceleration device begins to operate, to the stopping point, excluding lifeline elongation and the free-fall distance.
- LIFELINE – a flexible line that either connects to an anchorage at one end to hang vertically (vertical lifeline) or is a horizontal lifeline that connects at both ends to an anchorage, to stretch horizontally.
- PERSONAL FALL ARREST SYSTEM – used to arrest a worker’s fall from a walking-working surface. A personal fall arrest system consists of a body harness, anchorage, and connector (which can be a lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline, or suitable combination of these means).
- PERSONAL FALL PROTECTION SYSTEM – employers use this to provide protection for workers from falling, or to safely arrest a fall if one occurs. Examples include personal fall arrest systems, travel restraint systems, or positioning systems.
- QUALIFIED PERSON – is defined by OSHA as one who, “by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated their ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project.”
- SELF-RETRACTING LIFELINE – a drum-wound line under slight tension, which allows a worker to move away from or towards, their work slowly. Should a fall begin to occur, under rapid deployment of the line, the system automatically locks the drum and arrests the fall. (Typically, resulting in a fall of 2-feet or less, and often allowing for the worker to perform a self-rescue”, as they have not moved very far from their original position).
- SUSPENSION TRAUMA/ORTHOSTATIC INTOLERANCE – a CRITICAL topic, as prolonged suspension from fall arrest systems can cause orthostatic intolerance, which, in turn, can result in serious physical injury, or potentially, death. Refer to 1910.140(c)( 21) below, where this subject is covered in medical detail.
- TRAVEL RESTRAINT SYSTEM – the purpose is to PREVENT a worker from even reaching an unprotected edge and falling off an elevated surface they are working on. It consists of a combination of an anchorage, connector, lanyard (or other means of connection), and a body support.
1910.140(c)(17) – requires that any fall protection system and its components subjected to impact loading, must be removed from service immediately. The system or the components may not be used again until a competent person performs an inspection, and determines it is not damaged, and is safe for workers to use for personal fall protection.
1910.140(c)(21) – requires that employers provide for the prompt rescue of workers in the event of a fall. Workers suspended after a fall are in danger of serious injury, or potentially death, primarily due to suspension trauma, hence the necessary requirement.
SUSPENSION TRAUMA – ORTHOSTATIC INTOLERANCE
Orthostatic intolerance may be defined as “the development of symptoms such as light-headedness, trembling, poor concentration, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, headache, sweating, weakness and occasionally fainting during upright standing.
- Venous pooling typically occurs in the legs due to the force of gravity and a lack of movement. If the legs are immobile, then these “muscle pumps” do not operate effectively, and blood can accumulate.
- An accumulation of blood in the legs reduces the amount of blood in circulation. The body reacts to this reduction by speeding up the heart rate and in an attempt to maintain sufficient blood flow to the brain. If the blood supply is significantly reduced, this reaction will not be effective. The body will abruptly slow the heart rate, and blood pressure will diminish in the arteries.
- During severe venous pooling, the reduction in quantity and/or quality (oxygen content) of blood flowing to the brain causes fainting. This reduction also can affect other vital organs, such as the kidneys.
- The kidneys are very sensitive to blood oxygen, and renal failure can occur with excessive venous pooling. If these conditions continue, they potentially may be fatal.
- Research indicates that suspension in a fall arrest device can result in unconsciousness, followed by death, in less than 30 minutes.
Employers should implement plans to prevent prolonged suspension in fall protection devices. The plan should include procedures for:
- Preventing prolonged suspension,
- Identifying orthostatic intolerance signs and symptoms, and
- Performing rescue and treatment as quickly as possible.
A rescue device – like the 3M DBI-SALA R550 Rescue and Descent Device, or similar products – can be used to allow for timely rescue of a suspended worker.