Leading Edge

Last updated: April 22, 2019

What Does Leading Edge Mean?

A leading edge is the unprotected and under-construction side of a roof, floor, or other walking surface that changes location as work on the surface continues.

Unlike a finished edge, a leading edge is often abrasive or sharp, which creates unique hazards to workers and can damage and impair the function of safety equipment.

Safeopedia Explains Leading Edge

OSHA rules for leading-edge applications (1926.501(b)(2)) specify that work within six feet of a leading edge requires the installation of conventional fall protection equipment, while work between six and 15 feet of a leading edge requires hazard warnings at the six-foot mark and a demarcation of the work area.

In addition to the normal fall protection standards that OSHA and other occupational safety and health organizations apply to construction work at height, leading-edge work is subject to additional considerations that recognize its unique hazard potential. For instance, the abrasive work surfaces and sharp edges that characterize many leading edges can damage the structural integrity of self-retracting lifelines (SRLs) and cause fraying or other forms of damage that may cause the lifeline to fail.

Additionally, most SRLs and other forms of tethering equipment are designed to be anchored to a high point, whereas leading-edge anchors often must be tethered to the surface at “foot height.” This lower height, as well as the worker’s increasing distance from the anchor as he or she builds the surface forward, can affect the function of fall arrest equipment. This puts workers at risk for longer, harder falls before their fall arrest system is able to successfully stop them.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard Z359.14 requires SRLs to have additional task-specific safety features if they are to be used for leading-edge applications. ANSI-certified leading-edge lifelines must be made of material that is resistant to the wear and damage of leading edges, and they must come with integrated shock absorption to compensate for the increased fall distance faced by leading-edge workers.


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