How to Choose Your Fall Protection Anchorage
Selecting the right anchorage is an important part of ensuring your fall protection system is maximally effective.
Never underestimate the importance of anchorage in keeping workers safe at height.
You could be using the latest in fall protect systems, right down to foot-level tie-off rated energy absorbers, and it won't make a difference. If the anchor fails, it negates all the protection offered by the other components of that system.
What Is an Anchorage System?
Let's start by getting straight on what comprises an anchorage system.
There are two components:
- The anchorage, the structural element to which the personal fall arrest system is attached.
- The anchorage connector, which attaches to the anchorage to create a tie-off point for your connecting device (lanyard, self-retracting device, and so on).
These two terms are often used interchangably, but the distinction between them is critical. The first step in choosing the right anchorage for your fall arrest system begins with treating the anchorage as a vital component of that system, not as a separate component.
The anchorage also plays a critical part in the outcome of most fall protection scenarios, since the elevation of the anchorage above the walking-working surface is a primary factor in determining available clearances.
Types of Fall Protection Anchorage
To select the right anchorage, there are a few helpful things to keep in mind:
- The purpose of the anchorage
- The materials used in the fall protection system, including the anchorage connector
- The structure to which the anchorage is attached
According to the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA), there are three basic types of anchor systems for fall protection:
- Designed Fixed Support – These are load-rated fall protection anchorage connectors permanently installed in the building structure. They can be used to anchor fall arrest systems, work-positioning systems, and travel-restraint systems - as long as they comply with industry standards and regulations.
- Temporary Fixed Support – These are temporary supports attached to the structure. They include nail-on anchors, beam clamps, and other anchorage connectors not designed as part of the building.
- Existing Structural Features – These are parts of a structure not intended for fall protection but that can still act as anchorage. A professional engineer or qualified person must verify that it has the capacity to serve as an anchorage.
Requirements for Temporary Fixed Anchor Points
The weight support requirement for temporary fixed anchor points varies. It depends on the type of fall protection system anchored to it.
The OSHA standard states:
“Anchorages used for attachment of personal fall arrest equipment shall be…capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds (22.2 kN) per employee attached, or shall be designed, installed, and used as follows: as part of a complete personal fall arrest system which maintains a safety factor of at least two”
According to the requirements of ANSI/ASSE Z359.2 and Z359.6, the following guidance applies:
- Fall Arrest Anchorage: 5,000 lbs or twice the expected impact load
- Fall Restraint Anchorage (Travel Restriction): 1,000 lbs or twice the expected impact load
- Work Positioning System: 3,000 lbs or twice the expected impact load
In all cases, a safety factor of at least two should be applied when determining the minimum load that an anchorage point must support. As a general rule, choose an anchor capable of supporting the weight of a small car (about 3,600 pounds) in the case of a certified anchorage approved by a qualified person or engineer.
You may choose an existing structural feature or equipment as an anchor point. If so, avoid corners or edges that could fray or cut the lines.
Regularly Inspect Fall Protection Systems
Every component of the fall protection system should be inspected daily, before use. This includes anchorages and anchoarge connectors.
Employees should be trained in how to thoroughly inspect their fall protection equipment. Use the manufacturer's instructions as a guide for the inspection process.
Schedule regular inspections from third-party professionals. This will ensure that every component of the fall protection system is evaluated by a qualified professional and also act as another set of eyes to catch any issues that might have been missed.
If an inspection reveals any defects, inadequate maintenance, or unsafe conditions, remove the equipment from service immediately.
Any component that has been involved in a fall should also be decommissioned immediately. While it may appear to remain in good condition, even a minor fall can subject it to force that could compromise its effectiveness.
OSHA acknowledges that in some cases, anchorages are identified and anchorage connectors are installed right before use on the job site. When that happens, only competent persons should select the anchorage and install the anchorage connector.
|Free Download: Construction Fall Safety Checklist |
Anchorages to Avoid
It can be difficult to find a sturdy and convenient anchorage for a personal fall arrest system. This can tempt workers to use makeshift anchorage and anchor points that feel sturdy so they can get on with their work. No matter how solid these feel, however, they are unlikely to provide the kind of support anchorage should. It's simply not worth the risk.
Never use the following items as anchors:
- Small pipes
- Scaffolding (unless approved by a qualified person)
- TV antennas
- Ladders (unless approved by a qualified person)
- Anything damaged by wear or weather
This list is not exhaustive, and all potential risks should be considered when choosing an anchor point.
Making the Right Choice
Fall hazards are common at construction worksites, but fall-related injuries and fatalities are preventable.
While critical, choosing the right anchorage and anchorage connector is only one part of a comprehensive fall protection system. It's improtant to also consider guardrails, restraint systems, and other fall prevention methods.
However, none of your fall protection should come at the exclusion of proper anchorage. Knowing how to choose the right one is an essential step in ensuring that every employee will get to go home safely.
Check out the rest of our content about Personal Protective Equipment here.
Written by Burk Shaw | President
Burk is President of Medsafe, La Porte, TX. He joined Medsafe in 1990 after graduating from Stephen F. Austin State University with BBA in Finance & Economics. Burk has over 27 years of safety experience including manufacturing, services and distribution. Burk lives in Houston and is married to wife Talbott and has three children. Burk enjoys golf and spending time with family and friends on the weekends.
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