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4 Reasons to Elevate Your Fall Protection Anchorage Points

In the realm of occupational safety, fall protection stands as a top concern. Whether you work in construction, maintenance, or any industry involving heights, having a secure anchorage point is crucial to ensure the well-being of workers. In this blog, we’ll dive into the reasons why elevating your fall protection anchorage point is essential.

Workers must understand where they should place their anchor point and how to calculate its placement to provide adequate anchorage while working at heights. Keep in mind, when calculating your anchorage point, finding anchorage as high as possible gives workers sufficient fall clearance, and increased free fall distances. Using these steps can help assure that you are elevating your anchors properly, picking the right gear and working as safely as possible at heights.

1. How to Calculate Fall Clearance Distance

One of the primary reasons to elevate your fall protection anchorage point is to increase the fall clearance distance. Fall clearance distance refers to the vertical space needed for a worker to safely arrest a fall before striking the lower level or other obstructions.  Elevating the anchorage point provides a buffer zone, reducing the risk of the worker hitting the ground or other obstacles.

When the anchorage point is closer to the worker, the fall clearance distance decreases, limiting the effectiveness of the fall arrest system. This can be particularly hazardous in situations where workers are operating at different heights or near structures, machinery, or other obstructions. By elevating the anchorage point, you ensure a safer margin for fall arrest and minimize the potential for serious injuries.

Workers must consider the distance from the walking working surface to the next lower level or obstruction. After determining this distance, review your arresting distance of your self-retracting lifeline, lanyard or other connecting device before establishing where to tie-off. Evaluating these factors will give a better understanding of your fall clearance distance when working at that height. Most manufacturers highlight fall clearance distance in the manual for self-retracting lifelines or lanyards. When calculating, the location of anchor points greatly affects this distance when comparing situations where you have an anchorage overhead versus anchorage at foot level.

2. Increased Free Fall Distances and Fall Forces

Elevating the fall protection anchorage point also plays a crucial role in managing free fall distances and fall forces. Free fall distance is the vertical distance a worker falls before the fall arrest system engages. The longer the free fall distance, the greater the forces exerted on the body during the fall arrest.

When the anchorage point is low, the free fall distance increases, leading to higher forces on the body and the fall protection equipment. This can result in a more significant impact on the worker, increasing the risk of injury. Elevating the anchorage point helps mitigate these risks by reducing the free fall distance, ensuring that fall forces are within acceptable limits according to safety standards.

3. Finding the Correct Equipment for Applications

When working at foot-level, specific applications require leading edge or Class 2 devices to reduce fall forces on a worker and minimize risk. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) periodically updates safety standards to enhance worker protection and address evolving industry needs. In the context of fall protection, ANSI recently revised the standard for Self-Retracting Lifelines (SRLs), ANSI Z359.14-2021. This updated standard introduces significant changes that emphasize the importance of anchorage point height.

The new ANSI SRL standard incorporates a maximum arrest force requirement, which influences the design and performance of fall protection systems. Elevating the anchorage point becomes crucial to comply with these updated standards and ensure that fall protection systems effectively limit arrest forces, contributing to a safer working environment.

"In some cases, elevating anchorage points can be infeasible, prompting workers to follow the best safety methods using leading edge or Class 2 devices to tie-off at foot-level."

When finding the right equipment for the exact application, it is important to note the worker’s anchorage point and read product manuals and labels for any device to ensure that is meets the correct standards for tie-off at foot level or overhead anchorage points.

By adhering to the latest ANSI standards, organizations demonstrate their commitment to worker safety and reduce the likelihood of regulatory non-compliance. In some cases, elevating anchorage points can be infeasible, prompting workers to follow the best safety methods using leading edge or Class 2 devices to tie-off at foot-level. Elevating the fall protection anchorage point is a proactive measure to align with these standards and enhance overall safety practices.

4. Creating Overhead Anchorage

In many industries, workers need to move around elevated workspaces, making fixed anchorage points impractical. Mobile fall protection systems provide a flexible solution, allowing workers to maintain a secure connection to an elevated anchorage point while navigating different areas. These mobile solutions are temporary or permanent solutions that are tested and built specifically for your hazard. Within recent years, solutions for mobile overhead anchorage are easier to get on site with the ability to rent based on the needs of a project.

Elevating the mobile anchorage point becomes crucial for two reasons: it provides a more extensive working radius, enabling workers to access a broader range of areas, and it enhances the effectiveness of fall arrest systems. By elevating the anchorage point, mobile fall protection systems can accommodate varying fall clearance distances and reduce the risk of injuries associated with lower anchorage points.

In addition to the height of the anchorage point, it’s essential to address the issue of cable contact with substrates. The choice of substrate, whether it’s a beam, column, or any other structure, can impact the effectiveness of the fall protection system. When the anchorage point is too low, the cable may contact the ground or other surfaces during a fall, potentially causing damage to the cable or compromising the integrity of the system.

Elevating the anchorage point helps minimize the risk of cable contact with substrates. This not only preserves the condition of the fall protection equipment but also ensures that the system functions as intended during a fall event. Regular inspections and proper training on the correct usage of fall protection equipment are also essential components of a comprehensive safety strategy.

Elevating your fall protection anchorage point is a critical step in enhancing worker safety and complying with industry standards and best practices. By addressing factors to elevate anchorage, organizations can create a safer working environment. Prioritizing fall protection not only safeguards the well-being of workers but also contributes to a culture of safety within the workplace. As industries evolve and safety standards advance, staying proactive in adopting elevated anchorage points is an investment in the long-term health and productivity of a workforce.

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