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Fall Protection Expiration and Inspection

Fall protection equipment is a critical component of occupational safety, designed to safeguard workers from potentially life-threatening falls. However, like all safety equipment, fall protection gear has a finite lifespan and must undergo regular inspection to ensure its effectiveness and compliance with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and ANSI (American National Standards Institute) guidelines. The safety equipment that needs to be inspected can include anything from rescue equipment to a fall protection harness, to personal protective equipment. In this blog, we will delve into everything you need to know about fall protection expiration and inspection.

1. How to Know When Fall Protection Equipment Expires

When it comes to fall protection equipment inspections, it is crucial to follow the manufacturers’ instructions and ANSI standards for personal fall protection equipment. These standards outline how long fall protection equipment can be safely used in the field. 

The first step in this process is to refer to the user manual and labels on your gear. Manufacturers are legally obligated to outline how long a fall protection product can be safely used in the field. The expiration date may be explicitly stated on the equipment or found in the user manual. 

If your fall protection gear doesn’t display an expiration date on the equipment itself, it should be detailed in the user manual. Always prioritize safety by adhering to these guidelines. It’s important to note that using equipment beyond its expiration date can significantly compromise safety and increase the risk of accidents.

2. OSHA Regulations Regarding Fall Protection Expiration

OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, plays a pivotal role in ensuring occupational safety in various industries, including the construction industry where fall protection is of utmost importance. When it comes to the expiration of fall protection equipment, OSHA’s stance is clear: refer to the user manual and manufacturer instructions for information on inspection, maintenance, and retirement of your equipment. OSHA Subpart F, under 1910.1409(c)(18), mandates that personal fall protection systems must undergo a detailed inspection before initial use during each work shift for issues like mildew, wear, damage, and other forms of deterioration. Any defective components must be promptly removed from service. These regular inspections are essential to ensure the integrity of fall protection equipment and compliance with OSHA guidelines. Additionally, these inspections are typically part of a comprehensive fall protection plan, which must be in place for workplaces with fall hazards. 

OSHA emphasizes the importance of regular inspections and maintenance, which include both pre-use and competent person inspections. These inspections are essential for ensuring the integrity of fall protection equipment. OSHA’s regulations are in place to protect workers, and compliance with these guidelines is not optional—it is legally mandated.

RESOURCE: OSHA 1910.140(c)(18) 

"Personal fall protection systems must be inspected before initial use during each workshift for mildew, wear, damage, and other deterioration, and defective components must be removed from service"

3. Manufacture Date vs. Expiration Date

One common source of confusion regarding fall protection equipment is the difference between the manufacture date and the expiration date. The label on your equipment will typically display a date, but it is crucial to understand that this date represents the manufacture date, not the expiration date. 

It’s worth noting that conflicting dates and policies can arise, especially when internal company policies differ from manufacturer recommendations. In such cases, it is advisable to follow internal policies and be sure to evaluate manufacturer recommendations regarding best safety practices. 

The reasons for varying expiration dates and internal policies can include differences in environmental conditions, usage patterns, and the specific materials used in the equipment. Policies use these factors to determine recommended expiration dates.

4. When to Remove Fall Protection Equipment from Service

Regular inspections, both pre-use and competent person inspections, are crucial for identifying any signs of wear, damage, or degradation in fall protection equipment. If equipment fails any inspection, it should be immediately removed from service. Fall protection equipment can fail for various reasons, including visible damage, worn or frayed webbing, bent or cracked metal components, or malfunctioning mechanisms. Any such issues warrant immediate removal from service. 

Once fall protection equipment has been removed from service due to damage or wear, it should be replaced with new, compliant gear. Alternatively, you can consult with a competent person—a trained individual with expertise in fall protection—to assess whether the equipment fails inspection and should be discarded.

It’s important to emphasize that although fall protection equipment doesn’t have an explicit expiration date doesn’t mean it can be used indefinitely. All equipment has a finite lifespan, and regular inspection is crucial for identifying signs of wear and tear. Dependent on the usage and storage of fall protection equipment, the lifespan may vary.  

RESOURCES: Malta Dynamics – Inspection Forms 

Who Conducts These Inspections

A competent person, as defined by OSHA, is a trained individual with expertise in fall protection. Competent persons are the ones responsible for conducting thorough inspections of fall protection equipment on a regular basis. These inspections encompass both pre-use inspection and annual inspection. Pre-use inspections involve a visual inspection of the equipment before each use, while annual inspections delve deeper into the equipment’s condition to identify any signs of wear, damage, or degradation. 

Types of Fall Protection Equipment

Fall protection equipment includes safety harnesses, self-retracting lifelines, horizontal lifelines, vertical lifelines, and anchor points. Each of these components plays a crucial role in a comprehensive fall protection system. Regular inspections of these components are essential to ensure their proper maintenance and functionality. 

Regular Inspections: Ensuring Safety on Your Site

It cannot be stressed enough that regular inspection of fall protection equipment is critical for ensuring safety in the workplace. These inspections go beyond a cursory visual inspection and involve a detailed examination to identify any potential issues that might compromise the effectiveness of the fall protection system. 

In conclusion, maintaining and inspecting fall protection equipment on a regular basis, as per OSHA standards and ANSI guidelines, is paramount for occupational safety in industries where working at height is common. By following these procedures and ensuring the competence of those responsible for inspections, you can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and protect the well-being of workers. fall arrest

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