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NEW Standard in Fall Protection – What YOU Need to Know


You may be vaguely or acutely aware of this once in almost-a-decade change in Fall Protection guidelines, but there is a new standard on self-retracting lifelines, established by the ANSI committee for Fall Protection (American National Standards Institute). The Z359.14-2014 standard for self-retracting lifelines expires in August of 2023, and is replaced with ANSI Z359.14-2021, that changes the classification and testing of all Self-Retracting Lifelines going forward.

You may know these devices as SRLs, SLRs, retracts, yo-yos, blocks, retractable lifelines, and maybe something else, but what we know as a self-retracting lifeline has been around since the early 1960s, and has been commonplace on construction sites since the late 2000’s.  Body belts and ropes progressed into full-body harnesses and shock-absorbing lanyards, then onto self-retracting lifelines, and the effects to the body in the case of a fall are much more friendly now than the previous versions. 


 Self-retracting lifelines consist of a housing where cable or webbing remains inside and automatically extends and retracts to provide no slack in the line, but still allows for free movement of the worker, this removes trip and snag hazards and is an advantage over traditional shock-absorbing lanyards. They also feature an automatic lock-up and deceleration when the device experiences the effects of a fall, which minimizes free-fall and reduces effects to the body compared to shock absorbing lanyards. Great improvements for sure, so it’s very important for construction executives to know what is changing, why it’s changing, and how it affects their work.

WHO IS ANSI and What Do They Do? 

This group of professionals (ANSI Z359 Fall Protection Committee) and the generations before them are largely responsible for standards that guide us into safer work practices in fall protection, and although they do not make laws like the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), their standards are often adopted by regulators in and outside of the United States as law. ANSI standards also acts as the most popular and universally followed set of voluntary guidelines for use and manufacture of fall protection products. 

Updating or overhauling standards for manufacture and use for these devices is a big deal to manufacturers and fall protection experts, so ANSI assembles a large group of manufacturers, engineers, testing laboratories, and users of fall protection products twice a year outside of Chicago to discuss these issues and vote on changes to the standard to meet the evolving industry concerns and hazards. 

Malta Dynamics, along with other manufacturers, collaborate with safety leaders from the likes of Kiewit, KMI Construction, and product users like Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, Boeing, Shell Oil, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Department of Energy, every branch of Military, and OSHA. 

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WHAT Is Changing? 

Previously, self-retracting lifelines were categorized in Class A, B, and LE with sub-designations P (personal) and R(rescue). Classes A and B were both specific to overhead anchorage, with the differences being in the Average Arresting Force (force emitted to the body), and Arresting Distance (up to 24” for Class A, and up to 54” for Class B). Class LE lifelines pertained to Leading Edge devices, so the testing parameters for LE were for foot level/below D-ring anchorage situations.  

 Going forward, Class A, B, and LE go away. They are replaced with Class 1 and 2, while the sub-designations of P and R remain: 

Class 1 and 2 Labels


  • Class 1 – ALL OVERHEAD Anchorage lifelines are in this class. This replaces classes A and B from the 2014 standard. The Maximum Average Arresting Forces (shall not exceed 1350lbs) and Arresting Distances (shall not exceed 42 inches) will be clearly marked on the lifeline housing.  
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Class 2 – ALL BELOW D-RING Anchorage lifelines are in this class as well as any lifeline that may contact an edge in the event of a fall. This replaces the LE class, Maximum Average Arresting Forces and Arresting will be clearly marked on the lifeline housing for Class 2 as well. 

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Testing guidance has also changed. To achieve this new standard, testing parameters have been altered to include a higher test weight as well as more stringent guidelines on static and dynamic load testing to improve upon the safety factors. There are also more safety requirements for labelling products with warning notices and charts designed to help users. The P(Personal) and R(Rescue) sub-designations see some updated testing specifications as well, also pointed at increasing safety factors.

WHAT Do I Need to Do? 

One thing you do not need to do is throw out any existing self-retracting lifelines that pass inspection and are in your equipment fleet now. If your existing fall plan specifies Class A, B, or LE lifelines for each hazard, keep them in your plan, and adjust your plan according to the specifics of the Class 1 or 2 lifelines as you incorporate lifelines manufactured to the ANSI Z359.14-2021 standard. 

 It is important to know that you cannot be fined or cited by OSHA or any other like agency specifically for not following the ANSI Z359.14-2021 standard for self-retracting lifelines. Internal or general contractor (GC) requirements may be different than these suggestions, however this is Malta Dynamics’ suggestions for you:

 1. Review the updated standard from ANSI 

 2. Look at your plans and documentation, adjust Class A, B, LE to language that works for existing devices or Class 1 or 2 lifelines, then note the Maximum Average Arresting Force and Arresting Distance necessary for your SRL locations. 

 3. Implement a ‘rolling change’ switch to the new standard’s lifelines as you add the latest standard devices. 

 4. Contact your SRL provider and they’ll help you coordinate. 

Key Changes and Implications

Classification Overhaul: The traditional classifications of Class A, B, and LE are replaced by Class 1 and Class 2, simplifying the system while adjusting the focus on anchorage point location and the potential for lifeline contact with edges during a fall. Class 1 targets all overhead anchorage applications, integrating the best aspects of Classes A and B, including arresting force and distance parameters. Class 2 addresses below D-ring anchorage and edge contact scenarios, offering a more unified approach to these unique challenges.


Enhanced Testing Protocols: With an aim at improving your safety standard, the protocol now requires testing with a higher weight, stricter static and dynamic load criteria, and expanded guidelines for product labeling. These changes are designed to bolster the effectiveness of SRLs in preventing suspension trauma and ensuring a safer arrest during a fall.


Compliance and Transition: It’s crucial to recognize that existing SRLs that pass inspection are still valid under the new standard. However, updating fall protection plans to align with the new Class 1 or Class 2 system is recommended. A phased implementation strategy allows for a smooth transition, ensuring that all fall arrest systems and rope access systems remain compliant and effective.


Manufacturer and Industry Support: Manufacturers like Malta Dynamics, alongside industry leaders and safety experts, play a pivotal role in guiding stakeholders through these changes. From updating qualification testing protocols to advising on best practices for a comprehensive managed fall hazard protection program, the support available ensures that the transition to the new standard is as seamless as possible.


Actionable Steps for Compliance


For construction executives, safety officers, and all stakeholders in active fall protection systems, the shift to ANSI Z 359.14-2021 necessitates a proactive approach:

  • Review and Understand the New Standard: Familiarize yourself with the nuances of the updated classifications and testing requirements.

  • Audit and Adjust Existing Plans: Evaluate your current fall protection strategies to ensure they align with the new classifications. Where necessary, modify your plans to incorporate Class 1 or 2 SRLs.

  • Implement a Gradual Transition: As you phase out older equipment or expand your SRL inventory, prioritize devices that meet the latest ANSI standards.

  • Seek Expert Guidance: Leverage the expertise of your fall protection equipment manufacturer or supplier for insights and support during this transition.

Looking Ahead

The ANSI Z359.14-2021 standard is more than just a regulatory update; it’s a forward leap in safeguarding workers against falls from heights. By embracing these changes, industry leaders can ensure that their fall protection programs not only comply with the latest fall protection standards but also reflect best practices in worker safety.


Download our FREE webinar for more information on these changes!

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