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What kind of fall protection do I use for an overhead steel beam?

This Week on Dynamic Discussions

On this week’s episode of Dynamic Discussions, Greg and David help us discover what kind of fall protection products are appropriate for use on an overhead steel beam. Like all fall protection scenarios, you’re going to want to make sure the anchor point (in this case, the steel beam) is rated for fall arrest. To determine if the beam is a suitable anchor point, you will want to consult your competent person or a 3rd party qualified person to make sure the beam is rated for fall arrest. Once you confirm that the overhead beam is rated for fall arrest, the variety of anchors that you can use is expansive. You can use a beam strap, beam trolley, a beam clamp, you could weld on an anchor, or several other anchor options. You could even use a sling-type anchor, as long as the anchor can be attached to the beam and is rated to withstand 5,000 lbs. of force. The overhead beam scenario is a perfect opportunity to use a self-retracting lifeline as the connector to the anchor, then connect the SRL to a standard full body harness to complete the personal fall arrest system.

What is a 5,000 lb. Anchor? 

When you’re preparing a personal fall arrest system, your safety is only as reliable as your weakest link. When a worker ties-off to an anchor, it must be able to withstand the force of a free fall during a fall arrest. That’s why 5,000 lb. anchors are the industry safety standard. According to the OSHA standard 1910.140, if you’re tying-off workers for fall protection, the anchor point must be able to support at least 5,000 lbs. per person attached. Anchors must be designed appropriately and tested to prove they can withstand the forces applied to them in the case of an emergency fall arrest.

It’s also important to note a common misconception about a 5,000 lb. anchor. Many may think a 5,000 lb. anchor can withstand the shock of 5,000 lbs. falling, but that is not particularly true. The anchor can support 22.2 kilonewtons of force, which is equivalent to the poundage measurement but not the same as an applied force. It’s surprising to see how much force a grown person can generate when falling, which is why 5,000- lb. anchors are vital.

Steel Beam Anchors: Cross Arm Strap 

Once you have determined that the beam you’ll be attaching to is a safe anchor point, you can pick your beam anchor. Steel beam anchors come in a variety of forms.

The most common steel beam anchor is called a cross arm strap. These straps are a long piece of high strength webbing with a large D-Ring on one end and a smaller D-Ring on the other end. The strap gets wrapped around the beam and the smaller D-Ring gets fed through the larger D-Ring to create a loop. Once the strap is secured in place, you can attach your connector.

Steel Beam Anchors: Beamers 

Another common form of steel beam anchor is called a beamer, beam walker, trolley, or slider. This family of anchors

These fall protection clamps provide a beam clamp tie-off point for H-Beams or I-Beams, and can be installed overhead or at foot-level (with the approval of a Competent Person). Using adjustable metal hooks, the super sliders and trolleys are fall protection anchor clamps that attach to the flange of steel I or H beams and glide along them as workers move. These fall protection clamps attach without tools and can fit a variety of beam widths.

These anchors are also reusable, so you can easily transport them from project to project with ease! 

Steel Beam Anchors: Vertical/Fixed Anchors

These fall protection clamps provide a fixed beam clamp tie-off point for H-Beams or I-Beams, and can also be installed overhead or at foot-level (with the approval of a Competent Person).

These fixed beam clamp tie-off points feature two paws, one that is stationary and one that can be adjusted to fit a range of beam sizes. Once the paws are positioned around the beam, you tighten down the locking nuts to create a secure anchor point that can safely be used as part of the personal fall arrest system.

These vertical beam clamps attach without tools and, because of their removable and reusable innovative design, can be used again time after time.

These are the main 3 forms of steel beam anchors. When these anchors are combined with a secure anchor point, full body harness, and approved connector, the personal fall arrest system is a reliable form of fall protection.

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