Proper Care, Maintenance, & Use of PPE & Safety Equipment
by Dan Dallenbach, territory sales manager, Roofmaster Products Company
(Editor’s Note: It is with tremendous sadness that Roofmaster® Products Company has announced that Dan Dallenbach, 61, passed away unexpectedly in July 2020. Dallenbach had more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience in the roofing industry, both in manufacturing and distribution, and spent the last several of those years with Roofmaster. He was actively involved in the local roofing contractor associations, where he championed safety measures for all roofing professionals. Dallenbach leaves behind his wife, Peggy, two adult sons, and three beloved dogs, including Dray who was a frequent visitor to Roofmaster. Donations may be made in Dallenbach’s name to the American Heart Association®.)
It is critical that once a contractor implements their safety plan and ongoing training programs that they also be sure of the proper use, maintenance, and care of safety equipment. Fall arrest and fall restraint systems are some of the most critical safety equipment for workers on the roof, and they should be inspected frequently.
Harness equipment should be thoroughly checked, including belts and rings, tongue buckle, and friction buckle. For inspections of belts and rings, begin at one end, hold the body side of the belt toward you, grasping the belt with your hands 6”-8” apart, and bend the belt in an inverted U. Watch for frayed edges, broken fibers, pulled stitches, cuts, or chemical damage. Check D-rings and D-ring metal wear pads for distortion, cracks, breaks, and rough or sharp edges. The D-ring bar should be at a 90º angle with the long axis of the belt and should pivot freely. Note any unusual wear, frayed or cut fibers, or distortion of the buckles. Rivets should be tight and un-removable with fingers. Body side rivet base and outside rivets should be flat against the material. Inspect frayed or broken strands. Broken webbing strands generally appear as tufts on the webbing surface.
Buckle tongues should be free of distortion in shape and motion. They should overlap the buckle frame and move freely back and forth in their socket. Rollers should turn freely on the frame. Check for distortion or sharp edges. For a friction buckle inspection, thoroughly check the buckle for distortion. The outer bar or center bars must be straight. Pay special attention to corners and attachment points of the center bar.
When inspecting lanyards, begin at one end and work to the opposite end. Slowly rotate the lanyard so that the entire circumference is checked. Inspect snaps closely for hook and eye distortion, cracks, corrosion, or pitted surfaces. The keeper or latch should seat into the nose without binding and should not be distorted or obstructed. The keeper spring should exert sufficient force to firmly close the keeper. Keeper rocks must provide the keeper from opening when it closes. The thimble must be firmly seated in the eye of the splice, and the splice should have no loose or cut strands. The edges of the thimble should be free of sharp edges, distortion, or cracks.
While rotating a steel lanyard, watch for cuts, frayed areas, or unusual wear patterns on the wire. Rotation of the rope lanyard while inspecting from end-to-end will bring to light any fuzzy, worn, broken, or cut fibers. Weakened areas from extreme loads will appear as a noticeable change in original diameter. The rope diameter should be uniform throughout, following a short break-in period. When a rope lanyard is used for fall protection, a shock-absorbing system should be included with the unit. For shock-absorbing packs, the outer portion should be examined for burn holes and tears. Stitching on areas where the pack is sewn to the D-ring, belt, or lanyard should be examined for loose strands, rips, and deterioration.
Self-retractable lifelines should be inspected on a daily basis, both before use and at the end of the day. Inspect the unit’s housing for loose fasteners and bent, cracked, distorted, worn, malfunctioning, or damaged parts. Test the lifeline retraction and tension by pulling out several feet of the lifeline and allow it to retract back into the unit. Always maintain a light tension on the lifeline as it retracts. The lifeline should pull out freely and retract all the way back into the unit. The lifeline must be checked regularly for signs of damage. Inspect for cuts, burns, corrosion, kinks, frays, or worn areas. Inspect any sewing, or web lifelines, for loose, broken, or damaged stitching. The braking mechanism can be tested by grasping the lifeline above the load indicator and then applying a sharp, steady pull downward, which will engage the brakes. There should be no slippage of the lifeline while the brakes are engaged. Once tension is released, the brakes will disengage and the unit will return to the retractable mode. Do not use the unit if the brakes do not engage.
The snap hook load indicator is located in the swivel of the snap hook. The swivel eye will elongate and expose a red area when subjected to fall arresting forces. Do not use the unit if the load impact indicator has been activated. Check the snap hook to be sure that it operates freely, locks, and the swivel operates smoothly. Inspect the snap hook for any signs of damage to the keepers and any bent, cracked, or distorted components. Make sure the karabiner is properly seated and in the locked position between the attachment swivel/point on the device and the anchor point.
Given the current OSHA regulatory environment of more safety requirements, increasing inspections, frequent citations, and larger fines, it is critical that once a contractor implements their safety plan and ongoing training programs that they also be sure of the proper use, maintenance, and care of safety equipment.