Care, Maintenance, & Use of PPE & Safety Equipment
by Dan Dallenbach, territory sales manager, Roofmaster Products Company
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. Given the large expense of safety equipment that OSHA compliance requires, this effort will protect your investment, while ensuring jobsite compliance and avoiding unnecessary citations and fines. In the area of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), job foremen and supervisors should perform a hazard assessment of the workplace to identify and control health hazards. Employers are responsible for identifying and providing appropriate PPE for employees, training employees in the use and care of the PPE, maintaining PPE, and replacing worn or damaged PPE.
Fall arrest and fall restraint systems are some of the most critical safety equipment for workers on the roof. If any of the conditions listed below are found, the equipment should be immediately removed from service and replaced or repaired/recertified before being used again.
The following pieces of harness equipment should be thoroughly checked: belts and rings, tongue buckle, and friction buckle. For harness inspections of belts and rings, begin at one end, hold the body side of the belt toward you, grasping the belt with your hands six to eight inches apart. 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.
For inspection of a tongue buckle, 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. 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. Spliced ends require particular attention. Hardware should be examined using the following procedures: inspect snaps closely for hook and eye distortion, cracks, corrosion, or pitted surfaces.
While rotating a steel lanyard, watch for cuts, frayed areas, or unusual wear patterns on the wire. The use of steel lanyards for fall protection without a shock-absorbing device is not recommended. 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. When a rope lanyard is used for fall protection, a shock-absorbing system should be included with the unit.
When it comes to 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. Inspect the unit’s housing for loose fasteners and bent 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 braking mechanism can be tested by grasping the lifeline above the load indicator and then applying a sharp, steady pull downward. 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.
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.