Inspecting Fall Protection Equipment Matters
by Stephen Zasadil, WSRCA safety consultant, president, SNK Services LLC
(Editor’s Note: Stephen Zasadil spent ten years as a safety of flight operator with the United States Navy before beginning his career as a safety compliance consultant in 2009. He currently works with companies across the United States to provide OSHA compliance information, documentation, and training.)
Ensuring safety is a top priority in the roofing industry, and it’s essential to pay close attention to your fall protection equipment. This guide will walk you through the importance of inspecting your gear, share how often OSHA wants you to do it, and provide you with an easy-to-follow method for the inspections.
Keeping Workers Safe
First and foremost, we want to keep our workers safe. Falls are the number one cause of fatalities in construction work. Regular inspections can spot potential problems like wear and tear, corrosion, or malfunctioning gear. Fixing issues before they pose a risk to your team is key to keeping everyone safe and sound.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is all about keeping workers safe and healthy. OSHA requires employers to provide the right protective equipment and make sure it’s used correctly. Inspecting and maintaining your fall protection gear is a big part of staying in compliance with OSHA’s rules.
Dodging Legal Trouble
No one wants to deal with legal or financial issues. Regular inspections can help prevent accidents, which means you’re less likely to face any legal battles. Plus, having a well-documented inspection and maintenance program shows you’re serious about safety, which can help protect your company if an incident occurs.
Equipment Lasts Longer
Inspections are about safety, but they also maintain the lifespan of your fall protection equipment. By spotting issues early, you can replace worn or damaged parts and keep your equipment in top shape for longer.
OSHA has specific rules about how often you need to inspect your fall protection equipment. They require that personal fall protection systems, like body harnesses, lanyards, and anchorage connectors, be inspected before each use for wear, damage, and other issues. On top of that, a competent person should inspect the equipment every six months, or more often if the manufacturer recommends it.
How To Inspect
Start with a visual inspection. Check for damage, wear, or malfunctioning parts. Look at the webbing, stitching, hardware, and other components. Keep an eye out for fraying, cuts, abrasions, or discoloration on the webbing and inspect the stitching for any pulled or broken threads.
Examine all hardware like buckles, D-rings, carabiners, and snap hooks for damage, corrosion, or malfunctioning parts. Make sure everything moves as it should and that there are no cracks or deformations. Also, double-check that all connectors are compatible and work properly when connected. Do a functionality test to make sure all components work together as they should. Test self-retracting lifelines, energy-absorbing lanyards, and fall arrest devices following the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Keep a record of your inspections, including the date, equipment type, model, serial number, condition, and any corrective actions you took. These records are crucial for proving you follow OSHA regulations and for tracking the maintenance history and service life of your fall protection equipment.
If you find any equipment that’s damaged, worn, or just not fit for use, take it out of service right away. Tag and isolate these items so they don’t accidentally get used by workers. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for repairing or replacing defective parts. Make sure all workers who use fall protection equipment know how to inspect, maintain, and use their gear correctly. Assign a competent person to conduct in-depth inspections and oversee your company’s fall protection program.
Inspecting your fall protection equipment regularly is essential to keeping your workers safe, staying compliant with OSHA regulations, and avoiding legal issues. Following OSHA’s inspection schedule and checking your gear will help protect your workers and your business. Investing in proper training and fostering a culture of safety will make your fall protection program even more effective, contributing to the long-term success of your company.