Fall Protection

Update on ANSI/ASSE Standards

Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in construction, accounting for about one-third of all fatalities in that industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 291 fatal falls to a lower level in construction in 2013, out of 828 total fatalities. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), the standards for fall protection “deal with both the human and equipment-related issues in protecting workers from fall hazards”.

History of Fall Protection Standard

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Fall Protection Standard ANSI/ASSE Z359.15-2014 – “Safety Requirements for Single Anchor Lifelines and Fall Arresters for Personal Fall Arrest and Rescue Systems” – is the latest in a series of more than a dozen joint ANSI and ASSE Fall Protection standards published since 2007 that provide technical specifications for fall protection equipment.

ASSE fall protection standard development goes back 30 years to 1985 when the initial Z359 “Standard for Fall Protection Equipment” project was initiated. In subsequent years, ASSE continued to play a major role in the standard development process. Eventually, these projects evolved into the ANSI/ASSE Z359 Fall Protection Code, a series of voluntary national consensus standards designed to protect general industry workers from fall hazards. The current “code package” (Version 3.0) – available as a group from various sources including both ASSE and ANSI – covers safety requirements for fall protection equipment, fall protection system design, qualification and verification testing of fall protection products, etc.

Updated Standard

The latest Z359.15-2014 standard establishes certain requirements for vertical lifelines with a capacity range of 130-310 pounds – outlining:

  • Basis for the Standard (i.e., this is a voluntary consensus standard; legal requirements for protection against falls from heights are established by applicable regulatory bodies governing occupational safety).
  • Training, use, inspection and removal from service of single anchor lifelines. (Note: Fall arresters are also addressed in ANSI/ASSE Z359.2, which provides requirements for fall protection program management.)
  • Minimum guidelines for design, manufacture and testing of single anchor lifelines and fall arresters.
  • Before any equipment shall bear the marking Z359.15 or be represented in any way as being in compliance with this standard, all requirements of the standard shall be met through qualification and verification testing according to ANSI/ASSE Z359.7.
  • Single anchor lifelines are characterized by only a single anchor or anchor system being loaded when arresting a fall and can be used in vertical, sloped and horizontal applications.
  • The requirements of this standard do not address: window cleaning belts, sports-related activities, horizontal   lifelines, fall arresters used on horizontal lifelines, or rope adjusters used in positioning or travel restraint systems.
  • The requirements of this standard supersede any corresponding requirements in ANSI/ASSE Z359.1-2007,  Safety Requirements for Personal Fall Arrest Systems, Subsystems, and Components.

Future of Fall Protection Standards

There are currently several more ANSI/ASSE Fall Protection standards in development, including:

  • ANSI Z359.16 – establishing requirements for the performance, design, marking, qualification, instruction, training, inspection, use, maintenance and removal from service of fall arrestor components.
  • ANSI Z359.17 – establishing requirements related to the design, performance, testing, labeling and provisions for pre-engineered flexible horizontal lifeline systems (FHLS).
  • ANSI Z359.18 – establishing requirements for the performance, design, marking, qualification, selection, instruction, inspection, maintenance, and removal from service of anchorage connectors for personal fall protection systems.

As mentioned earlier, the ANSI/ASSE standards are voluntary consensus standards. The legal requirements for protection against falls from heights are established by applicable regulatory bodies governing occupational safety, such as OSHA. However, voluntary consensus standards are critical in establishing a compliant fall protection program and have been used as the basis for many OSHA Standards. Additionally, consensus standards provide the latest technology and technical specifications for lifesaving equipment used by U.S. workers.

Since these voluntary consensus standards are not written as laws or regulations, the question remains,  however, as to whether they are enforceable. In 2001, ANSI and OSHA entered into a ”Memorandum of Understanding” agreement – stating “OSHA has the statutory authority to develop, promulgate and enforce occupational safety and health standards; (and) recognizes that national consensus standards producing organizations have an important role in the development of occupational safety and health standards; and recognizes that the services, facilities, and members of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) may be of assistance to OSHA in carrying out its statutory responsibilities”.

HETI…Experienced Safety Professionals

HETI offers a technical staff of experienced professionals with proven capabilities to deal with a full range of environmental health & safety issues – including fall protection. We can provide guidance and valuable technical support with ANSI/ASSE standards, OSHA regulations, and the implementation and continuous improvement of fall protection programs/systems. Whether it’s evaluating an existing program or helping develop/implement a new one, HETI is available to support those efforts.