When you use ladders, scaffolds, aerial lifts, and fall-protection systems, you expect to get your job done safely. But do you pay attention to the condition of the equipment? Inspect the equipment frequently, keep it clean, store it properly, and it won't let you down.
Note: If a fall arrest system has prevented a fall, you can't use it again, but don't throw it away. Use that harness to tell the story in training about how it saved a life. It's worth its weight in gold!
It is very important that you inspect the components of personal fall-arrest, restraint, or positioning-device systems for damage or excessive wear before and after each use.
Belts and Rings: For harness inspections 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. The D-ring bar should be at a 90 degree angle with the long axis of the belt and should pivot freely.
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. Check for distortion or sharp edges.
Friction Buckle: Inspect 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 under procedures detailed below.
Snaps: Inspect closely for hook and eye distortion, cracks, excessive wear, and 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 the keeper closes.
Thimbles: The thimble (protective plastic sleeve) 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.
Steel Lanyards: 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.
Web Lanyard: While bending webbing over a piece of pipe, observe each side of the webbed lanyard. This will reveal any cuts or breaks. Paint or other substances should not be on the webbing as it may contaminate the material. Due to the limited elasticity of the web lanyard, fall protection without the use of a shock absorber is not recommended.
Rope Lanyard: 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.
The outer portion of the shock-absorbing pack 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.
In excessive heat, nylon becomes brittle and has a shriveled brownish appearance. Fibers will break when flexed and should not be used above 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Change in color usually appears as a brownish smear or smudge. Transverse cracks appear when belt is bent over tight. This causes a loss of elasticity in the belt.
Do not store webbing and rope lanyards in direct sunlight, because ultraviolet rays can reduce the strength of some material.
Webbing and rope strands may be fused together by molten metal or flame. Watch for hard, shiny spots or a hard and brittle feel. Webbing will not support combustion, nylon will.
Paint will penetrate and dry, restricting movements of fibers. Drying agents and solvents in some paints will appear as chemical damage.
Look for cuts, frayed strands, or excessive wear in the line and damage to the housing. If the unit needs service, check the manufacturer's recommendations. Don't try to repair it yourself.
See more information about PFAS inspection and maintenance from Miller Fall Protection.
Frequently inspect manila, plastic, or synthetic rope used for top rails or midrails to ensure that the rope meets the minimum strength and rail height requirements. [See 1926.502(b)]
Inspect safety nets for damage or deterioration weekly and after any event that could damage them. Remove defective components from service.
General: When inspecting ladders, generally look for loose steps or rungs (considered loose if they can be moved at all with the hand), loose nails, screws, bolts, or other metal parts. Look for cracked, split, or broken uprights, braces, or rungs, slivers on uprights, rungs, or steps. Also look for damaged or worn non-slip bases.
Step Ladders: On step ladders, make sure they are not wobbly (from side strain) and do not have loose, bent or broken hinge spreaders, or loose hinges. Make sure the stop on hinge spreaders is not broken. Finally make sure the steps are not broken, split or worn.
Extension Ladders: On extension ladders, make sure the extension locks are not loose, broken, or missing. Make sure locks seat properly while extended, and make sure the rope is not worn, rotted, cut, or defective in any way.
A competent person must inspect a scaffold and its components after it has been erected, before each shift, and after any event - including severe weather - that could damage it. The inspection should include the foundation, platform, guardrails, and access areas.
A competent person must inspect suspension ropes before each shift and after any event that could damage them. Inspect and tighten wire rope clips to the manufacturer's recommendations at the start of each shift. Inspect manila or synthetic rope used for toprails or midrails frequently to ensure that it meets the minimum strength and rail height requirements. [See 1926.502(b)].
More information on cleaning and inspection of fall protection equipment.
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