When assessing a fall arrest application, two of the most important considerations include clearance distances and the availability of a suitable anchor point. There are always additional factors to consider, including the number of users and the size of the work area, but fall clearance and anchorage represent the starting points in personal fall arrest system (PFAS) design.
OSHA General Industry Regulations require fall protection for personnel exposed to fall hazards greater than four feet, but what are the available options when a fall must be arrested quickly to prevent a worker from striking the ground? One option is a rigid rail or trolley beam fall arrest system. Unlike a horizontal lifeline, a rigid rail fall arrest system paired with self-retracting lifelines offers a significant reduction in deflection, which in turn reduces required clearance distances during fall arrest. A trolley beam system often meets our first criteria–quickly stopping a fall with minimal clearance distance–but locating adequate anchoring structure is often problematic.
Anchorage requirements for rigid systems pose two distinct challenges. First, the I-beams we connect the system to must be strong enough to support the system–and to withstand the loads imposed by a fall. Secondly, the installers need access to the I-Beams to make the required connections. HVAC ductwork, electrical conduit, water pipes, and gas lines (also known as MEP) often clutter overhead areas found in industrial facilities.
Overcoming these challenges—low fall clearance distances and cluttered overhead spaces—requires an engineering oriented approach to fall protection, and our work with a major manufacturer is case in point.