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Why A Horizontal Lifeline May Be The Wrong Solution

Jun 5, 2017 9:58:37 AM

Let’s assume you’ve just witnessed an employee come dangerously close to falling from a flat-bed trailer in an area that lacks fall protection.  Most folks with a rudimentary understanding of our industry equate tie-off points with horizontal lifelines, so it makes sense that you might contact a fall protection company about an HLL system.  In this case, making the decision to speak with a fall protection expert would be the right call, but you’d be missing the mark by inquiring about a lifeline system for a trailer application. Here’s why…….

One of the most important design considerations for any fall protection application is fall clearance.  Put another way, how far an employee might plunge before striking objects or surfaces below the work area?

Truck loading and unloading applications perfectly illustrate why horizontal lifelines are not universal fall protection solutions.  When you combine the lifeline’s cable deflection during fall arrest with the time required for the SRL to engage, a worker on a flat-bed trailer will have hit the ground before the system can do its job.  By comparison, the rigid rail fall protection system shown below experiences negligible deflection, minimizing the distance a worker drops before fall arrest.


The next photo shows a railcar application with a fall clearance distance of approximately 15 feet.  In this case, even when we account for the cable deflection, there is still enough fall clearance to arrest the fall before the worker comes into contact with ground level.

Armed with your newfound understanding of fall clearance, you should now understand why a horizontal lifeline would be an improper fall protection solution for workers on a flat-bed trailer, but the same system might work for a rail car application.  By working with a reputable fall protection company that has a thorough understanding of your work area processes, you’ll be sure to get a system that is appropriate for your application.  To learn more about fall protection, or to request a consultation, contact Diversified Fall Protection for further assistance.