News regarding stepped up enforcement, and higher OSHA penalties have more folks thinking about fall protection. Employers are doing a better job providing fall protection systems for their employees, but a system’s presence is no guarantee of safety. Corroded, worn, or loose components can cause a potentially catastrophic system failure. What’s more, the use of improper components during the design phase or connecting the system to inadequate structure can lead to the same. For all of these reasons, OSHA regulations and ANSI standards recommend annual system inspections performed by a qualified individual.
Most of our recertification work focuses on our systems, but we also field requests to recertify systems designed and installed by other vendors. We can inspect and recertify these systems, but the process requires some additional steps you may not have considered.
Some folks who have never gone through the process mistakenly assume that recertification is nothing more than a visual check of the system to ensure all of the components are in good working order. Make no mistake—this is an important part of the process, but the shiny, seemingly safe horizontal lifeline on your roof may fail during fall arrest if improperly engineered.
The re-certification process begins before inspection with a thorough review of the engineering documentation, including calculations and drawings. These documents provide important clues about the system, including the maximum number of users, fall clearances, and force levels exerted on the system during fall arrest. In instances where we are asked to re-certify a system we did not install, and this information is missing, we need to start our work by re-engineering the system and creating the engineering documentation.
Re-creating the engineering documentation may seem like an unnecessary first step, but remember–when a fall protection company certifies a system, it assumes liability. By recertifying the system, your fall protection company’s engineers are vouching for every aspect of the system, including each of the components, the structure the system attaches to, the swaging, welding and bolted connections used to complete the system, and the calculations documenting the system’s safety.
In the event the system fails during fall arrest, OSHA will request your engineering documentation and inspection records. A reputable fall protection company SHOULD have this information archived for the system if you can’t locate these documents for the OSHA inspector.
System failure will also prompt the OSHA inspector to challenge the calculations made during system design. The process sounds intimidating, but we should point out that the fall protection company responsible for recertification assumes liability (and ownership) for the failed system. By now we hope you have begun to appreciate the importance of your system’s engineering documentation.
Fall protection system recertification is more than a visual inspection to identify loose bolts, brackets, corroded components, and improperly tensioned cables. Assuming liability and ownership of a fall protection system requires proper due diligence on the part of your fall protection company. That said, annually recertifying your fall protection system protects your employees and company if disaster strikes.