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Engineered Horizontal Lifeline vs. Temporary HLL

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temporary hllWe live and work in an internet age where almost everything can be found online with the click of a mouse.  We can search the internet for answers to the most vexing problems, and more importantly, we can buy just about anything, including fall protection systems.  Although it may be tempting to buy a horizontal lifeline kit online, there are compelling reasons to think twice before placing a temporary HLL into your shopping cart.

At first glance, the temporary HLL “kit “is a tempting offer.  It is aggressively priced and once ordered, the kit arrives at your facility in just a few days.  It is a DIY solution, meaning your maintenance staff can perform the installation, saving time and money.  The descriptive copy accompanying the kit shown above sounds compelling too:

  • Light-weight and portable
  • An ultra-durable lifeline reduces fall clearance requirements.
  • Designed for use with anchorage points rated at 5,000 lbs.
  • OSHA, ANSI, and CSA Compliance
  • System comes with a plastic, 5 gallon bucket for ease of storage

We routinely field questions from clients asking if a “HLL in the bucket” will meet their specific needs and why they should incur the additional costs associated with an engineered lifeline system.  Comparing engineered fall protection systems and temporary systems is like comparing apples and oranges.

At the most basic level, the HLL shown above is a temporary system while an engineered system is a permanently installed lifeline.  There may be situations where a temporary lifeline system might in fact be an appropriate play—think of a construction site—but the system must be installed properly by someone who understands how the system is designed to work.  By way of example, the end anchors for the lifeline in a bucket must meet the OSHA standard of 5,000 lbs.  How do you know if the anchor points truly meet this standard?   Despite the claims of their manufacturers, temporary horizontal lifeline systems actually have greater deflection and require higher fall clearances in the event of a fall.  Very seldom are temporary lifeline systems installed correctly, and all too often, we see temporary systems used as permanent systems.  Maintenance simply sets the system up and walks away.  It doesn’t take much to see what’s wrong with this scenario—the name says it all—these systems are TEMPORARY.

An engineered horizontal lifeline is a completely different animal than the lifeline in the bucket.  Systems designed by a qualified person have end anchors rated to withstand two times the applied load in the event of a fall.  In this case, a fall protection engineer uses professional training and knowledge to determine the anchor points and connections are strong enough to arrest a fall and to reduce required fall distances.  A permanently installed horizontal lifeline is made from stainless steel cable rather than a reinforced, synthetic nylon rope.  Most importantly, the system is PERMANENT.

The savings that come with temporary horizontal lifelines may seem tempting, but there are very real potential dangers associated with their use, both when used as intended (e.g., a construction site) and as a permanent fall protection solution.  When temporary systems are incorrectly installed or used in inappropriate ways, a fall can have devastating, or even catastrophic consequences.  We are all interested in saving money and cutting costs in the work-place, but when the desire to trim budgets puts the lives of your contractors and employees at risk, something is wrong.  The stakes are too high and the consequences may haunt you for a lifetime.  Get the facts and partner with a reputable fall protection company so that each of your employees comes home safe every night.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Did You Know?

Any fall protection anchor must be independent of any anchorage used to support or suspend platforms?