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Will the New ANSI Z359.14 Be the End of Self Retracting Lifelines?

Will the New ANSI Z359.14 Be the End of Self Retracting Lifelines?

Probably not, but we should pop open a Bud Light and give them credit for giving it the old college try.

We should start from the beginning. The first self-retracting lifelines were introduced in Sweden after World War II in the mining and drilling industries. The Swedish company Sala and the British company Barrow Hepburn, through Nigel Ellis and Research and Trading Company (RTC) introduced the product into the United States in1975.

I was a protégé of Clarence Rose who introduced shock absorbing lanyards in the United States in 1954, but eventually I realized the SRL was the best thing that ever happened to fall protection. Initially most had internal shock absorbers and limited the force to nine hundred pounds and arrested the fall within forty-two inches.

There were, however, two issues with the use of the SRL. The first was clearance in General Industry, which has a trigger level of four feet. When you factor in the accepted safety factor of two feet, the user was out of tolerance. The second was the use of the SRL when doing leading edge work. One example was when the worker was decking a new building. In this case the SRL was anchored at the foot level, which allowed a free fall of at least five feet before the unit activated. This additional free fall coupled with a fall over a sharp edge led to failure of the equipment and serious injuries or sometimes fatalities.

Then came ANSI Z359.14-2012, with a resolution of three issues. The first was the new Class A SRL, which was primarily attached directly to the harness. Depending upon the anchor location, the free fall and fall arrest was two feet or less. Finally, a product for workers when fall clearance was less than four feet. Second, Class B retained the original 42-inch arrest distance but kept the force under nine hundred pounds. This was the product used inhorizontal lifeline applications as it allowed multiple users because of the lower arresting force. The third was the Leading Edge SRL, which was more robust than a standard unit and designed to take a greater free fall distance and arrest over a sharp edge.

But all good things must end. Now comes ANSI Z259.14-21, make that twenty-two, make that twenty-three.

We now have new names for the old products. We now have Class 1, Class 2, SRL-P, and SRL-R, the P for Personal and R for Rescue. Does that mean the old product does not meet standards?No. But the implications will be there. Class 1 is for anchorages overhead only, Class 2 for all others and sharp edges. SRL-P and SRL-R can be either Class 1 or Class 2. A recent article said the new standard has simplified everything. I do not think so.

The maximum arrest force for all the units is 1800 pounds. This changes the minimum requirement for all fall protection anchorages to 3600 pounds. If you who have engineered horizontal lifelines, start scurrying. Most were designed with a Class B SRL which had a maximum arrest force of nine hundred pounds. You will need to reduce the number of people who can be attached to the system or redesign the system.

How about clearance? Well ANSI once again changed the test weight. It has now moved from 220 pounds (still the OSHA requirement) to 282, and now to 310 pounds. The deceleration distance on all units is forty-two inches. I assume that is to keep with OSHA guidelines, but that went out the window years ago when they changed the shock absorbers on lanyards to forty-eight inches after they changed the test weight from 220 pounds to 282 pounds. I am assuming they will change that test weight to 310 pounds when they rewrite ANSI Z359.13.

The lowest clearance chart shows 6.5’ is necessary below the walking working surface for a Class 1 SRL. What do you use if your employee isfour feet off the ground, or even six feet? The clearance with a Class 2 SRD with foot level anchorage is now 20.5 feet. Few buildings have that distance between floors other than the first.

I am assuming that any product that allows more than a 2-foot free fall will be classifiedas Class 2 SRL. If that is the case, be sure to look for the included warning card.You might be interested in what it has to say.

So here we are, 50 years later, and what have we accomplished? Most workers will be wearing a product that may be double in weight and cost twice as much, with little or no benefit. We need to take another look at that shock absorbing lanyard from 75 years ago.

Or go back farther to 700 BC to Deuteronomy 2:28:

“When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.”

Mark Damon


There is still room in Mark's LAST TWO IN PERSON CLASSES FOR 2023!

By Mark Damon, Damon Inc.

Follow Mark on Twitter: @DFallProtection


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