How to Choose an Overhead Lifeline System
Overhead lifeline systems, also known as overhead fall arrest systems, are an excellent means of fall protection safety when selected, installed, and used correctly. Installation and usage will vary depending on the type of system and how it will be used. Let’s look at the key items to consider when choosing the perfect fall arrest system for your company or project.
When Should I Use a Fall Arrest System?
Fall arrest systems are an active form of fall protection, requiring the user to take an action, to ensure they are protected. Because of this, fall arrest systems are more susceptible to human error. Some of these actions include inspecting anchors and PPE before each use, ensuring a proper fit on your harness, and having a rescue plan in place.
Therefore, fall arrest systems should only be used in scenarios where you have already determined that using passive controls or eliminating the fall hazard altogether, is not an option.
What Industries Use Fall Arrest Systems?
OSHA requires that any working surface 48 inches off the ground must be fitted with fall protection. However, in certain industries, work is required at a place of at least 48 inches off the ground, with no means of installing a platform with guardrails.
This is often the case when working on or maintaining large machinery, aircraft, railcars or trucks. Industries that this could apply to would-be Agriculture, Construction, Manufacturing, Aerospace and Transportation.
You could have a piece of equipment in your warehouse that needs attention. Getting up there with a ladder may be your only option, but then you need both hands free to do the work. Overhead fall arrest systems can be used to give that person assurance he doesn’t hit the ground if an accident were to occur.
How Do I Get Started?
There are a series of questions you should ask yourself in order to select the right fall arrest system:
- How many people need to work in this area at a time?
- How long/wide is the work area?
- How far off the lower surface is the work area?
- Are there obstacles in the way?
- Is there an existing structure for a system to mount to?
What Type of Overhead is Right for Me?
Overhead systems come in several different shapes and sizes. However, it is easiest to categorize them by two main features: Fixed systems and Track systems.
Fixed Overhead Fall Arrest Systems
Fixed overhead systems are often a single anchor point that you tie off to with an SRL. This is ideal for a single user that will perform their work in a single spot or relatively small working area. This could be a Cross-Arm Strap swung around a beam with a Safety Lanyard attached to a portable extending arm fixed to the back of a truck.
This system provides a single point to tie off and will keep a single person safe as long as they are working directly underneath it. If your work requires you to move about, then an overhead track system will be better suited.
Overhead Track Fall Arrest Systems
Overhead track fall arrest systems are anchor points connected to a track. This anchor can freely move along this track, giving the worker a larger working area. These tracks can be mounted to an existing or a new structure.
If you have structural plans of your building, and an engineer determines that it can support the anticipated loads of a fall arrest system, then you can integrate the tracks into your building. This is typically done by clamping the tracks to existing beams or roof joists. This creates a fixed solution without compromising the integrity of the beams.
If this was an outdoor application or your building simply cannot take the anticipated loads, you will need to erect your own structure for the tracks to mount. This generally requires massive footers and steel beams. The good news is that you have a lot of flexibility in how this is designed.
The goal at the end of the day is that every worker that is using an overhead fall arrest system has the anchor point directly above their head at all times. This, in conjunction with an SRL, will minimize the fall distance and any potential swing hazards. It is simply safer and that is why we take such care in designing these systems.
If you would like help designing your overhead fall arrest system or are not sure if it’s the best choice for your application, our team of safety experts can help customize your solution today. Speak with a fall protection experts today at 1-866-527-2275.