Evolution of Mobile Fall Protection

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Evolution of Mobile Fall Protection

Safety has come a long way over the 30 years. In its earliest form, if contractors followed safe practices, they used ropes with knots to keep them from falling off the edge of a building. After the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was founded in 1971, OSHA began regulating workplace safety laws and implementing standards. OSHA forced itself onto the job site and provided fall protection training and education. 

Attitudes regarding job site safety shifted, company’s safety cultures changed. Add to the increasing costs of litigation related to accidents and eliminating accidents became front and center for employers. These enhanced safety concerns naturally led to product demand, and manufacturers followed suit, developing innovative fall protection products and applications. Manufacturers began looking at equipment in a different way than ever before. They focused on the science of distributing fall arrest forces throughout the equipment and the connecting devices. The most competent manufacturers also focused on something else – the customer. 

Here at Tie Down, we believe the customer can always provide the best course of action for the product developers. It has been from the customer that the majority of “best practices” are established. No other trades have seen more challenges than concrete, roofing, and demolition when it comes to fall hazards. All three trades perform their work at heights, and more importantly, they are quite literally “living on the edge.” Que the Aerosmith. 

The fall hazards for these trades face immense challenges and many work conditions that make it “seemingly” impossible to conduct their work and still meet the OSHA standards. For instance, situations arise in these trades where a permanent fall protection system has no potential anchor point. The anchor cannot be mounted to an existing building support structure. Or, at the very least doesn’t offer any flexibility for the actual work being executed on the job site – you know, the reason the workers are at the job site location in the first place. Very often with these three trades are working a temporary job site or are constructing a leading edge, and the fall hazards are constantly changing location.

For years we heard frustrated roofing superintendents complain about the mythical “skyhook,” that magical tie-off point that comes down out of the clouds. There are even sites where a roof has no tie-off points, and sometimes, as crazy as this sounds, the general contractor or building owner has requested no safety equipment be used that could penetrate the roof. 

Too many applications and functions to name leave the contractor with an utterly unknown solution. But, lately, over the last decade, a handful of manufacturers have created a line of fall protection systems that work, meet the standard, and better still, the workers can move them from location to location.

In fact, these mobile fall protection systems have been steadily improving, with the testing data to back it up. At Tie Down, we innovate, so our designs go through rigorous ANSI testing processes, guaranteeing that they meet or even exceed OSHA standards. The goal of these mobile fall protection systems is to protect the worker. Whether it is construction, maintenance, demolition, workers need a solution that makes sense and will protect them from injury or even death.

Mobile Anchors come in all kinds of configurations, but the one concept that seems to be the most well-received is the roof cart systems. Originally these were material carts that someone decided to tie off a worker and use the cart as the anchor point. Unfortunately, carts roll, and the force of a fall has sent many material carts off of unprotected edges. This used to happen more than you would like to think. As a result, spike systems were developed to dig into the roof and stop the cart from going anywhere. When the contractor desires not to penetrate the roof, weights can be used, but unfortunately, a lot of weight is required, which means heavy lifting. Remember, soft tissue injuries are one of the leading contributors to workman comp claims and missed work. 

The point is that there are now solutions for every possible fall hazard that can be encountered on a job site, regardless of the type of job site. It doesn’t matter anymore, whether it’s construction, maintenance, demolition, roofing, or concrete. Manufacturers (the good ones anyway) understand that every project has different requirements and specifications. Every employer just needs to ask themselves if they are staying up to date on the best practices for their respective trade? Are their workers getting the training they need and the equipment they deserve? 

Mobile fall protection, in its simplest form, is equipment that provides temporary fall protection solutions. These devices are designed to allow workers to comply with OSHA Fall Protection standards, especially when a permanent anchorage point is not available. 

There are many factors to be considered mobile fall arrest. Let’s assume that the product the contractor has selected has been proven, having been tested to the rigid ANSI testing protocols. If that is the case, the qualifiers demanded by most contractors are mobility and ease of use.

Ease of use is critical because a product that the average worker in the field finds “easy to use” can dramatically reduce the amount of risk by assuring management they, well, are going to use it. Suppose a worker can easily use safety equipment and execute the application. In that case, there will be less need for additional services, training, instruction from management, or even other parties needing to be brought in. You can just imagine the negative impact a complex product may have on a job site, costing the contractor time and money.

Easy-to-use safety equipment is specifically designed for workers to immediately find familiar because they’re intuitive. At Tie Down, our engineers start by engaging with end-users in the field to understand the context in which they’ll encounter and use the product. It’s this process that allows us to map the best functions to the worker’s needs. 

Overall goals are established for the product, timeline and completion goals set. Then the product is built from the design and tested in multiple phases. The last testing phase involves the engineering team and a selected customer using the product in a real-world scenario.

 

Without the ease of use goals, engagement with the customer, and the multiple phases of testing, you won’t have product evolution. The expansion of applications and product improvements are specifically related to the pursuit of ease of use design goals. This is true for roof carts, door-jam anchors, mobile anchors, and deadweight systems. 

The second demand from contractors is mobility. If the product isn’t very mobile, it doesn’t necessarily qualify as mobile fall protection. Since mobility, again, in its simplest term, is a product that can be moved from one location to another, many products qualify as mobile. Some quick examples would be beamers, horizontal lifelines, anything that can be transferred. But as soon as a worker enters a job site where no tie off point exists, either because they haven’t built it yet (just going vertical) or the building won’t let you drill into the structure, you are left with two options, both loosely considered mobile fall protection. A deadweight or counter-weighted system or a wheeled roof cart system that has been designed for tie-off. 

Of these two options, the wheeled roof cart system is most preferred by the workers. Because the cart has wheels, the effort of moving dozens of 45 lb. weights from location to location on the job site is eliminated. Most roof carts systems are designed to be wheeled across a flat roof. If the manufacturer adequately engaged with the contractors, they have made this process easier, eliminating the need for two workers. 

Here is a list of the most critical advancements turning the old-timey roof cart into the state-of-the-art mobile fall protection system. 

  • Penetrating and non-penetrating options on the same cart. 
  • Used in conjunction with any standard fall protection system. 
  • Used with a horizontal lifeline, increasing the number of workers that can be tied off. 
  • Include a storage box for first aid care or fall protection to be safely stored and kept safe under lock and key if necessary. 

In other words, contractors tapping into the best-in-class products should provide everything workers need quick and easy fall protection where no tie points exist but on the roof where the work is being done.

If you and your company need to protect workers while they perform their work, know that safety best practices and applications exist in the market. There are manufacturers out there that have the perfect fall protection solutions. Better still, fall protection continues to evolve in today’s workplace, seeking new ways to protect workers and save lives while maintaining their ability to do the work and perform at the highest level. 

If you want more information about Tie Down or any of our product applications, please reach out to us at sales@tiedown.com.

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