Although the changes are numerous, several may be of most significance to the mass transit industry.
ANSI Z359.13 requires new labeling on energy-absorbing lanyards (commonly called "rip-stitch" or "shock pack" lanyards). This is most important when workers need to tie off at foot level. It is very important to note that the attachment at foot level of a 72-inch long energy-absorbing lanyard will result in a free fall of about 12 feet! This causes a serious injury hazard if the worker unknowingly uses a lanyard capable of absorbing only a 6-foot free fall (the most common lanyard). With the new labeling, the user will now be able to easily identify the 12-foot free fall lanyard from the 6-foot free fall lanyard. (Please note that the 6-foot free fall capable lanyard, that is 72-inches long, is only allowed when the tie-off point is at the D-ring elevation or higher.) Consult with your lanyard supplier for more information.
Also of importance to the mass transit industry is Z359.2, which is a new ANSI "user" standard that requires a hazard analysis and rescue plan be developed for every instance of fall protection. This is of significant importance in keeping your employees safe while wearing fall protection.
Common issues that potentially result in hospital visits after a fall event, even when using fall protection, are improper calculation of fall distance, failure to recognize injury hazards impacted during a fall, and swing fall injuries.
Improperly calculated fall distance can result in the user hitting a lower level. This can occur when either one of the following occurs:
a) 18-feet to 6-inches of clearance from the attachment point is not provided when using the common 72-inch-long energy-absorbing lanyard.
b) Wire rope flex is not taken into account on horizontal wire rope systems. Flexible wire ropes will deflect downward significantly during a fall event. For example, a commonly available 100-foot-long wire rope system may deflect 12 feet or more during a fall event. This 12-foot deflection added to the 18-feet to 6-inches of clearance from the attachment point, requires about 30 feet of clearance when using a 72-inch-long energy-absorbing lanyard.
Rigid track systems are a new product category that eliminate the deflection issues of wire rope systems. A rigid track system used with a self retracting lanyard (SRL) will result in the shortest possible fall distance, dramatically reducing the chance of injury or fatality due to impacts during a fall event.
Additionally, swing fall injuries can occur when the attachment point is not directly over the worker's head. If the attachment point is not directly over the worker's head, the fall can result in the worker being "swung" or "pulled" back into the work platform quite violently.
New developments have been made in equipment and fall protection systems that "engineer out" the dangers of fall distance and swing falls that can affect workers who need to work at height. Currently, what is widely recognized as the safest possible system to prevent injury to the worker, is a rigid track "traveling bridge" used in conjunction with a self-retracting lanyard that continually retracts, like a seat belt, to minimize fall distance. The traveling bridge is designed out of lightweight high-strength steel or aluminum so it rolls freely along the runways. When the worker walks along the bridge the trolley follows the worker perfectly overhead without effort.
Because the trolley always remains directly over top the worker's head, this eliminates the swing fall effect. Any fall event will be "straight down" resulting in no impact injury to the worker. This combination of the travelling bridge with the Self Retracting Lanyard provides the least amount of fall distance, eliminates swing falls, and provides the safest possible solution for the worker who needs to work at height.
There have been many developments to keep workers safe, both in new regulations and in new equipment technology. To keep your workers protected, follow the new regulations and seek to minimize fall distance by using SRL's and rigid attachment points. Where mobility is required, combine SRL's with new rigid track monorails or traveling bridges to minimize fall distance and swing fall injuries to workers.