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Home | Spray Foam Safety | How to Not Fall Down on the Job

How to Not Fall Down on the Job

New Fall Protection Solutions To Look Out For

By Leah Shook, Micheal Seman, Ted Hershey of Honeywell Industrial Safety

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Most spray foam workers are probably familiar with a variety of four-letter words. But one doesn’t always get the attention it deserves: “fall.”

It’s a word worth talking about, however, because blowing foam into building spaces often means working at a height, where a fall may result in injury or death. Fortunately, safety regulations and best practices are supported by a number of recently introduced fall protection technologies and solutions.

LEADING EDGE SELF-RETRACTING LINES (SRLs): DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR EDGES ARE?

On almost every worksite, edges are more common than spray foam workers realize. And they may pose a greater risk than they’d expect.

While moving across a roof, traversing a beam, or working near the unprotected sides of an upper floor, edges are seemingly everywhere. Of course, most workers guard against “going over the edge” by wearing harnesses connected to self-retracting lifelines (SRLs), also known as personal fall limiters (PFLs). These sense the high-speed line playout that signals a fall, and activate a braking system to lock their line drum and arrest the worker’s descent, while safely absorbing a significant portion of the fall’s energy.

However, if the lifeline is weakened or severed by sliding over an edge during the fall, safety is no longer assured.

Without protection specifically designed for edges, such as I-beams, traditional lifelines risk being compromised or severed. It has been estimated by fall protection experts within Honeywell Industrial Safety that as many as 80 percent of fall protection applications have the potential for a lifeline to come in contact with an edge in the event of a fall. And the force upon the worker in these falls is significantly increased.

The good news is, a variety of leading edge SRL models are now available to handle edge-related hazards. Many have been designed or redesigned specifically to meet evolving standards such as the stringent demands of ANSI Z359.14 2014, “Safety Requirements for Self-Retracting Devices.” Released in 2014, this standard introduced new requirements for leading edge equipment, where the user may be anchored at foot level or at the working surface (or higher), the line may contact an edge in a fall, and an integral shock absorber at the user end can lessen fall forces on the worker.  This integral shock absorber is critical in applications that require foot level tie-off or if the lifeline should come in contact with an edge in the event of the worker falling.  The integral shock absorber reduces the force put on the lifeline and the worker and ensures the lifeline remains intact if the fall were to occur over the edge. The standard’s effects are still being felt as new leading edge SRL solutions are released.

An integral shock absorber can lessen fall forces on the worker and its use can be critical in applications that require foot level tie-off or if the lifeline should come in contact with an edge in the event of the worker falling.

An integral shock absorber can lessen fall forces on the worker and its use can be critical in applications that require foot level tie-off or if the lifeline should come in contact with an edge in the event of the worker falling.

Fall protection equipment is available for both sharp and smooth edges, and the edge surfaces of every job must be evaluated for optimal worker safety. Honeywell, for example, is one manufacturer that recognizes the different challenges spray foam workers may face; the company offers a new line of leading edge personal fall limiters, TurboLite Edge, which include models for both sharp and smooth edge applications in a wide range of working lengths.

The TurboLite MAX web model is edge rated for an edge with a radius of greater than or equal to 0.060 (1.5 mm), such as scaffolding or round pipes. Smooth-edge SRLs may be designed with durable web lifelines that are resistant to cuts, abrasions, and chemicals.

The TurboLite EXTREME cable model is rated for sharp edges with a radius greater than 0.005 (0.13 mm). Typical applications might include I-beams or roof edges. For the highest level of edge safety, sharp-edge SRL models feature specially designed, exceptionally durable cable lifelines. Look for models complying with the strictest safety standard for fall arrest devices: ANSI Z359.12-2014 Class B and Leading Edge requirements. These will serve spray foam workers on or around I-beams, wood, and concrete platforms and roof edges.

TOOL LANYARDS: LESS NEED TO “LOOK OUT BELOW!”

News watchers may recall the story of an on-the-job mishap in Jersey City, NJ, in November 2014. A tape measure slipped off a construction worker’s toolbelt: not usually cause for alarm. However, the incident occurred at height. This object fell 50 stories straight down — and killed a man delivering drywall.

Likewise, when applying spray foam on any structure over even a few feet in height, dropped objects may represent a serious falling hazard.

So in recent years, manufacturers have begun offering specialized tool lanyards that can connect to a safety harness tool belt weighing less than five pounds (or even to a structural member weighing more than five pounds). The lanyards are adapted for different tools or objects. A dropped tool falls only the length of the lanyard. So it may be retrieved immediately, without inconveniencing the worker — or threatening others on the worksite below.

Today, tool lanyards and connection points are available for a wide variety of small equipment items. Adjustable products can match almost any tool’s type and size.

Examples including the following:

  • Pliers
  • Wrenches
  • Screwdrivers
  • Gloves
  • Pouches/caddies
  • Tape measures
  • Hard hats
  • Cordless drills

SUB-PELVIC STRAPS:
A HEADS-UP  »

According to ANSI/ASSE Z359.11-2014, Annex A, a safety harness must now include a sub-pelvic strap.

According to ANSI/ASSE
Z359.11-2014, Annex A, a
safety harness must now
include a sub-pelvic strap.

Safety harnesses are widely used in spray foam applications when working at height. However, users wearing older harnesses may not be aware that some no longer fully comply with current safety standards.

According to ANSI/ASSE Z359.11-2014, Annex A, a safety harness must now include a sub-pelvic strap: “When supported by the frontal attachment, the design of the Full Body Harness shall directly load around the thighs and under the buttocks by means of the sub-pelvic strap.”

This strap passes under the buttocks without binding the crotch. So it supports the buttocks while relieving pressure on shoulders and legs. One primary safety function: redistributing forces applied during fall arrest or post-fall suspension. The strap also helps keep the worker in a head-up posture after any fall. This may be critical in preventing the discomfort and dangerous circulatory shock that can occur if a worker waiting for rescue hangs in other than an upright position.

Newer technologies such as leading edge SRLs, tool lanyards, and sub-pelvic straps may help spray foam workers banish “fall” from their vocabularies — and replace it with another, less scary four-letter word: “safe.” •

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Photos courtesy of Honeywell