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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

Anyone who regularly reviews the regulations from both OSHA and ANSI knows that these documents are full of numbers - lots of numbers. So many numbers in fact that newcomers to them often report nightmares with divisions of marching 6s and waves of 1926 and z359 bombers assailing them with cascades of 42s, 130-310s, and 3600s. (If you recognize any of these numbers, count yourself among the initiated, if not, follow me, trooper.).

One of the numbers that frequently appears is 282.

What's So Special About 282?

It is the weight (within 2 pounds) of the ANSI-specified test weight used to determine compliance of many fall protection devices such as shock-absorbing and self-retracting lanyards. “Ah,” you say, “But don’t ANSI and OSHA specify that fall protection must be compatible with a total worker weight of up to 310 pounds? What gives?” Yes, young Jedi, excellent observation, correct you are.

Like the proverbial pound of gold and pound of feathers, all things are not equal. **see below for explanation – and a good bar trick!

282 Test Weight In-Action

A Pound Of Steel Doesn’t Equal A Pound Of People – But It’s Close

Initially, ANSI specified a test weight of 220 pounds under the assumption that during a fall, the unforgiving 220 pounds of steel would effectively replicate the forces generated by a more - well, squishy and forgiving - human body of 310 pounds in a full-body harness during a fall. During these tests, the ratio of human weight to steel weight was 1.4:1 – meaning for every theoretical 1.4 pounds of human, only 1 pound of steel was needed to accurately test fall protection equipment. But laboratory tests said otherwise.

Meet 1.1:1

After a series of laboratory tests, it was determined that the rigid nature of the steel test weight did not impart dramatically different forces during a fall than would a human. This led to the creation of ANSI specification Z359.7, which states that a human to steel ratio of 1.1:1 is a more accurate determiner of the forces imparted on a system during a fall.

However, in order to maintain the 310 pound weight capacity standard of lanyards, it would then be necessary to increase the test weight to match this new 1.1:1 ratio from 220 to 282 (310/1.1 = 281.8) pounds during testing. This also meant that it was necessary for manufacturers to do an awful lot of testing and re-testing to ensure that their current lanyards and other products met this new ANSI standard, and if they didn’t, a redesign would be in order.

ANSI spoke, manufacturers responded, and stronger products were born.

It’s a big world out there…even for 282

Even though OSHA and ANSI standards refer to workers who weigh between 130 and 310 pounds, a quick glance at any job site will show that there is an increasing number of workers who push that upper limit. Between body weight, other protective equipment, steel-toe boots and tools (an average framing nail gun weighs 8lbs and some circular saws up to 14lbs) there has been a marked increase in the overall weight of construction workers.

In fact, a 2010 study showed that 71% of construction workers were considered overweight or obese versus 63% for other industries (1). In order to keep pace with the growing workforce, standards bodies such as OSHA and ANSI, and manufacturers, will likely need to revisit both the upper limit of fall protection equipment as well as testing standards – including our new friend 282 - sooner than later.

The sobering fact is that there is already a percentage of workers on the job whose total weight exceeds the design specifications of some fall protection equipment, and since we can’t restrict the weight limit of workers, responding to the morphologically changing, tool-wearing workforce is the only solution.

Why should I care?

Good question. We doubt during an OSHA visit an inspector will cast a wry eye on you and quiz you as to what 282 is. But that’s not the point. The point is that you know not only that 282 exists, but why – for your own good. So that you know the gear you are donning has been tested to meet OSHA and ANSI standards and what that standard means. To be aware of that fact that behind the scenes, in labs and manufacturing facilities all across the nation and the world, there are people dedicated to making sure that you – yes YOU! – remain safe on the job, and that at the end of the day you are able to return home to your loved ones like everyone else.

On the other hand, if knowing all this number mumbo-jumbo makes you pick up a carrot instead of that delicious-looking cupcake, well – that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, now would it? Be safe up there.

** You’ve probably heard the old saw, intended to trick someone into finding a discrepancy where there is apparently none, “What weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of gold?” Most people, upon realizing they are about to be tricked will say, “Ah ha! - they both weigh the same!” But the astute observer (of which we are certain you are one), will correctly state, “Of course, the pound of feathers weighs more!” And they would be right! Here’s how. Feathers and gold are not technically weighed by the same system. Gold (and other precious metals) is weighed by the troy system (you’ve heard of a troy ounce of gold), and just about everything else (including feathers) is weighed using the avoirdupois system. A troy ounce weighs 480 grains, whereas an avoirdupois ounce weighs 437.5 grains. Yes, yes, I hear you, the troy ounce does indeed weigh more, by 42.5 grains. But remember the question was what weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of gold. A troy pound equals only 12 ounces, whereas an avoirdupois pound equals the familiar 16 ounces. So, to do the math for you, a troy pound weighs 5760 grains, and an avoirdupois pound weighs 7000 grains. When weighed in their respective systems, it’s quite clear that a pound of feathers does indeed weigh more than a pound of gold! Now, get back up there and finish reading this article!

Sources: (1) Health Risk Factors and Chronic Illnesses among Construction Workers. Rep. The Center for Construction Research and Training. Web. 4 Feb. 2016. <http://www.cpwr.com/sites/default/files/publications/CB page 54.pdf>.