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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

There is no doubt fall protection gear is robust. From anchors to harnesses to lanyards, Guardian designs and builds gear that you can count on, year in – year out. But just because we build our gear to last, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some equipment that is designed specifically for temporary installation only. Each product has an intended purpose, and knowing which products are meant for temporary versus permanent installation is a critical factor in selecting the right product. This week, Charlie Garcia from our engineering division gives some background as to what determines whether a product is designed for temporary or permanent use.

The Big Question: Some products are only recommended for temporary use...Why is that?

The answer: materials and product design.

Materials

Perhaps the most basic distinction is products that are exposed to the elements for years on end require a much more corrosion-resistant finish than those that are only installed temporarily. Products with materials such as zinc-plated steel or polyester are more appropriate for temporary use, whereas those with entirely galvanized or stainless steel materials are more appropriate for permanent use.

This is, however, an extreme generalization as it also depends what the use or environment may be, as well as how Guardian has designed the product and all its components to work together. For example, “zinc-plated” can be a vague term that does not necessarily correlate to an exact thickness or degree of corrosion-resistance.

On the other hand, whether a product is used for an interior versus exterior installation can affect how “permanent” Guardian may consider it to be the application. Any of these are great reasons to consult the manufacturer when in doubt.

Product Design

Alternatively, the distinction between “temporary” and “permanent” may be a feature of the product design. Temporary products might be easily removed and relocated, or permanent products might be designed to attach to the roof structure before being covered by roofing and waterproofing. Temporary products may have exposed bolts for easy manual adjustment, whereas permanent products may deliberately require great difficulty in removing their fasteners after installation. Finally, temporary products may require more frequent inspection or adjustment.

So it is a bit of a gray area. Products designed for temporary use may also “work” permanently, provided the end user complies with OSHA and our instructions, but that’s the problem: it becomes harder to comply with OSHA and our instructions for that “temporary” product than the equivalent product designed for permanent use. At Guardian we always make it a goal to not only meet regulations but also keep the usability of the system in mind, such that it is realistic to expect it to be used properly.

So if permanent systems could be used by anyone...What do I need to know before installing one?

It certainly can be a daunting thought to have to install a permanent system once you consider that future contractors or building staff using the system will be trusting you installed an OSHA-compliant fall protection system. So it becomes all the more important to be sure everything is done right. However, here are some key points that should be understood before you get started:

A Temporary System Should Be Compliant In The First Place

The selection and implementation of fall protection equipment to a jobsite must be performed by a Competent Person in fall protection. (If you don’t have one, get one.) This applies to permanent as well as temporary systems.

And whatever type of fall protection you choose to install temporarily, you have actually accepted quite a great deal of responsibility. From verifying that you are installing it correctly to laying out anchor points in a sensible manner, aspects of the fall protection system that could be left in place permanently (such as anchors and horizontal lifelines) are life-saving devices regardless of whether or not they are going to be used for five minutes or five years. If you need help selecting fall protection equipment for your jobsite, ask our safety experts.

Now, there are certainly reasons why things could change between temporary and permanent applications. Permanently installed anchors or lifelines might be more inclined for use by general industry personnel as opposed to construction industry personnel. Jobsite conditions could change. But as you will read below, that is beyond your area of responsibility, rightfully so.

You Don’t Have To Be Responsible!

It is often a misunderstanding by installing contractors that by accepting the role of the system installer, they accept all liability for its continued performance and usage over time.

If your concern is simply that you don’t know whether you installed it correctly, or you are being asked to provide documentation that you did, that is something that Guardian's engineering division can help with. Depending on the system type, Guardian's Engineered Services Group (ESG) can perform anchor testing, visual inspection, and other review of applicable documents to ensure the system is installed properly and certify that in writing. See ESG Site Services.

On the other hand, if the concern is more general—thinking you are not qualified to design a permanent fall protection system—well that's precisely the reason why we have an Engineered Services Group division in the first place! The design of a permanent fall protection system often requires more than just selecting correct products; we also have the end users themselves in mind with respect to layout and usability.

Point being, just because you are being asked to provide a permanent system in your scope doesn't mean that you have to take the liability for its design. On the other hand, end users of the equipment will need to be prepared to explain how they determined the system was safe to tie off to based on the documentation present – and for this reason we strongly recommend site-specific documentation on all permanently installed systems.

All told: do not hesitate to contact Guardian for clarification on the distinction between “permanent” and “temporary” systems, as it is one of the most important—yet subtle—distinctions of all in the world of fall protection.

Contact the author:

Charlie Garcia
Engineered Services Group (ESG)
A division of Guardian Fall Protection
(800) 466-6385 ext. 105