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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

It’s time again to ask that eternal question: what’s wrong with this picture?!

We have an interesting one for you today, so we won’t worry about a lot of build-up. But one extra thing to keep in mind; in addition to asking if anything is wrong with our image, ask yourself one more thing: is what we’re seeing compliant with ANSI regulations? Is it even possible to say ‘yes’ to the former while also saying ‘yes’ to the latter?

Ready? Let's Take A Look:

What's wrong with this picture? Q4 2016

What we see here is the web lifeline component of a self-retracting lifeline (SRL). Clearly, the SRL is being used in a manner where the potential exists for it to impact the leading edge (LE) of the fall hazard. We don’t see an anchor or a complete harness in frame, but for the sake of the conversation to follow we’re going to assume that our SRL is being used as a component of a complete and compatible fall protection system.

So, what’s wrong with our picture?

If we’re asking this in the context of how Guardian Fall Protection allows our products to be used (as determined by product design and testing), our answer is that SRLs with web lifelines should never be used in LE applications. Guardian only permits cable SRLs for LE use, and that is what should be used here. But, if we ask in the context of ANSI compliance, we find something different.

According to the ANSI Z359.14-14 fall protection standard for SRLs, we know that SRLs rated for use in leading edge applications (SRL-LEs) must have a shock-absorbing component connected directly to the worker’s back. This is so no risk exists for the worker to be separated from their shock absorbing device. So far, so good.

ANSI goes on to fully define all testing that must be done for SRL-LEs, as well as sets forth other performance and design requirements, but the one thing they don’t do is address the permitted lifeline material for SRL-LEs.

According to ANSI, there is no differentiation between web and cable lifeline materials, as long as all testing requirements can be met. This means that as long as our SRL is rated for LE use by the manufacturer, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with our picture.

Then why waste the ink?

Because over the course of extensive in-house and third-party product testing, Guardian has found one thing: SRLs with web lifelines (of standard widths and thicknesses) do not perform well in LE tests.

There are all kinds of variables to control for, not the least of which is the material and sharpness of the edge the lifeline comes in contact with. Smoother concrete edges don’t pose nearly the same risk as sharper metal edges, meaning there are instances where web SRL-LE prototypes performed just fine. But overall, controlling for everything other than lifeline material, Guardian saw sufficient evidence to decide to not pursue developing an SRL-LE with a web lifeline.

LE applications have been an ongoing point of focus for us because, quite frankly, they present so many opportunities for equipment misuse, in addition to the fact that regulations specific to LE equipment are still fairly new (first introduced by ANSI Z359.14 in 2012). And in an attempt to eliminate some of that potential misuse, we determined that a web SRL-LE just wasn’t worth it.

What risks do LE applications present?

First and foremost is the risk for the lifeline to break when it impacts the edge; beyond anything else this is the greatest risk of using an SRL with a web lifeline in LE applications. When the line hits the edge, a common occurrence is for it to slide back and forth as the weight below it settles. This is especially likely when the edge is made from steel (in contrast, for materials like concrete, lifelines have a greater tendency to bite into the edge). And, when a fully taut line is cutting against a steel edge, it needs to be made of some strong stuff to hold up (and hold you up).

It’s simple, if working in a LE application, use an SRL-LE with a cable lifeline. It may not be mandated by ANSI, but it sure is the safer option, and helps ensure the right equipment is being used regardless of the conditions of a specific jobsite.