The Closest Thing to Wings

The Closest Thing to Wings Guidelines for establishing a fall protection program By Keith Jackson September 2001 Although the issue has received little attention in the aerospace industry until now, fall protection has, for decades...

Fall arrest may consist of body supports, lanyards, self-retracting lifelines, rope grabs, anchorage components, and horizontal fall arrest lines — either flexible or rigid — engineered to slow and stop the victim after an accident. These systems generally have five components; a full body harness reduces the impact caused by a fall by spreading pressure evenly over your thighs, chest, shoulders and pelvis; a lanyard attached to the body harness between your shoulder blades and to an anchoring point; snaphooks, connect the lanyard to your body harness; an anchorage point, the place where your lanyard is attached to a solid, unmovable object that can support up to 5,000 lbs. Even though you may weigh only 200 lbs, in a fall, that 200 lbs can become 2,000 lbs. of force, depending on the distance and speed of the fall. The most critical element in determining an anchorage point is the swing factor, or how far the victim might swing from side to side in a fall. This pendulum effect could do some serious damage, so never anchor the lanyard to a guardrail or any other dubious anchor point. Also, equipment should be set up so that a fall is no more than 6 feet before the victim is slowed and stopped.
ImageA mobile anchor system will protect the worker and still allow for maximum mobility.

With any fall protection system, training is the key component.

This brings us to the final component: knowledge. Mechanics should be sure to know how the equipment works, and how to properly inspect all components. If something is found to be wrong with a piece of equipment, it should be replaced before the job can continue. A detailed description of these elements can be found at

When compliance is an issue

Another option is a fall protection plan and essentially, it should function as a backup program. In situations where other options may not work, the employer is required to provide a training program for any employee exposed to fall hazards.
Listed below are some common situations, provided by, where work procedures may be acceptable because other forms of fall protection are impracticable:

· Installation or removal of fall protection equipment (first person up/last person down).
· Light-duty work for short duration, i.e. The performance from portable ladders of light-duty tasks such as inspection, touch-up paint, etc., for less than 15 minutes. The worker must not remove both hands from the ladder at the same time, nor move the body’s center of gravity past the outside rails of the ladder.
· Brief transfers between fall protection systems where the worker is protected by having a "3-point stance" (two feet placed firmly on the work surface, one hand supporting the worker and the other transferring to the next system).
· Work requiring constant repositioning, such as the primary connection of skeletal structures.
· Only workers employed in the initial placement of skeletal members requiring climbing and walking on the bare structure are likely to be covered by Section 11.2(5)(c), i.e.: scaffold erectors, tower erectors, blow-pipe ventilation erectors, structural steel erectors, tower crane erectors. All other workers on the structure engaged in welding, bolt installation, other fitting out work and climbing or walking on skeletal members must use the fall protection methods referred in the rest of Section 11.2.
· Emergencies such as firefighting, or the correction of an unsafe condition.
· When use of normal fall protection methods results in greater hazard. For example, cleaning gutters on a very steep roof where there may be greater hazard from climbing to the top of the roof to install anchors for fall protection equipment than working without the equipment.

Fall Protection Terms
Aerial lift device: Equipment such as powered platforms, vehicle-mounted elevated and rotating work platforms, boom platforms and powered industrial truck platforms.
Deceleration device: Any mechanism, such as a rope, grabbing device or ripstitch lanyard, which serves to dissipate a substantial amount of energy during a fall arrest.
Designated area: Space which has a perimeter barrier erected to warn employees when approaching an unprotected side or edge, and defines area where work may be performed without additional fall protection.
Lanyard: Flexible line of rope or strap that generally has a connector at each end for connecting the body harness to a deceleration device, lifeline or anchor point.
Rope grab (grabbing device): Deceleration device that travels on a lifeline and automatically, by friction, engages the lifeline and locks to arrest a fall.
Self-retracting lifeline/lanyard: Deceleration device containing a drum-wound line that can be slowly extracted from, or retracted onto, the drum under minimal tension during normal movement and which automatically locks the drum and arrests the fall (usually within two feet or less).
Standard railing: Vertical barrier erected along exposed edges of a floor opening, wall opening, ramp, platform, or runway to prevent falls of persons.
Tie-Off: A procedure of connecting directly or indirectly to an anchorage point.

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