A body harness would be needed as part of Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS) that is used to prevent a worker from free falling more than 6 feet and prevents impact with the lower surface. The body harness distributes the force over the thighs, pelvis, waist, chest and shoulders. A PFAS with the body harness must reduce the fall arresting force to 1,800 pounds. The PFAS includes a lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline or some combination of these.
Scaffolds are common working surface for the electrical contractor. Scaffolding regulation present one of the variances to the general rule. When working on a scaffold, Federal OSHA requires fall protection at 10 feet. The positioning device or body belt is not applicable to scaffold. The type of scaffold determines whether or not a body harness (PFAS) or guardrails are needed. The table below lists the scaffolds and fall protection needed.
Associated with the scaffold variance for fall protection are scissor and aerial lifts. OSHA views a scissor lift as a mobile scaffold. Workers on scissor lifts must be tied-off or protected by guardrails. Aerial lifts, on the other hand, are covered by a separate OSHA standard and require fall protection including a body harness.
Fall protection for a ladder is unique. Unless it is a fixed ladder above 24 feet, neither a body belt nor harness is required. Fall protection is provided for in the rules for climbing (i.e., three-point contact, centering the body, etc.) and ladder setup (i.e., height-to-base ratio of 4:1, securing the ladder, etc.). However, OSHA encourages the use of fall protection and many general contractors have established a rule mandating the use of a belt or harness while working on a ladder.
A word of caution: Falls are leading cause of injuries and fatalities. Always insure adequate protection is provided. A large portion of this review was based on OSHA letters of interpretation, which explain requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances. Any variation of conditions may affect the applicability of the explanation. Confirm the use of fall protection equipment with the regulations.
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