According to OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, falls are the leading cause of fatalities at construction sites, accounting for about one-third of all fatalities in the industry. Wind technicians working up-tower must have specialized training and safeguards in place to protect them from the risk of falling.
Craig Firl, the North American Technical Manager at Capital Safety (a global provider of fall protection, confined space, and rescue equipment), answers some key questions regarding fall-protection training, equipment, and standards.
What training should wind technicians have when it comes to fall protection and properly fitting equipment?
A wind technician should be taught by a Competent Person Trainer as established under ANSI Z359.2.ANSI, the American National Standards Institute, provides performance standards for fall protection in the U.S.The technician should be able to identify the existing and predictable hazards associated with working at height, and have the authorization and training to take prompt corrective measures. The technician should also be trained to the authorized rescuer level under ANSI Z359.2. 2.
What key factors should wind-energy companies consider when choosing and using fall protection products?
There are several things to consider when selecting equipment. Compliance to the applicable standard (both ANSI and OSHA apply in the U.S.) is critical. Secondly, make sure the product fits the intended application. Understand how and where the equipment is going to be used and match the features of the equipment to the application.
For example, on a full body-harness, determine what type of comfort level is desired, and where you need connection points – waist, front, or dorsal. Do you need a seat sling or tool pouches? Is your application unique in that you have concerns about arc flash or potential damage from high heat? These are all questions to ask when trying to select the correct product for your needs.
How have fall protection devices improved or changed over the last couple of years and how have requirements changed?
The fall protection products have developed significantly over the last several years, mainly in the comfort segment and the available features area. Many harnesses for example features supreme comfort with padding and support mechanisms in place to allow the user to wear the harness all day. Overall, equipment has become lighter, but without compromising strength and durability.
Fall protection equipment has also advanced technologically, with many types of connecting systems capable of handling increased fall distances and higher capacities. The fall protection standards have also changed, most noticeably the ANSI standards in the U.S. Over the past three years, ANSI has produced new standards on full body harnesses and self-retracting lifelines.
Are there special considerations when storing or caring for fall protection equipment, and how often should the devices be inspected or exchanged for new? Fall protection equipment should be cared for similar to other personal protective equipment. Storing a product in a cool, dry area out of direct sunlight will help keep the product in working condition. Inspections of the equipment should take place before each use, and at least annually a formal inspection should be done by a competent person. Most manufacturers will provide direction on storing and inspection steps in the user instruction manuals.