It’s important to understand the rules to ensure your following them, so we’ve put together a quick guide on the basics of fall protection requirements for mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs). Under the OSHA Aerial Lift Regulation, the employer, user and operator of a lift are all responsible for providing approved fall protection to employees/users. For boom-type lifts, personal fall arrest systems have specific requirements which must be met to remain within compliance. These requirements involve calculating fall distance and potential arresting force.
There are a couple of options for personal fall protection equipment for boom-type MEWPs. One is a full body harness with fall restraint system and the other is a full body harness with a self-retracting life/lanyard system. These systems are specifically required to not allow for the operator to fall more than 6 feet or to exceed 1,800 pounds in arresting force. Operators cannot come into contact with any lower surface.
Fall restraint and fall arrest are two categories of fall protection, according to an article published by Grainger. A fall restraint system can be used to help prevent the worker from falling or being thrown from the platform and include: a short or adjustable restraint lanyard and a body belt or a full-body harness. A fall arrest system is used to minimize the distances and consequences of a fall should one occur. They are designed to provide freedom of movement for the worker and include: a self-retracting lifeline and a full body harness.
Some factors must be taken into consideration before the self-retracting/lanyard system can be used. First, the fall restraint lanyard must be used during travel and when platform height is below the calculated total fall distance. The fall arrest lanyard can be used when the platform height is above the calculated total fall distance and, secondly, when the body belt with fall restraint is arranged so that the employee is not exposed to falling any distance outside the platform.
When calculating the total fall distance, it’s important to take into consideration the following (according to an article published by Aerial Pros):
- Lanyard free fall distance (a)
- Maximum allowable deceleration distance (b)
- Maximum lock‐up length (for the self‐retracting lifeline/lanyard only) (a+b)
- The height of the operator (c)
- Safety factor (a suitable amount to ensure that the required clearance between the operator and the lower surface is met) (d)
- Any stretch in the lifeline or lanyard outside of the deceleration distance.
- Any harness effects
- Any movement of the platform due to dynamic loading
- Any obstructions under the platform
Other fall protection requirements which OSHA enforces, include:
- Ensure that access gates or openings are closed.
- Stand firmly on the floor of the bucket or lift platform.
- Do not climb on or lean over guardrails or handrails.
- Do not use planks, ladders, or other devices as a working position.
- Use a body harness or a restraining belt with a lanyard attached to the boom or bucket.
- Do not belt-off to adjacent structures or poles while in the bucket.
For more detailed information on the rules and standards which regular fall arrest systems read the following OSHA and ANSI documents, according to the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF), a not-for-profit organization owned by its members, which include manufacturers, rental companies, distributors, contractors and users.
- OSHA 1926 Subpart ”M” Subpart title: Fall Protection, 1910.500-503 Vehicle-mounted elevating and rotating work platforms
- OSHA 29 CFR 1910 Subparts D,F, I (1910.23, 66, 67, and 132)
- ANSI/ASSP Z359 Fall Protection and Arrest Standards Package
- ASSP Z359.0-2018 Z359 Committee Guidance Document for Definitions and Nomenclature Used in Z359 Fall Protection and Fall Restraint Standards
- ANSI/ASSP Z359.1 – 2016 The Fall Protection Code – Digital Only
- ANSI/ASSP Z359.2 – 2017 Minimum Requirements for a Comprehensive Managed Fall Protection Program
- ANSI/ASSP Z359.3-2017 Safety Requirements for Lanyards and Positioning Lanyards
- ANSI/ASSP Z359.4-2013 Safety Requirements for Assisted-Rescue and Self-Rescue Systems, Subsystems and Components
- ANSI/ASSP Z359.6-2016Specifications and Design Requirements for Active Fall Protection Systems
- NSI/ASSP Z359.7-2011 Qualification and Verification Testing of Fall Protection Products
- ANSI/ASSP Z359.11-2014 Safety Requirements for Full Body Harnesses
- ANSI/ASSP Z359.12-2009 Connecting Components for Personal Fall Arrest Systems
- ANSI/ASSP Z359.13-2013 Personal Energy Absorbers and Energy Absorbing Lanyards
- ANSI/ASSP Z359.14 2014 Safety Requirements for Self-Retracting Devices for Personal Fall Arrest & Rescue Systems
- ANSI/ASSP Z359.15-2014 Safety Requirements for Single Anchor Lifelines and Fall Arresters for Personal Fall Arrest Systems
- ANSI/ASSP Z359.16-2016 Safety Requirements for Climbing Ladder Fall Arrest Systems
- ANSI/ASSP Z359.18-2017 Safety Requirements for Anchorage Connectors for Active Fall Protection Systems
For more information, please contact your local OSHA agency, your local fall protection supplier or visit: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/aerial-lifts-factsheet.html