Going Coastal with Fall Protection
Regardless of where you’re working, it’s always important to have confidence in your fall protection equipment. One of the best ways to have that confidence is to know what can damage a fall protection system. When fall protection systems are installed in a coastal location, there are several situations that can potentially cause damage. Here are some potential situations that could cause damage to your system, what you should look for during inspection, and how you can protect your equipment and your workers from these dangers.
Fall protection systems with any kind of track are typically made out of metal. If a metal engineered track system is installed in an area where it will be exposed to ocean water constantly, there are a few things that could potentially impact the effectiveness of the equipment. Ocean water is a very salty substance and when a metal system is exposed to that salty water constantly, there is the potential for rust to develop.
As salt water creates the rust that chews through the metal of a fall protection system, the overall strength of the metal will naturally be decreased. The best way to prevent this scenario is to use galvanized metal or a marine-grade paint that will act as the system’s first line of defense against the salt water. In addition to making sure that there is an appropriate finish on the system, you will also want to visually inspect the system for rust spots. You will especially want to look for rust in areas where there are any moving parts or areas of heavy wear.
In addition to the dangers of the chemical qualities of the ocean water, there are also many flora and fauna that live in marine locations. Make sure that bird droppings, bird nests, barnacles, sea weed, or any other floating objects are not hindering the performance of the fall protection system. Regular maintenance and cleaning is typically the best line of defense against this hazard. Make sure to inspect the system for any potentially damaging deposits before using the system.
Improper Equipment Storage
Equipment frequently gets destroyed because it is not stored properly. For example, one worker attached their unused SRL to the back of a boat, but they forgot it was attached when the boat needed to leave. As you can probably guess, the SRL got destroyed because it was snapped off of the system by the force of the boat leaving the dock. If equipment is not stored properly, it can get damaged and that can make the equipment less effective for preventing falls.
High Levels of UV Exposure
Metal fall protection tracks will not be tremendously impacted by UV exposure. But, the webbing material in fall protection gear can be weakened when it is regularly exposed to sunlight. The best way to prevent damage from UV exposure is to store the equipment properly in an area that does not expose the equipment to excessive sunlight, arc flash, or other types of UV waves. Equipment that can use webbing material includes full body harnesses, self-retracting lanyards, anchor straps, trauma relief packs, and some temporary horizontal lifeline systems. To make sure that fall protection equipment with web strap material does not degrade rapidly, it is important to ensure that it is stored properly and not exposed to excessive amounts of ultra violet rays.
If you know that you are working in a coastal area that could be corrosive or hazardous to your fall protection equipment, there are some basic guidelines that you can follow to enhance the safety of the equipment (regardless of your situation). The most important thing anyone using a fall protection system can do is conduct a thorough equipment inspection prior to using the equipment. Visual inspection will reveal if there is any damage to the equipment and if repairs or replacements need to happen. The second most important thing a fall protection user can do is properly maintain their equipment. Maintenance involves cleaning the equipment properly, repairing or replacing any parts that are broken, and storing the equipment in an appropriate way that won’t cause damage. Through inspection and proper maintenance, the risk of damaged equipment from hazardous workspaces can be reduced.
Until the next time, stay safe up there!
Are you wondering if your equipment might be getting damaged from a corrosive work environment? Tell us about it in the comments section below!
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