Today, companies normally task a facility or safety manager with keeping workers safe at height. Part of his or her job description is to compile a fall protection plan. Unfortunately, many companies take on this task after an employee is injured or they have been cited for a specific safety violation. It is more than likely that the people involved with forming the fall protection plan are unfamiliar with OSHA and ANSI and how they work together.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency that enforces safety and health standards. They enforce these standards through training, outreach, education, and assistance. Employers must enforce all applicable OSHA regulations. In fact, per the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), employers must keep their workplace clear of serious hazards. OSHA covers private sector employers and employees and federal government workers. Although not covered by Federal OSHA, OSHA also covers state and local government employees if they work in a state that has an OSHA-approved state program. OSHA does not cover self-employed people, farm employers who only employ immediate family members, and hazards regulated by another federal agency, such as the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

As far as fall protection standards, OSHA 1910 (General Industry) and OSHA 1926 (Construction) both have sections covering fall protection. Because OSHA standards are law, organizations must follow applicable OSHA regulations. OSHA does conduct inspections and can issue fines for failing to follow its standards. Similarly, workers can confidentially report unsafe working conditions to OSHA through its website. Both of these practices help OSHA enforce its standards.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is the organization that assures standard developers follow the same protocols across virtually every industry. ANSI oversees the process of creating thousands of regulations and guidelines. Through a process they call accreditation, ANSI also certifies that the organizations involved in producing the regulations and standards are legitimately qualified to do so. Despite not being law, ANSI’s accredited standards can be sited by OSHA as nationally recognized safety regulations that all industries should follow.

The most important standard in the fall protection industry is ANSI Z359.2. This standard establishes guidelines and requirements for an employer’s fall protection program. This accredited, comprehensive standard applies to any organization where employees are exposed to fall hazards, meaning it applies to all industries except sport activities.

When your organization follows ANSI standards, it is not only complying with OSHA, but, in some cases, exceeding OSHA requirements. For example, OSHA standards state that the maximum average arresting force on an employee should be limited to 1,800 pounds (8 kN) when used with a body harness. However, ANSI discovered that a maximum arresting force of 1,800 pounds may cause serious injury to employees weighing less than 180 pounds because the force of the fall can exceed 10 G-forces, which is the threshold for possible injury. For these reasons, ANSI set its maximum average arresting force standard to 900 pounds (4 kN) for the majority of fall arrest devices. By following ANSI accredited standards, your organization is providing the safest working environment possible.

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Nathan Muller

Senior Technical Writer | Rigidlifelines.com
Nathan Muller is the Senior Technical Writer for Spanco and Rigid Lifelines. Nathan has nearly four years of experience in technical communications and copyediting. He graduated from Bob Jones University with a B.A. in English and a minor in Professional Writing. He is also a member of the Society of Technical Communication.