Q: What happens if I tie off at the foot level with a personal SRL?
A: It’s not uncommon for construction workers to tie off at foot level with a personal SRL while working with leading edges. But it does come with added risk. There are several key points to consider if you’re thinking of doing this. Let’s explore them.
Increased Fall Distances
In the event of a fall, workers who are tied off at foot level will experience a greater fall distance than workers tied off at shoulder level or higher. This, in turn, impacts the amount of clearance required. A thorough assessment must be made prior to starting work to ensure there is sufficient clearance to arrest a fall.
Delayed SRL Lockup
Like a seatbelt, self-retracting lifelines are specifically designed to lock up when the cable leaves the housing at a certain speed (typically about 4.5 feet per second). SRLs anchored at foot level don’t achieve the required acceleration to prompt the device to lock up until after the worker’s D-ring is past the leading edge and below the level of the falling anchor. At that point, the worker has already fallen about 5 feet before the SRL is triggered to engage and stop the fall.
Greater Impact on the Body
Since tying off at foot level results in a greater fall distance, the body also absorbs the greater force from the fall. Workers who must tie off at foot level should look for fall systems that include energy-absorbing devices to help reduce the impact.
Risk of Swing Hazard
The greater the fall distance, the higher the risk for swinging like a pendulum after the fall is arrested. Swinging can be dangerous under any circumstances, but particularly so with leading edges. While edges may not always look sharp to the naked eye, the “sawing” of the lifeline caused by swinging back and forth over any type of sharp edge can lead to a catastrophe (see when-your-job-takes-you-to-the-edge/).
Tying off at foot level is not unheard of, especially among leading-edge workers. However, there are some important safety considerations to make prior to starting the job. Workers should be trained to work with leading edges and equipment should be specifically geared to foot-level tie-offs. In fact, ANSI confirmed that products not specifically designed for foot-level tie-off will generate forces far exceeding accepted safety parameters in the event of a fall.
By ensuring employees are properly trained and using the right equipment for the right application, you can be sure that the job will get done safely when tying off at foot level.
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