25 Oct How often does fall arrest equipment need to be replaced?
The safety and usability of fall arrest equipment should always be determined by condition, not an expiry date. The reason for this is simple: despite time guarantees, damage and wear can cause the equipment to become ineffective.
Height equipment can be the difference between safety and injury. Always assess the condition of your fall arrest equipment to keep workers safe. At AHSS, we encourage every workplace to provide training, adhere to guidelines, and invest in quality equipment.
Does height safety equipment have an expiration date?
There are no mandated expiry dates on fall safety equipment because time cannot predict condition. OSHA and ANSI both recognise this and therefore do not mandate a timeframe for use. Even manufacturers of fall arrest equipment do not suggest a retirement date.
Setting a lifetime on the equipment could give workers or supervisors a false sense of security, and lead to the use of systems that are relatively new, but not safe. Instead, the equipment should be inspected and assessed regularly, regardless of its age.
What are the factors that affect fall arrest equipment’s usability and safety?
The condition of fall arrest equipment can be altered by several factors. These include exposure, wear and tear, and improper maintenance.
– Exposure to UV rays via sunlight can cause the fibres within a roof safety harness to deteriorate.
– Tearing or stretching of a harness can create a weak spot.
– Exposure to paints and chemicals can weaken synthetic materials. Remove the substances immediately where possible by following the manufacturer guidelines.
– Acids and strong chemicals can cause metal components to lose strength or deteriorate.
– Improperly stored equipment can be unnecessarily stretched causing it to become misshapen and damaged.
– If a harness has been involved in a fall arrest, it must be immediately retired. Never use fall equipment after an event, regardless of its age or condition before the impact.
5 Inspection tips for fall arrest equipment
Harnesses and fall arrest systems should be inspected thoroughly to determine their condition. If there are any signs the equipment is damaged, it is not fit for use. Ignoring these signs during a check could have devastating consequences.
Here are 5 factors that can help you to assess the condition of a fall arrest harness:
- Inspect all metal and plastic structures. Ensure all buckles are functioning correctly and smoothly. Any cracks or corrosion could indicate damage.
- Assess stitched and webbed components. UV damage, tears, broken threads, overstretched harnesses, or abrasions should be closely examined.
- Labels must be legible. When inspecting the harness labels, first ensure they are attached, and then if they can easily be read.
- Load indicator assessment. Look for ripped stitching or separation in the load indicators. If present, the harness should not be used.
- Document Inspection. If you have assessed a harness, clearly document your inspection. There are ready-made log sheets for specific harnesses that can help you to complete a thorough assessment.
If any damage is present during your inspection, do not use the equipment as its safety could be compromised.
While there is no simple answer to the question: ‘how often does fall arrest equipment need to be replaced?’, we have explained that condition should be the determining factor. Always complete a thorough assessment of equipment before use to ensure you and your team are safe when working from height.