The concept of fall protection anchors is simple: connect yourself through a safety harness and lanyard to an immovable anchor point while working at height and you will be “caught” should any fall occur. However, understanding fall protection anchors is a lot more complicated. The wide variety of designs, specified uses, intended performance, weight load, attachments, and surrounding obstructions make the selection of fall protection anchors a precise and critical decision.
All anchors, even if they have the same load-bearing rating, are not created equal. Manufacturers design and engineer anchors with specifications on performance based on installation, use, environmental factors, and interaction with connecting components. To maintain compliance with OSHA and ANSI regulations, it may be best to work with a fall protection specialist who understands the anchors available on the market, their designed use and performance, and the many factors that affect the reliability and safety of the overall fall protection system at your individual worksite.
- Where is the anchor needed?
- How high can that anchor be to ensure there is a safe fall arrest distance?
- What obstructions may present additional hazards that may swing falls?
- What will the anchor be secured to?
- What is the maximum fall force the anchor may be subjected to?
- What will the minimum required strength need to be?
Once the unique specifications of the needed fall protection system are established, a fall protection specialist will identify the most applicable anchor to be used and will consider the following factors:
- What type of anchor is needed (Type A – Basic, Type T – Tieback Use, or Type D – Deformable)? Is it certified to the maximum strength needed?
- Is it destruction proof?
- Does the anchor meet strength standards needed for the operation (including breakage strength, working load, weight capacity)?
- Does the allowable direction of loading on anchor meet user operations?
- What components does it need to be compatible with (safety harness, lanyard or lifeline, attachment point, etc.)?
- Prioritize the performance of the anchor over cost. Though two different anchors pass the same compliance standards, their intended installation and use can be very different.
The responsibility then falls to the users of the fall protection system. Make sure to understand and not exceed the load capacity of the anchor which includes individual weight in addition to any weight that will be carried during operations while connected to the anchor. End-users must also understand and properly follow the manufacturer’s installation and use instructions. Manufacturers design anchors to manage the energy of a fall in different ways while providing an equal level of safety and then document the intended installation and use of the anchor.