Building Experience: Four Things to Know About Tie-Off Anchor Points

On a recent project, a construction worker needed to complete a continuous weld while working 20 feet off the ground. At such a height, a tie-off was required, but there were no obvious options within the pre-cast building that would provide the ability to safely complete the job task.

While Hixson provided a solution to the issue, the situation underscores the necessity to consider the structure when dealing with tie-off anchor points and personnel safety. In January 2017, Rule 29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart I from the Occupational Safety & Hazard Administration (OSHA) went into effect. Intended to protect workers from slips and falls on surfaces as well as falls from heights, much of the new rule focuses on equipment and operating procedures designed to keep workers safe. Building design tries to accommodate this rule by incorporating railings, swing gates, and other options, but the structure itself can play a role as well. Here are four things to consider from a structural perspective when reviewing fall protection:

  1. You cannot throw a rope over a beam and hope it holds, or just tie-off on any nearby joist. If you have to stop a 200 lb. person using a lanyard at a six foot maximum falling distance, you need a 5,000 lb. load capacity to offset that drop. Angles, utility piping, rebar, and other elements typically do not have adequate capacity to accommodate that kind of load. And even if they stop the fall, they may sustain damage, potentially leading to a loss of structural integrity, downtime, and lost productivity. Instead, when considering tie-off anchors, structural engineers typically follow a “strongest” first rule of thumb. Steel beams are best, and wood is acceptable under certain conditions.
  2. Horizontal lifelines can have multiple tie-off points, but each person on the horizontal lifeline must have their own vertical lifeline. This is because if one person falls, the jolt will likely cause the second person to fall. Also, two people on a common line will create twice the load on the horizontal lifeline. When a person falls with a horizontal lifeline, the force generated on the line is two or more times greater than the vertical 5000 lb. load.
  3. Understand how rescue personnel will reach a person who has fallen. The accessibility of rescue personnel, ladders and other equipment, as well as how to get to someone in the case of a fall, must be considered when reviewing tie-off anchor points within the facility.
  4. Maintenance and inspection of fall protection equipment and personal protective equipment should be conducted on a regular basis. As part of those inspections, do a regular check of the structural tie off anchor elements as well. Look for wear and tear on things such as anchor bolts, washers, beam clamps, and other components. If in a washdown area, also check for mold and mildew that may accumulate on these elements.

For more information on fall protection, see Appendix C in Rule 29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart I, or contact Hixson.

Comments are closed.