In all industries, there comes a time when a business must evaluate a piece of equipment that is nearing the end of its lifespan and ask an important question: can it be repaired or does it need to be replaced?
For many industries, there’s a bit of wiggle room when it comes to squeezing a few more uses out of a piece of equipment. After all, what’s the worst that can happen if you continue using a laptop that’s on its last leg or an appliance that’s out of date?
On the other hand, safety and fall protection equipment is an area where you can’t afford to take chances.
Here’s how you can determine when it’s time to ditch your current equipment and invest in a newer (and safer) model.
Don’t exceed the manufacturer shelf life.
OSHA says that it’s up to the product manufacturer to set a reasonable and safe expiration date. For many products, this shelf life is around 5 years, although depending on the product and its purpose, it may be more or less than that.
If your equipment is nearing or has reached the end of its lifespan as determined by the manufacturer, it’s a good idea to go ahead and have it replaced, even if there are no visible defects.
While equipment that has been particularly well-cared-for could potentially outlast its expiration date, is it really worth the risk? There’s often no way of knowing how the internal structures within your equipment have held up over the years, even if everything looks fine on the outside.
Don’t use any equipment that has visible deterioration.
If your fall restraint or arrest system has visible signs of wear-and-tear – like loose stitching, frayed edges, chemical damage, loose or distorted grommets, loose or bent rivets, or other cracks, dents, and deformations – go ahead and replace it. From harnesses to ropes and buckles to hardware, your fall protection equipment should not have any visible defects or signs of damage – even rust!
All these forms of deterioration can weaken your equipment and cause it to malfunction. In other words, equipment that has any of these or other signs of damage is no longer qualified to do its job and keep users safe.
Discontinue using any equipment that has been involved in a fall.
OSHA states that, “Personal fall arrest systems and components subjected to impact loading shall be immediately removed from service and shall not be used again for employee protection until inspected and determined by a competent person to be undamaged and suitable for reuse.”
In other words, once a personal fall arrest system has been used during a fall (and subjected to the associated force and impact of arresting a fall), it has served its purpose and should be removed from service. Some companies will actually go so far as to destroy a fall protection system that has already been deployed during a fall in order to ensure it is not used again.
Replacing your fall protection equipment at the right time is an important step in remaining OSHA-compliant and minimizing the risk of serious injuries.
Partnering with a fall protection specialist who understands the ins and outs of fall safety can make a big difference to your company’s safety record. Contact us today to learn more.