At Dakota Safety, we believe in the power of fall protection guardrails when it comes to fall protection equipment. But, we also admit passive fall protection isn’t always applicable to every situation. For construction sites, roofing tasks, or sites that need guardrails removed, an active fall protection solution is required, like a safety harness. That being said, a harness is only as good as its anchor point.
Anchorage points are your connection point to a solid structure. Required by OSHA standard 1910.66, each worker’s personal fall arrest system must have a reliable point of attachment for lifelines, lanyards, or deceleration devices. Anchor points can be beneficial if your work site is temporary or your workers need to cover lots of ground.
Most non-penetrating systems can only be used on fairly flat surfaces, so any surface with a slope will likely require active fall protection systems. In situations such as these, anchor extensions (such as lanyards) just aren’t enough to extend to where you need to be. In that case, horizontal lifelines and rope grabs suspended between fixed anchor points are great alternatives.
Fixed and permanent anchor points are easy to use and tend to be more durable and heavy-duty. This is because each anchor can be made specifically for a certain type of material, whereas portable anchors need to fit many situations, not making them a “best solution” for any situation. Fixed and permanent anchor points come in 2 main types, defined by OSHA:
- Peak anchor: Placed at the top of a roof, peak anchors are typically solid, non-moving pieces secured underneath trusses .
- Permanent D-rings: Inexpensive D-ring anchors can be attached to the truss frame; they can be left permanently on the roof for future use.
Fixed Anchor Point Common
Regardless of whether you choose fixed or portable anchors, OSHA regulations for their performance are the same. All anchors are composed of two components: an attachment point for connectors to latch onto and a base plate to bolt to. These can differ in shape and size based on what material they need to be placed into, such as concrete or wood. They also need to be rated for the appropriate application:
- Fall arrest systems need to support 5,000 pounds.
- Work positioning or rescue systems need to support 3,000 pounds.
- Restraint systems must support 1,000 pounds.
These ratings are for one person at great heights, as the force of gravity and sudden stops create additional forces, known as impact load. Therefore, it is not acceptable to have a lanyard that will simply hold the weight of one worker. Regulations state the load should be what is outlined above, or twice the impact load of the worker, whichever is greater.
If this is confusing, certified professionals can help. In fact, before anchorage systems are used, they need to meet certification checks daily. In these inspections, a skilled worker checks for proper installation (according to the manufacturer’s instructions), wear, or deterioration, as old components can cause the anchor to fail.
Anchor Point by Material
Fixed anchor points have to be chosen carefully because, as mentioned above, they are not one-size-fits-all. They should be placed on stable structures above the site of construction. Anchorage points for fall restraint can only be used for those purposes and shouldn’t pull “double duty” by supporting other platforms.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at common materials.
You might encounter steel corrugated decking being used as a roof material or as a truss beam, and both are great places to fix your anchor. Corrugated steel decking is straightforward – just align the screw holes in your anchor baseplate over the raised portions. You might need to use a second deck sheet for support, depending on your manufacturer.
A steel truss can support a D-ring by attaching steel plates to each side and connecting them with nuts and threaded bolts. Truss anchors must be located between two-panel points or after the first panel, but not at the ends. The truss itself should be of sound mechanical strength and size.
Concrete decking or columns are other common sites for anchorages. Anchor points can be placed into the concrete before it is fully dry for long-term use or bolted in after concrete has fully cured. If it is not fully cured or is too thin (less than 4 inches), the concrete may not support the required weight.
Wood roofing can be found on commercial or residential properties. Commercial roofs are, many times, flat compared to residential buildings’ often peaked frames. Regardless, the anchors attach the same way – bolted to the truss at the peak of the wood frame. The difference is that peaked roof anchors use angled base plates.
If you’re using any other material or thinner versions of the materials listed above, you may be working under special circumstances. The anchor will be unique to your situation, but will most likely consist of modified versions of what is outlined above.
Now you know how to select anchors, pick optimal anchorage sites, and know what a safety inspector should review each day on your job site. Check out our selection or let us help make suggestions for your custom needs.
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