This case involves a construction worker whose harness failed leading him to fall from a great height. The construction worker was working on a commercial real estate project and was on the twenty-seventh floor of the building. The harness, lanyard, and rope the worker was using were all new equipment and had only been used for the 2 days prior to the accident. While wearing his harness, the worker slipped and fell. The worker’s harness then snapped causing him to plummet to his death. An expert in the design of fall protection equipment was sought to examine the device and determine if there were any design or manufacturing defects that may have led to the accident.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Briefly, how would you determine whether the device in question malfunctioned?
Expert Witness Response E-078222
I have inspected countless fall arrest systems. I would look at the fall arrest system and determine if it meets the ANSI Standards for Personal Fall Arrest. OSHA & ANSI have different requirements for inspecting fall arrest systems.
According to ANSI/ASSE Z359.2-2007 American National Standards Section 5.5.2, fall protection equipment shall be inspected by the authorized person at least once at the beginning of each eight-hour shift in which it is used to verify that it has not sustained any wear or damage that would require its removal from service. Fall protection and fall rescue equipment shall be inspected on a regular basis not to exceed one year (or more frequently if required by the manufacturer’s instructions) by a competent person or a competent rescuer, as appropriate, to verify that the equipment is safe for use. The inspection shall be documented inspection shall include (but is not limited to):
- Absence or illegibility of markings or tags
- Absence of any elements affecting the equipment form, fit or function
- Evidence of defects in or damage to hardware elements including cracks, sharp edges, deformation, corrosion, chemical attack, excessive heating, alteration, or excessive wear
- Evidence of defects in, or damage to, straps or ropes (fraying, unsplicing, enlaying, kinking, knotting, roping, broken or pulled stitches, soiling, abrasion, alteration, needed or excessive lubrication, excessive aging, or excessive wear)
- Alteration, absence of parts, or evidence of defects in, damage to, or improper function of, mechanical devices and connectors
- Any other condition that calls to question the suitability of the equipment for its intended purpose
Fall protection and fall rescue equipment shall be taken out of service when an inspection reveals that it may no longer serve the required function due to damage or wear because either the required inspection interval has been exceeded, because it does not meet the criteria of this standard, or because it has been used to arrest a fall.
OSHA Standards 29 CFR, Part 1910 Subpart F specifically address inspection requirements. Personal fall arrest systems shall be inspected prior to use for mildew, wear, damage and other deterioration, and defective components shall be removed from service if their strength or function may be adversely affected. Personal fall arrest systems must be regularly inspected for the following:
- Any significant defect (tears, cuts, abrasions, mold, undue stretching)
- Alterations or additions which might affect its efficiency
- Damage due to deterioration
- Contact with fire, acids, or other corrosives
- Distorted hooks or faulty hook springs
- Tongues unfitted to the shoulder of buckles
- Loose or damaged mountings
- Non-functioning parts
- Wearing or internal deterioration in the ropes
- Any component showing the signs above, should be withdrawn from service immediately, and should be tagged or marked as unusable or destroyed.