The 2007 edition of ANSI Z359.1, Safety Requirements for Personal Fall Arrest Systems, Subsystems and Components became effective on November 24, 2007. Since that time, a lot of behind-the-scenes work has been going on with manufacturers and testing laboratories to achieve compliance with the specifications called out in the revised ANSI Z359.1 standard.

One such organization is the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI), a personal protective equipment certification body which has been monitoring the development of the standard in anticipation of adopting this standard as part of its certification program for fall protection equipment.

With the SEI Board of Director’s approval to adopt the 2007 edition of ANSI Z359.1, SEI staff began working with its laboratory selected to conduct the testing for the fall protection certification program. SEI worked with Intertek in Cortland, NY, to conduct this testing. Intertek had the capability to conduct many of the tests for components such as tensile strength, hardness and salt spray on elements of the industrial harness such as buckles, adjusters, snaphooks, carabiners, D-rings, O-rings and oval rings called out in the standard.

Intertek began a 3,500-square-foot expansion of its personal protective equipment test facility, including constructing a drop test tower for the SEI fall protection certification program. Intertek acquired the a test torso, test weights, load cell and recording equipment, test lanyard and quick release mechanism for use with the drop test tower.

Prior to SEI approval to begin testing, equipment calibrations were conducted on items including the test torso and test weights, as well as completion of a deflection study and resonant frequency analysis of the drop test tower. All are requirements of the ANSI Z359.1 standard.

Obtaining certification
With testing underway for the SEI fall protection certification program since the spring of 2008, new certifications to the 2007 edition of ANSI Z359.1 are being added to the SEI Certified Product List as manufacturers complete their products required testing. In order to obtain certification, manufacturers must pass all tests required for their particular product. The manufacturer must also successfully complete an extensive quality assurance audit of its manufacturing facility conducted by an independent quality auditor.

ANSI Z359.1 specifies requirements for the performance, design, marking, qualification, instruction, training, inspection, use, maintenance and removal from service for connectors, full body harnesses, lanyards, energy absorbers, anchorage connectors, fall arresters, vertical lifelines and self-retracting lanyards comprising personal fall arrest systems for users within the capacity range of 130 to 310 lbs (59 to 140 kg).

Testing a torso
One example of a performance requirement taken directly from the standard is when subjected to required testing, a personal fall arrest system in which a full body harness is used shall produce a maximum arrest (MAF) force of not more than 1,800 lbs. (8.0kN) and shall bring the fall to a complete stop with a deceleration distance of not more than 42 inches (1067mm). In suspension, after the fall is arrested, the angle at rest which the vertical center line of the test torso makes with the vertical shall not exceed 30 degrees.

To meet the above performance requirement, the testing laboratory is directed to: “Put the harness on the test torso, fasten all buckles, and adjust it snugly as though the torso were a person. Attach the end of the lanyard to the load cell connected to the test structure. Attach the quick release mechanism to the test torso (neck ring for feet-first drop and crotch ring for head-first drop. Raise the test torso to a level, which allows a 6-foot (1829mm) free fall or the maximum permitted by the lanyard, whichever is less, upon release of the test torso. The torso shall be released from a point no more than 12 inches (305mm) measured horizontally from the point of the lanyard connection to the load cell. Release the torso using the quick release mechanism. Measure and record the maximum arrest force and deceleration distance. After the drop, the torso is to remain suspended by the harness for a period of 5 minutes. During the post-fall suspension period measure and record the angle at rest. Perform the test once each for a feet-first and a head-first drop. A new specimen may be used for each test.”

Marking requirements

Another requirement of the standard is general markings in English shall be provided by the equipment manufacturers for fall protection components and systems and shall endure for the life of the equipment. For example, instructions shall include, among other items:
  • Name and address and telephone number of manufacturer
  • Parts identification numbers
  • Model identification
  • Inspection procedures
  • Anchorage requirements
  • Criteria for proper methods for using the equipment
  • Criteria for discarding equipment that fails inspection
  • Procedures for cleaning, maintenance and storage
  • Limits on the use of the equipment.
Repair authorization
In addition, instructions state that only the equipment manufacturer, or other persons authorized in writing by the manufacturer, shall make repairs to the equipment. Instructions must state that the rescuer must remove the equipment used for a fall arrest from service until repair or replacement has been completed by the manufacturer. Instructions must be included to the user that a rescue and retrieval plan must be in effect and the means of rescue must be at hand prior to usage of the equipment.

Important new requirements
The 2007 edition has added several important new requirements. Some are listed here.
  • Gate strength requirements increased for snaphooks and carabiners to 3,600 pounds in all directions of potential loading to the gate without breaking or distortion sufficient to release the gate. Test procedures changed to exert static loads on the gate face, gate side and from inside the gate outward, forcing the gate away from the nose of the device.
  • In addition to the dorsal (back) D-ring which may be used for attachment of a personal fall arrest system, the revised standard now includes additional testing and warnings for a front attachment element for a fall arrest system per a front-mounted D-ring, located in the sternum area. Connection at the front D-ring is limited, however, to systems that restrict free-fall distance to two feet or less and limit the maximum fall-arrest loads on the front D-ring to 900 pounds force or less.
  • Testing for twin-leg shock-absorbing lanyards is included in the new standard that includes a 5,000-pound static test of the joint between the two lanyard legs. Warning language shall be included on the product label to attach only the center snaphook to the back D-ring of the harness.
  • User instructions shall also include additional language, such as a warning not to attach the unused leg of the lanyard to any point on the harness except attachment points specifically approved by the harness manufacturer for that purpose.
Make the right buy
Employers buy and use fall protection harnesses, lanyards, rope grabs, lifelines, retractables and other equipment every day. You should confirm that your fall protection equipment has been independently tested and certified as complying with the ANSI Z 359.1 standard by an accredited certification organization.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) operates such a program for accrediting certifiers. You must make the “right buy” in safety equipment to ensure that the product will protect as it claims. Product certification provides a mechanism to assist you in the area of safety and protective products.