If you're working in site maintenance, oil and gas production, or other large facilities, you likely have loads of fall protection equipment that requires periodic inspection by a competent person. OSHA sets requirements for regular inspection, and defines the type of person who can sign off on these reviews. A Competent Person in the eyes of all-mighty OSHA is simply someone who can identify the hazards of their workplace environment and who has the authorization to take immediate measures to improve them.
Simple. But do your people really have the ability to take quick action? If they find unusual wear, frayed or cut fibers, or distortion in the harness buckles, can they really make the call to pull them from service and require the company to buy replacements?
In addition to the more thorough investigation made by your Competent Person, all fall protection needs a visual inspection each time it's used. The people wearing the harness or hooking into their lanyard or SRL have the most to lose should it fail. Training employees to give their gear a once-over before each is the recommended practice. This includes looking for frayed line or straps and excessive dirt or grime in the mechanisms.
A more thorough inspection must be made by your Competent Person and should be performed regularly. I realize this isn't very specific. If your equipment meets the more stringent ANSI Z359 specifications, these schedules are more specific. SRLs must be closely reviewed ever 6 months to 5 years. The interval depends upon the type and amount of use the device receives. OSHA simply requires regular inspection. Many companies opt for yearly reviews.
Miller has a good page that demonstrates what to look for during a harness inspection that some of our readers might find helpful.
If equipment is involved in a fall, the prudent course of action is to take it out of service. But we all know there are falls, and then there are Falls. It's important that a qualified person make the decision whether a piece of equipment can return to service. Again, your Competent Person doesn't have to have specific OSHA-sanctioned training, rather they need to know the dangers of your facility and be able to make decisions regarding the safety of the equipment they inspect. Finally they must have the authority to have their recommendations implemented in a timely fashion.
If you have questions about your fall safety program and inspections, please give us a ring at 800-829-9580.