The Compatibility of Fall Protection Equipment
Posted by PK Safety Team on May 16th 2012
Several of our users have asked us about the compatibility of fall protection components between different manufacturers. OSHA, in their wisdom, writes thousands of words on the subject, but in a way that only an attorney would be able to understand. We'll try to distill the issue so that everyone gets it.
No. Don't use a lanyard from one company and an anchorage or other device from another company. Unless you're absolutely sure they're compatible, and unless you're an engineer, it's tough to be 100% sure. You're just safer, especially as an employer, to use products made by the same company. Companies like DBI-SALA and Miller develop and test their equipment to work specifically with their own products. And while it makes sense, there are bound to be others out there, like me, who can see two carabiners, made by different companies, but adhering to the same standards, are just going to work together. But maybe this isn't about what you know to be true, and more about covering your company in the event of an accident. And that's a shame.
OSHA says you can use products from different vendors. But they don't inspire confidence in the way they word it. 29 CFR 1926.502(d)(6)(v) states "snaphooks shall not be engaged to any object which is incompatibly shaped or dimensioned in relation to the snaphook such that unintentional disengagement could occur by the connected object being able to depress the snaphook keeper and release itself."
Like a breath of fresh air, those words from OSHA. I could read them all day long. What they mean is, sure, you can attach PPE (personal protective equipment, like a fall protection harness, for example) from different companies just as long as you are completely sure there is nothing in their design that would make them incompatible. In other words, if you are an engineer, and have tested these products together, then go right ahead and wear them.
When we talked to the resident expert over at DBI-SALA, we received much the same type of answer. He sent us a form that read, "Connectors are considered to be compatible with connecting elements when they have been designed to work together in such a way that their sizes and shapes do not cause their gate mechanisms to inadvertently open (rollout) regardless of how they become oriented. Do not use equipment that is not compatible."
In our experience a standard self-closing, self-locking snap hook from one company hooked to a standard back D-ring of a harness from another is going to work just fine. But when alternate attachment devices, such as the popular rebar hooks, enter the equation all bets are off. We agree with OSHA findings that fall protection pieces which are made to work together are always preferred.
At the end of the day, it's the employer's responsibility to make sure the equipment used on the site is safe before it is used to protect employees. All manufacturer instructions and warnings must be reviewed and closely inspected especially when the products are not sold as a complete system.