Horizontal Lifelines (Part 1 of 2)

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Note: the following article ran in NATE’s Sept./Oct. Issue of Tower Times and is being reprinted here exclusively for Inside Towers by special permission from the association. Written by Andy Thomforde and Scott Kisting, members of the PAN (Planning Advisory Notice) Advisory Group and researched by Craig Snyder, Jeremy Buckles, John Erichsen, Ken Hill, Michelle Kang, and Marianna Kramarikova.

The safety of workers deploying the telecommunications networks is of critical importance to all involved. Use of properly designed, installed and maintained fall protection equipment by trained workers enables the safe and effective deployment of these networks across the country.

Our industry is very familiar with temporary vertical lifelines and vertical safety climb systems installed as a part of climbing facilities on the antenna supporting structures that are utilized to provide telecommunications service throughout the country. 

Another option that many are not as familiar with is the use of horizontal lifelines. This PAN intends to focus on horizontal lifelines (HLL), the standards and processes that govern them, as well as considerations for when they are to be a part of an overall fall protection plan. Inspection requirements are a critical component that will be discussed as well. 

A threshold consideration is whether to use a temporary or a permanent HLL. Both have distinct advantages and disadvantages, but inspection and training is mandatory for either type. Temporary lifelines are typically owned by the contractor utilizing them who therefore have greater control over the care and maintenance of these lifelines.  This typically means the users are familiar with the products’ use and rescue operations. However, the install can become a concern from one site to another. The contractor shall ensure that the structure which the lifelines are being attached to can support the potential loads and provide the required fall clearance based on configured HLL (span length, number of users, free fall, etc.). This may require the creation of a rigging plan compliant with ANSI ASSP A10.48 that is then reviewed by a qualified engineer in accordance with ANSI TIA-322 to ensure the structure can support these loads.  They shall also ensure that the fall protection plan addresses any unique considerations. 

Permanent HLL’s have the advantage of being in place all the time. Permanent HLL’s are typically owned and maintained by the structure/building owner.  These applications are great time savers and there can be a significant advantage to the fall protection planning phase since the strength of the structure supporting the HLL has already been assessed at the time of install. However, significant consideration shall be given to the inspection and awareness for the crew members who may utilize the lifeline, as well as to some means of limiting their use to competent personnel only. The competent personnel shall meet the requirements laid out in the OSHA definition of a competent person (29 CFR 1926.32(f)). Users will need to be trained on the system(s) use to ensure component compatibility, system(s) user capacity limits, and rescue plans in accord with the overall fall protection plan.  As with any type of fall protection plan, it is not permitted for personnel to use the fall protection system without having received proper training on appropriate PPE and attachment components (harness, attachment hardware, lanyard, etc.). The HLL is just another part of the structure that turns into a safety component when properly assessed and attached to with the other required components as intended by the manufacturer while being utilized as part of an overall fall protection plan. (Tomorrow: Part two of two) 

October 1, 2019   

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