For the first time, the weight of a lift truck operator will determine the type of safety lanyards and harnesses that workers may use to prevent and limit falls from man-up lift trucks, according to a new standard that takes effect Feb. 23.
The standard, developed by the Industrial Truck Standards Development Foundation and accepted by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), also makes fixed-length, nonabsorbing lanyards obsolete. Only energy-absorbing or self-retracting lanyards will now be allowed.
All man-up trucks, whether new or already in service, must comply with the new standard, which is outlined in clause 4.17 of the ANSI/ITSDF B56.1 standard (Safety Standard for Low-Lift and High-Lift Trucks).
As of Feb. 23, an operator weighing less than 220 lbs. may use:
An operator weighing between 220 and 310 lbs. may use:
An operator weighing between 311 and 400 lbs. may use:
The new standard specifically states that lift trucks' capacity must be reduced by the weight of any operator weighing more than 220 lbs., and that self-retracting lanyards used by an operator weighing more than 310 lbs. must be rated for that operator's weight.
These concerns have come to the fore as operators' average weight has been rising in recent years, according to Ron Grisez, manager of product safety for Crown Equipment Corp. Grisez served on the subcommittee task group that updated the standard.
Until now, operators of man-up trucks like order pickers and turret trucks were allowed to use a fixed-length lanyard to anchor themselves to the operator compartment. But, unlike the self-retracting and energy-absorbing lanyards available today, fixed-length lanyards cannot absorb any of the force of the body weight in a fall, said Grisez.
Energy-absorbing devices will also limit the length of a fall, and self-retracting lanyards may prevent a fall altogether, Grisez said. "Fixed-length lanyards have been performing well, but decelerating devices will limit the arresting forces dramatically," he added.
OSHA WEIGHS IN
Some safety experts question whether body belts are appropriate for use on elevated industrial trucks, saying that the belts will limit but may not prevent falls. It appears that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has similar reservations.
In a Dec. 12, 2002, letter of interpretation, the agency noted that it considers a body belt and lanyard to be the minimum protection required to protect employees from falling from elevated powered industrial truck platforms. However, the letter went on to say, "OSHA's newer standards which address fall hazards call for the use of body harnesses rather than body belts when used as part of a personal fall arrest system. OSHA has determined in these rulemakings that there are hazards associated with body belts that are greatly reduced by the substitution of body harnesses. Accordingly, we believe that body harnesses rather than body belts are the appropriate form of fall protection for employees working on elevated powered industrial truck platforms."
And in a June 28, 2004, letter of interpretation, the agency reiterated that although industry standards allow the use of a body belt with a lanyard, "OSHA strongly encourages employers to use body harnesses in place of body belts."
More information about the ANSI/ITSDF standard is available at www.itsdf.org/pB56.asp, or from the appropriate lift truck dealer.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was updated on Feb. 18, 2013, to include more information.