An anchorage point is one of the essential components of a personal fall protection system. Fall protection anchor points are connected to lanyards or lifelines and are typically installed on a roof, either temporarily or permanently. In the case of a fall, the anchorage needs to be secure enough to keep the worker suspended from their tie on.
Steel anchor points are the most effective and safest option for an anchor point, but engineer-approved wooden anchor points may also be acceptable for temporary jobs. Anchor points should never be attached to guardrails, ladders, scaffolding, light fixtures, fans, lanyards, pipe vents, or any item/structure that does not meet OSHA structural load requirements. Equipment used in tandem with anchor points (beam clamps, turnbuckles, eyebolts, etc.) should be carefully inspected before use.
OSHA Fall Protection Requirements
OSHA’s construction standard for fall protection systems criteria and practices states:
“Anchorages used for attachment of personal fall arrest equipment shall be . . . capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds (22.2 kN) per employee attached, or shall be designed, installed, and used as follows: as part of a complete personal fall arrest system which maintains a safety factor of at least two; and under the supervision of a qualified person” [29 CFR 1926.502(d)(15) and (d)(15)(i)]”
This wording can be confusing, and many interpret the standard to mean all anchor points must have the ability to support 5,000 pounds, but this can greatly limit options when setting up a personal fall arrest system. For example, a building may not have the structural design to have an anchor point of such high capacity, it could rip right off the wall.
Under OSHA’s standard, a qualified person (as defined by OSHA and ANSI Z539) can engineer a complete system to a safety factor of two, meaning the anchorage must be capable of supporting twice the maximum intended impact load. The first step in determining the level of protection needed in an anchor point is to calculate the force of the fall. Take the weight of the individual, the free fall distance, and the fall arrest distance to determine the maximum arresting force; the anchor point should be able to hold double that.