In its ongoing efforts to address the issue of fall protection, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) played a key role in a recent international safety standards meeting held in London.
A delegation of engineers and safety experts from the United States, including ASSE members, attended a July 10-11 meeting in London of the International Standards Organization''s (ISO) subcommittee on personal fall arrest systems.
The purpose of the meeting was to review comments and proposals on various fall protection equipment standards and to approve moving several draft standards toward the next step in the process in an effort to reduce fatalities and injuries from falls.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics latest report, 313,335 Americans sustained injuries in accidental falls during 1997 that caused them to miss at least one day of work.
Of those, 99,882 were injured in elevated falls from one level to another.
Not only do falls in the workplace cause major injury, but also result in lengthy recuperation periods. The median number of lost work days per injury was eight for falls and 12 days for elevated falls.
"With these kind of statistics it is imperative for us to work on a solution to global workplace safety issues such as fall protection," said Kathy Seabrook, CSP, ASSE vice president, council on Practices and Standards. "I am pleased to see ASSE take such an active role in this critical aspect of occupational safety."
At the meeting, standards on vertical rails and lifelines, connectors, system performance and horizontal lifelines were addressed.
The ISO group had previously completed and published standards on full body harnesses, lanyards and self-retracting lifelines.
In addition, to moving the drafts forward, the subcommittee looked at initiating a new project on rope access systems and to reconstitute the working group on positioning systems with a conveyor to be appointed by the United States.
Although there is general agreement between U.S. standards and the ISO standards on the concept of fall arrest, they differ on maximum free fall distances and maximum arresting forces.
Consequently, it is unlikely in the near future that the ISO standards would be adopted as American National Standards.
"The standard that is working its way through the process and is most interesting to U.S. experts on fall protection is the standard on horizontal lifelines, for which there is no U.S. equivalent. We will closely monitor the draft and push for inclusion of the requirements that will better suit U.S. users," said David de Vries, ASSE''s director of Practices and Standards, secretary of the Z359 Accredited Standards Committee.
The London meeting U.S. delegation was headed by Joseph Feldstein of MSA/Rose Manufacturing Co., (ASSE Colorado Chapter), and included Jason White of Elk River Inc., Matt Blackford of DB Industries Inc., Basil Tominna of the U.S. Navy, ASSE''s de Vries, Craig Schilder of the U.S. Department of Defense, and Hongwei Hsiao of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
by Virginia Sutcliffe