Employers have complained since the organization’s formation that OSHA requirements are just too much. They slow down workers, and cost too much. ANSI Z359 requirements add a whole new level of safety requirements for workers and employers, but is it worth it? The answer is most likely yes. In this case, when we talk about the equipment and inspection schedule being worth it, we’re talking about how the purchasing decisions will be described in legal arguments likely to be made in court after a fall.
As we’ve said in previous posts, employers who are asked if they purchased the safest products for their workers, and then lamely have to reply, “Our fall protection met OSHA standards,” run the risk of looking both cheap and ridiculous. The follow up question is inevitably, “Are you aware of the ANSI fall protection recommendations?” And there goes your 5% (or less) savings in not purchasing the fall protection equipment that meets ANSI requirements.
Manufacturers and employers are taking a closer look at the ANSI Z359 requirements for fall protection. The standard spells out in exhaustive detail the requirements for testing facilities and certification of products as well as re-certification and servicing requirements for the end users. Products stamped with ANSI Z359 must comply with all aspects of the standard including performance, design, markings, inspections, instructions, and maintenance schedules. While the new standard clearly increases the burden of PPE upkeep for businesses using the equipment, it also is a significant barrier to small manufacturers. The goal of the standard is aimed at increasing worker safety and reducing on the job injury.
To certify equipment to this level of safety, accredited laboratories need to test and verify the products and keep certifications available for the end user. These laboratories must be in compliance with ISO 17025. This means they are audited annually and accredited by an outside agency. Additionally the structure used for testing as well as all measuring equipment must be in compliance and calibrated annually. Each model tested and found up to the standard is signed off and stamped by a professional engineer and qualified person.
While there is little question that over time the Z359 standards will be modified to accommodate experience-driven suggestions, it is an important step forward for US worker safety. It simply makes workers safer, and in our litigious society, buying less than optimal safety equipment for workers is not worth the risk.