How do I inspect my forklift fall protection gear?

Oct 08, 2020
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If your warehouse or material handling application uses forklifts, it's important to regularly inspect the forklift fall protection gear that is provided with this equipment.

If your warehouse or material handling application uses forklifts, such as Orderpickers or Swing-Reach trucks, please take the time to inspect the forklift fall protection gear that is provided with these machines.

Also, look for the manufactured date of the fall protection equipment. The label showing the manufactured date should be clean and legible. If not, the equipment needs to be replaced. Typically, the equipment is good for five years from the date it was manufactured. If there is a question, please contact the manufacturer.

In this article, I have outlined current OSHA information for properly inspecting fall protection equipment.

Inspection and Maintenance

All belts and harnesses should be inspected frequently in order to maintain their service life and high performance. Your belts and harnesses should be receiving a routine inspection by a qualified person before each use. If any of the conditions listed here are found, the equipment should be replaced before being used.

Harness Inspection

  1. Belts and rings: When inspecting a harness, begin at one end, holding the body side of the belt toward you while grasping the belt with your hands six to eight inches apart. Bend the belt in an inverted “U.” Watch for frayed edges, broken fibers, pulled stitches, cuts or chemical damage. Check D-rings and D-ring metal wear pads for distortion, cracks, breaks, and rough or sharp edges. The D-ring bar should be at a 90-degree angle with the long axis of the belt. Also, the D-ring bar should pivot freely.

  2. Attachments of buckles and D-rings should be given special attention. Note any unusual wear, frayed or cut fibers, or distortion of the buckles. Rivets should be tight and un-removable with fingers. Body side rivet base and outside rivets should be flat against the material. Bent rivets will fail under stress.

  3. Inspect frayed or broken strands. Broken webbing strands generally appear as tufts on the webbing surface. Any broken, cut or burnt stitches will be readily seen.

  4. Tongue buckle: Buckle tongues should be free of distortion in shape and motion. They should overlap the buckle frame and move freely back and forth in their sockets. Rollers should turn freely on the frame. Check for distortion or sharp edges.

  5. Friction buckle: Inspect the buckle for distortion. The outer bar, or center bars, must be straight. Pay special attention to corners and attachment points of the center bar.

Lanyard Inspection

When inspecting lanyards, begin at one end and work to the opposite end. Slowly rotate the lanyard so that the entire circumference is checked. Spliced ends require particular attention. Hardware should be examined under the procedures detailed below.

Hardware

Snaps: Inspect closely for hook and eye distortion, cracks, corrosion, or pitted surfaces. The keeper or latch should seat into the nose without binding and should not be distorted or obstructed. The keeper spring should exert sufficient force to firmly close the keeper. Keeper rocks must provide the keeper from opening when the keeper closes.

Thimbles: The thimble (protective plastic sleeve) must be firmly seated in the eye of the splice, and the splice should have no loose or cut strands. The edges of the thimble should be free of sharp edges, distortion, or cracks.

Lanyards:

  1. Steel lanyards: While rotating a steel lanyard, watch for cuts, frayed areas, or unusual wear patterns on the wire. The use of steel lanyards for fall protection without a shock-absorbing device is not recommended.
  2. Web lanyard: While bending webbing over a piece of pipe, observe each side of the webbed lanyard. This will reveal any cuts or breaks. Due to the limited elasticity of the web lanyard, fall protection without the use of a shock absorber is not recommended.
  3. Rope lanyard: Rotation of the rope lanyard while inspecting from end to end will bring to light any fuzzy, worn, broken or cut fibers. Weakened areas from extreme loads will appear as a noticeable change in original diameter. The rope diameter should be uniform throughout, following a short break-in period. When a rope lanyard is used for fall protection, a shock-absorbing system should be included.

Shock-Absorbing Packs: The outer portion of the shock-absorbing pack should be examined for burn holes and tears. Stitching on areas where the pack is sewn to the D-ring, belt or lanyard should be examined for loose strands, rips and deterioration.

Webbing and Rope Lanyards - Visual Inspection 

  1. Heat:  In excessive heat, nylon becomes brittle and has a shriveled brownish appearance. Fibers will break when flexed and should not be used above 180 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Chemical:  Change in color usually appears as a brownish smear or smudge. Transverse cracks appear when belt is bent over tight. This causes a loss of elasticity in the belt.
  3. Ultraviolet rays:  Do not store webbing and rope lanyards in direct sunlight, because ultraviolet rays can reduce the strength of some material.
  4. Molten Metal or Flame:  Webbing and rope strands may be fused together by molten metal or flame. Watch for hard, shiny spots or a hard and brittle feel. Webbing will not support combustion, but nylon will.  
  5. Paint and Solvents:  Paint will penetrate and dry, restricting movements of fibers. Drying agents and solvents in some paints will appear as chemical damage.

Cleaning of Equipment

Basic care for fall protection safety equipment will prolong the life of the equipment and contribute toward the performance of its vital safety function. Proper storage and maintenance after use is as important as is cleaning the equipment of dirt, corrosives or contaminants. The storage area should be clean, dry and free of exposure to fumes or corrosive elements.

  1. Nylon and Polyester;  Wipe off all surface dirt with a sponge dampened in plain water. Squeeze the sponge dry. Dip the sponge in a mild solution of water and commercial soap or detergent. Work up a thick lather with a vigorous back and forth motion. Then wipe the belt dry with a clean cloth. Hang freely to dry but away from excessive heat.
  2. Drying:  Harness, belts and other equipment should be dried thoroughly without exposure to heat, steam or long periods of sunlight.

If you’d like more information on this topic visit the OSHA website: OSHA – Fall Protection