Connectors: The Most Important Component in Height Safety

Leading Edge Safety is dedicated to making sure that employees who must work at heights can do so in a secure and safe manner. In honour of International Safe Places to Work Day that takes place on Saturday 27 July, we shine a light on a critical aspect of working at height – the importance of connectors!

Connectors used for working at height

Safety connectors, shock absorbing lanyards, self-retracting lifelines, and karabiners (sometimes known as carabiners) are essential tools used to secure workers at heights by connecting them to the anchorage point on a structure. These devices create a crucial link between the anchorage point and the worker’s full body harness in case of a fall.

Fatal errors when working at height!

When Leading Edge trainers visit work sites, they frequently discover that individuals working at heights are repeatedly making the same mistakes. Is it a minor mistake? Unfortunately not! It is one that would be catastrophic if the worker should fall. Some people think that the number one mistake for falls from height is due to a worker operating without height safety equipment. This is not the case!

Worker in fall arrest position wearing height safety PPE and displaying connector

Common errors with personal protective equipment (PPE) misuse!

Scaffold hook connectors are often placed around scaffolding resting on a horizontal member, i.e. the gate of the scaffold hook will be forced open subject to the loading that would be imposed by the horizontal member in the event of a fall. This occurs because the downward direction or loading imposed by the cross-member is across the axis of the gate on the scaffold hook and will result in complete hook failure as the hook gate will subsequently bend open, or in worst-case scenario, will explode.

Choking or excess tightening of safety lanyard

This is where a site worker is supplied a lanyard, often with a small karabiner at the end. The site worker instinctively passes the lanyard around an anchor point e.g. a column or a beam, using the karabiner to choke (tighten the lanyard around the anchor point). The problem arises should the worker fall, further tightening the choked lanyard and subsequently applying a shock load inappropriately to the karabiner gate most likely causing the barrel of the karabiner connectors to fail. Karabiners are designed to accommodate tensile (pull) forces along their length and are at their weakest when the load forces are across the minor axis (width) or against the gate. It is generally accepted that to engineer a connector to withstand the directional loading across the gate of the Karabiner connectors which has been choked during a fall would require a gate strength of 5,000 lbs. Note that this dynamic loading failure across the gate of the connector applies to all styles of connectors i.e. scaffold hook, snap hook, and karabiner connectors.

Man working unsafely at a height due to leaning on ladder

Unsuitable anchorage points

Inappropriate use of scaffold hooks

The lack of adequate training for efficient PPE use

Male connected to a safety line looking out of window

Tips for selecting and utilising the appropriate connectors when working at height

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