ANSI/ASSE Z359.1, Safety Requirements for Personal Fall Arrest Systems, Subsystems, and Components, was massively revised last year, and four new, related standards created that deal with managing fall protection programs, safety requirements for positioning and travel restraint systems, and safety requirements for assisted-rescue and self-rescue systems. The five documents, ANSI/ASSE Z359.0 through Z359.4, are now being sold by the American Society of Safety Engineers as the “ANSI/ASSE Z359 Fall Protection Code Package,” a document large enough to invite jokes about trip-and-fall hazards, but also containing lots of changes to what can be considered acceptable fall protection in the entertainment industry.

Some of the big changes involve the minimum load ratings for fall protection equipment. Snaphooks and carabiners were and still are required to be able to support a load of 22.2 kN (about 5,000lbs), but they used to be allowed to open a bit with a load over one kN (about 225lbs). Now, they must be able to support 61 kN without the gate opening as much as 3mm (about 1/8”). Furthermore, the minimum side load rating on a snaphook or carabiner has been increased by more than a factor of ten from 1.55 kN to 16 kN. There’s a fair amount of personal fall arrest equipment now in use that does not meet the new requirements.

Other major changes are in supervision, who makes decisions about what, and in training. The old version had the fall protection system user making a lot of decisions about the use of the equipment. The term “user” still appears in the definitions, but it has been replaced in most places with the term “authorized person." It’s a little technical detail, but it makes a big difference; a user obviously is a person who uses equipment, but now that user has to be an authorized person, someone given permission to be a user of the equipment by a competent person, which leads to questions of competence and training. Section 7.3 on training in Z359.1 has several new sections and significant changes in the content, assessment and type of training given, as well as the requirements for trainers.

The ESTA session “Decoding the New Fall Protection Code,” scheduled for Friday, October 24, from 2:00 to 3:30pm during LDI will explore the recent changes to the standards for personal fall protection systems and the impact of these changes on our industry. The moderator will be Jerry Gorrell, the principal with Theatre Safety Programs, and the panelists will include Kyle Kusmer of the Entertainment Structures Group and Bill Sapsis of Sapsis Rigging

For additional information on ESTA sessions at LDI, visit the ESTA technical track.