Fall Tech Article on the LEADING EDGE Compliance questions.

Fall Tech Article on the LEADING EDGE Compliance questions.

As most of you know, Sharp edges are found on almost on any vertical construction out there. Seems weird that we are just now really pushing the dangers of it.  Having a husband who has a career that revolves around walking around/near/on sharp edges makes me wonder why the industry was using web lanyards in the first place- probably because they were tested to the current standards and approved to work.  Now that they have realized the exposures involved and the dangers on the sharp edges they are creating more fall protection to work safer.  Now is when everyone is confused on whats out there!  There are many manufactures that spent a lot of money to be in compliance with the first testing requirement which was the Z359.14-2012, but realized that they weren't testing to the biggest exposures- which was the sharp edges.  That is where the Z359.14-2014 comes into play. 

We are holding free classes onsite and in our training facilities to discuss the big question on Are my guys safe on Sharp edges.  It looks like that really is a fantastic question.  


I want to thank Fall Tech for this Article trying to clear up some of the questions and confusion with the tagging, testing and overall compliance.

With the recent revision of the ANSI Z359.14-2012 now superseded by ANSI Z359.14-2014, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions regarding compliant Leading Edge Self-Retracting-Devices (SRD’s).  Many jobsites now require equipment designated as Leading Edge compliant.  As with any new standard, there exists a level of confusion until the market finds its footing and adopts the correct procedures with respect to both equipment and applications.   

Many contractors I work with often struggle with why there exists so much confusion with respect to safety expectations and equipment in the first place.  As one general contractor put it, “there seems to be a lot of gray area in the world of fall protection!”

 To understand this dynamic, one must first understand the relationship between OSHA & ANSI.  The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a non-profit coordinating and approval agency for voluntary national consensus standards in the United States.  OSHA, on the other hand, promulgates & enforces workplace safety and health standards as mandated by the Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act).  In simple terms, OSHA is law.  ANSI is recommended best practices by industry and safety experts.

 ANSI is recognized by OSHA as a coordinating and approval agency for voluntary national consensus standards in the United States.  ANSI provides assistance to OSHA's standards advisory committees and in return, OSHA provides ANSI with notices of standards development activities relating to standards proposals, hearings and final rules.  The purpose of the cooperative effort is to leverage ANSI’s expertise in the service of OSHA as it executes its statutory responsibility. 

 To illustrate this dynamic, it’s useful to examine how OSHA defines leading-edge.  OSHA 1926.751 defines a leading edge as “the unprotected side and edge of a floor, roof, or formwork for a floor or other walking/working surface (such as deck) which changes location as additional floor, roof, decking or formwork sections are placed, formed or constructed”.

 On the other hand, ANSI tackles Leading Edge by authoring a 56 page standard that prescribes everything from what is considered a leading edge to precise product performance characteristics and testing expectations of manufacturers who claim to meet the Z359.14-2014 standard.  So the next question I typically get from a General Contractor is: “if OSHA is law and ANSI is only voluntary, do I really need to comply with ANSI?”  The answer is both yes and no.

 It’s true that ANSI is voluntary; as such compliance is not compulsory.  Having said that, there are several ways in which ANSI can carry the statutory authority of state and/or federal law:


  1. OSHA Adoption: This can take place by discrete reference whereby OSHA references a specific ANSI code. Once this occurs, the ANSI code carries the force of Federal Law.  The other method of adoption is when OSHA authors new workplace safety law using ANSI language. When this occurs, the ANSI code becomes part of OSHA law. The same process can play out at the state level and as a result, ANSI code can become the legally enforceable at the state level.
  2. Implicit Regulations: ANSI code can be interpreted as implicit regulations as the result of litigation. Because ANSI is considered an expert safety and industry consensus standard organization, its recommendations serve as “best-practices”; therefore failing to follow ANSI inherently creates employer liability.  An employer can’t claim ignorance if ANSI code details specific mitigating measures an employer failed to meet. This is like the common-sense or reasonable-person standard. Again, this can occur at either the state or federal level.
  3. General Duty Clause: If an employer failed to address circumstances that would have likely prevented or reduced the severity of an injury to an employee, they’re failing to meet the General Duty Clause whereby an Employer is required to provide a work place free from recognized hazards – “recognized” is the key word. If it’s in ANSI, it’s recognized.  In this scenario, OSHA will cite an employer for failing to comply with the General Duty Clause while using ANSI as the basis for the citation.

So now that we’ve established ignoring ANSI increases the risk-profile and liability of an employer, let us examine some key ANSI Z359.14-2014 testing requirements:

               1.2.2   Purpose & Application: “Before any equipment shall bear the marking of Z359.14 or be represented in any way as being in compliance with this standard, all applicable requirements of this standard shall be met including initial qualification and ongoing verification testing according to ANSI/ASSE Z359.7”

               3.3.5  SRL-LE Energy Absorber: “The line constituent of SRL-LEs shall include an integral energy absorber element adjacent to the end of the line which connects to the body support… If the SRL-LE device housing is intended to be connected to the body support and can only be used in this orientation then an energy absorber is not required as part of the line constituent”.

                4.2.2  Dynamic Performance Testing of SRL-LE, Edge Test: “…two drop tests are to be performed.  One with the line perpendicular to the edge and a second with a lateral offset of 5 feet… Drop the test weight from a level 5 feet +/- 1.0 inch above and at a horizontal distance of 20” +/- 1.0 inch measured perpendicular from the edge… as needed to ensure the line element of the SRD makes the initial contact with the edge during the tests... Allow the test weight to swing unrestrained for a period of not less than 10 seconds following initial arrest… Before removing test weight, increase the static load as required by 3.1.9… and maintain the load for one minute…”

 The reason I believe these three areas are key to the new standard is because 1.2.2 requires manufacturers to comply with “all applicable requirements” in order to claim ANSI Compliance.  Section 3.3.5 requires an energy absorber (like a shock-pack) to be “integral” to the line constituent.  The only exception is if the housing of the SRD is connected at the body.  The third section, 4.2.2 is really what separates the true LE units from the pretenders.  This section prescribes a rigorous testing requirement in which an ISO 17025 Accredited Laboratory drops a 282 lb test weight at a lateral offset against a .005” sharp-edge.  Additionally, the test weight must be allowed to “swing unrestrained”.

 So here are some warning signs that your SRD may not be ANSI Z359.14-2014 compliant:

  1. The device is not tested in an accredited ISO 17025 Laboratory.
  2. The manufacturer doesn’t provide a test report to back up their marketing and performance claims or the test report they do provide is marked to the Z359.14-2012 standard (a now expired & defunct standard).
  3. The SRD doesn’t have a permanent shock-pack integral to the unit or allows for an accessory shock-pack to be added after-the-fact to “transform” it into an LE device.
  4. The line is made from webbing. This is highly suspect because the unrestrained swing required after the test-drop under 4.2.2 creates a sawing action that severs webbing.

When I speak to contractors about the testing requirements, they often respond with, “I specifically bought this as an LE device.  How can they sell me a web unit if they know it’s not an LE device?”  My response is it’s all about marketing.  ANSI is a voluntary consensus standard.  OSHA is law.  As you may recall, the aforementioned OSHA definition of Leading Edge was a short paragraph essentially describing a jobsite condition – a definition of what a Leading Edge Jobsite is.

 ANSI goes much further.  A leading edge as defined by ANSI Z359.14-2014 is not merely a jobsite condition but a design and performance standard that prescribes very rigorous and specific testing methodology for mechanical devices.  Because OSHA doesn’t define sharp-edges as a jobsite condition, the general and vague language opens the door for a manufacturer to make claims around the leading edge suitability of their product.  But making claims that an SRD meets the ANSI Z359.14-2014 is another matter altogether.  The best advice that I can provide is to request a test report, and in particular, look for the 4.2.2 testing results.

 The last question I’ll typically get in an exchange like this with an end-user customer is, “so what happens if there is an accident where a compact-web LE device fails?  That one is harder to answer.  OSHA will investigate.  The jobsite conditions will be examined along with the manufacturer equipment design specifications.  That’s when the fine-print in the user manual really matters. It doesn’t matter what the sales person or the marketing department claims, it only matters how the device was designed to perform.  It may appear like a subtle distinction, but companies marketing self-retracting-devices as “soft-edge” or “subdued-edge” are simply not leading-edge compliant devices as defined under ANSI Z359.14-2014.

 From a liability perspective, it sounds cliché, but buyer-beware.  A product that may technically perform under OSHA’s jobsite definition of Leading Edge may not be the appropriate product to use on every leading-edge jobsite.    An SRD that actually meets Leading Edge requirements as defined under ANSI Z359.14-2014 remains the gold-standard for leading edge equipment.  In the end, it is the user’s responsibility to vet their equipment for their respective needs.  Know the manufacturer, know the equipment, and demand a test report that validates performance claims for a product meant to save your life.


I Hope this article was full of information you can take back to your crews and discuss.  Please contact us if you want us to get onsite to discuss further.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

You may also like View all