What is a leading edge, and what protective equipment should you use?
Work at heights has many dangers, especially fall risks. Therefore, it is crucial to train your employees and offer them personal protective equipment adapted to their needs while securing the workplace. However, when leading edges are found in an environment, the risk of falls when working at heights becomes more dangerous.
Don’t worry; specialized fall arrest system is available to reduce the risks related to the leading edges. Let’s start at the beginning… what is a leading edge?
Leading edge or sharp edge?
When working at heights, any unprotected edge or opening presenting a potential fall risk is considered a leading edge. It can be an unprotected edge on the floor, a rooftop, formwork, manhole or beam. In addition, there are many unprotected edges found on construction sites. After a fall, a leading edge forces the lifeline to bend and rub against the edge. Generally, the hazard comes from the fact that an edge is often sharp.
Obviously, a sharp edge is not rounded. The angle created by a leading edge can sometimes cut through a lifeline. The weight of a fallen worker combined with the friction of the lifeline against the sharp edge is enough to sever a line. The thinner the edge, the sharper it becomes.
In the event of a fall with a sharp edge, the self-retracting lifeline helps to absorb the energy generated by the fall. This is the case when the anchor point is located below the level of the worker's back ring.
Fall protection equipment classified as leading edge (LE) reduces the energy level to what is acceptable for the safety of the worker (6kN average stopping force and 8 kN maximum stopping force).
What protective equipment to use?
Self-retracting lifelines (SRL) for leading edges are compliant with CSA standards if:
- They are compliant with the CSA anchorage criteria tied at foot level
- They comply with CSA offset anchorage criteria tied at foot level
- The equipment must reduce the forces during a fall to an average arrest force of 6kN (1350lb) and a maximum arrest force of 8 kN (1800 lb)
- Refer to equipment classification (must be at least LE)
These self-retracting lifelines usually display an orange triangle pictogram with an energy absorber against a leading edge. The 3M DBI-SALA® and Protecta® self-retracting lifelines have that symbol on the equipment housing. As a result, they are stronger, larger and more resistant to cuts. The leading edge self-retracting lifelines have an external energy absorber specially designed to be tied off at foot level.
Important! It is very important NOT to use an internal energy absorber when working with leading edges. Energy absorbers are not designed to be installed at foot level and are not resistant enough. However, you can use an energy absorber completely integrated to the lifeline and designed to be tied off at foot level. The 3M™ Protecta® Rebel™ leading edge self-retracting lifeline is a perfect example.
Self-retracting lifelines shorter than 10 feet generally must be worn on the worker's harness, but can attach to an anchor point that is low to the ground. This is the opposite for longer products.
3M products: efficient protection against unprotected leading edges
3M offers a range of self-retracting lifelines specially designed to withstand sharp edges to avoid issues when performing work at heights near leading edges. These products comply with the CAN/CSA Z259.2.2 Standard to better meet the particular needs of work performed around leading edges.
3M™ DBI-Sala® Nano-Lok™ Edge Twin-Leg Self Retracting Lifeline with Rebar Hook
The 3M™ DBI-SALA® Nano-Lok™ Edge Twin-Leg Self Retracting Lifeline, 3500234 is a self-retracting lifeline (SRL) designed with a speed-sensing brake system that stops a fall within inches to keep you safe when you're working at heights. Equipped with 8 ft (2.4 m) of 3/16 in (5 mm) galvanized steel cable, thermoplastic housing and corrosion-resistant hardware, this lifeline also includes a swiveling anchorage loop, steel rebar hooks # 2000210 and a built-in connector for twin-leg direct attachment to a harness.
- Designed for foot-level tie-off and sharp edge applications
- Twin-leg 100% tie-off design
- Built-in connector for twin-leg SRL direct attachment to harness
- Steel rebar lock hooks on each lifeline
- Compact, lightweight design
- Durable, impact-resistant thermoplastic housing
- Quick activating speed-sensing brake system
- Integrated backpack style energy absorber
- I-Safe™ equipped
- Wide variety of configurations available
3M™ Protecta® Rebel™ Self Retracting Lifeline for Leading Edge
PROTECTA® 3M Rebel self-retracting lifeline is a durable self-retracting lifeline that provides protection from sharp, abrasive and unprotected edges. With its lightweight thermoplastic housing and corrosion resistant accessories, this lifeline can withstand harsh conditions. It is specially designed for leading edge applications.
- Lightweight, durable thermoplastic housing
- Stackable housing design
- Built-in carrying handle
- Galvanized steel cable lifeline
- Internal and external energy absorption systems
- Swiveling self-locking snap hook with impact indicator
- Reserve lifeline system
- Swiveling anchorage point
- Side lifeline exit with ergonomic handle
- High strength, corrosion-resistant components
- Self-locking anchorage carabiner