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In the United States, a dropped object injures a worker every 11 minutes—equating to nearly 50,000 cases every year. For those who seek medical treatment for these types of injuries, it can cost an average of $42,000. In fact, 5 percent of all fatalities on jobsites are due to falling objects, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These statistics highlight the overwhelming importance of dropped object prevention. OSHA already identifies dropped object incidents under the category of “Struck by Object” in its widely recognized “Fatal Four” list of the four leading causes of fatalities in the construction industry. 

While OSHA did set up two general guidelines—that tools and materials should be secured at heights and that employers work to provide jobsites free of hazards—for most situations, it has been up to users to determine the best solution for effective drop protection on their jobsite. 

Until this year, there were no industry standards covering performance of tool lanyards that users and safety managers could reference to help prevent dropped object injuries. 

In July 2018, the American National Standards Institute and the International Safety Equipment Association approved a new standard that defines the design and performance requirements for products to effectively prevent dropped object incidents. 

The American National Standard for Dropped Object Prevention Solutions (ANSI/ISEA 121-2018) aims to reduce jobsite accidents, injuries and deaths associated with falling objects by defining minimum design, performance, testing and labeling requirements for solutions such as anchor attachments, tool attachments, tool tethers and containers. 

While most jobsites have relied on PPE such as hard hats and barricades to prevent injuries from dropped objects, tool lanyards take safety to the next level by preventing an object from falling in the first place. What makes this standard groundbreaking is that it officially establishes the design, performance and labeling requirements tethering systems must meet to effectively prevent drops. 

According to the new standard, tool tethers must meet the following requirements.

Design: Carabiner or snaphook-type connectors, when used with tool tethers, shall have locking gates and captive eyes.

Performance: Each product needs to be dynamically tested. This testing involves dropping a tethered object up to two times the rated lanyard weight multiple times. The devices also must go through environmental conditioning to ensure that moisture, cold and heat do not negatively impact performance. 

Labeling: Each unit needs to be marked to indicate compliance. The marking must include the name and trademark of the manufacturer, product ID, published capacity, ANSI standard number and maximum tether length. 

What This Means for Manufacturers

Although ISEA/ANSI 121 is a new standard, some manufacturers proactively tested their lanyards and accessories before its publication to ensure their products meet or exceed the applicable requirements. 

Other manufacturers now must decide to either invest in research and development to update their product (such as upgrading carabiners to locking versions), or to simply sell something that does not meet the standard. 

Moving forward, all tethering system manufacturers will need to consider the specific requirements detailed in this standard to ensure their solutions provide high levels of drop safety. Users will demand it. 

What This Means for Contractors and Safety Managers

With this new standard in place, contractors and safety managers not only need to integrate drop prevention into their fall protection plans, but they also need to select ANSI/ISEA 121-compliant products. Users should perform due diligence to ensure their chosen manufacturers can provide proof of consistent testing behind their claims of compliance.  

This standard ultimately will help users discern which tethering systems meet their performance requirements. Many users will benefit from selecting lanyards that not only comply with the standard, but include additional features that improve performance and productivity. Examples of potential features include: 

  • high levels of shock absorption to gently slow tools if dropped;
  • integrated swivels for reduced twisting;
  • color coding for easy identification;
  • quick change systems for fast tool swaps; and
  • extended lengths for longer reach.

Tool lanyards and tethering systems should not only improve safety, but also overall productivity on the jobsite.   

With the new standard in place, manufacturers and contractors have an excellent place to start working toward a jobsite united in drop prevention. 


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