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Lanyard confusion reigns because of poor guidance

Energy absorbers are perfectly OK if used properly with booms, says Barney Green

The question of what lanyard to use in booms or cherrypickers has exercised me over the past five years. I am at a loss as to how such a simple issue can be so overcomplicated by our industry.

The answer is “one that restrains the user from climbing out of the basket”. The answer is not “any lanyard without an energy absorber” or “you cannot use a fall-arrest lanyard”. Both claims have confused users for a long time.

The problem arose when mobile elevated work platform manufacturers were asked about the capacity of lanyard attachment points. They chose to test a 20 m machine at 45 degrees with an EN795 drop test outside the basket. Luckily they had tied the machine down, or it would have turned over. They realised that an arrested fall outside the basket could topple a machine, and they decided the attachments were for “restraint only”. An unfortunate choice of words.

This advice, filtered through the industry, soon became “you cannot use a fall arrest lanyard in a MEWP”. Manufacturers of lanyards even joined in, by producing ‘rigid’ lanyards without energy absorbers.

An energy absorber to EN 355 must not extend more than 50 mm under a 2 kN (about 200 kgsf) load. It is not possible to personally apply that scale of load while moving around a MEWP basket. The inclusion of an energy absorber can only be positive.

The key concern is lanyard length. The lanyard should be of a length to prevent the user from getting into a position from which they could fall. The problem is that many MEWPs have different sized baskets, and many workers require different MEWPs for different jobs. Some have retro-fitted floor-mounted anchor points, while newer ones have them either side of the controls.

There are solutions, like adjustable length lanyards, but these require careful training and supervision. We might get consistent positioning of anchor points and some form of manufacture standardisation. We might even get tested wire strops, to which the user attaches a standard length lanyard with an integral energy absorber.

The International Powered Access Federation has done a great job with its ‘clunk click’ campaign “a short lanyard in a boom”. I wish it had clarified the energy absorber issue. Confusion has reigned, and we all got wet.

Barney Green is Combisafe’s business development manager.

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