Engineer or Not to Engineer?

It seems as though the biggest question businesses have when seeking help from a fall protection company is how on earth could this be that expensive? How could a piece of cable and some rigging cost this much? What exactly am I paying for here?

Most well respected fall protection companies will tell you that the number one reason for the elevated costs is engineering. When we speak of engineering we are referring to not only the fall arrest system itself, but the customer’s building as well. Most people have no idea the amount of force that is put onto a building or structure when a worker falls on a horizontal lifeline. In some cases buildings have been severely damaged, and destroyed do to poorly engineered anchor points. This damage usually occurs when a company installs an “Engineered Lifeline System” but does not have the anchorage points engineered by a licensed structural PE. We suggest that when your company is seeking proposals for a fall arrest system that you ask your contractor if they plan on supplying signed and wet stamped drawings by a registered PE with extensive knowledge in fall arrest systems. Ask to see some past projects from this engineer to ensure that they have actually designed these types of systems before. If you are told that the system comes pre-engineered from the manufacturer ask them to explain how that pre-engineering is going to guarantee that your building won’t be destroyed in the case of a fall.

All horizontal lifelines that Versatile Systems installs are engineered. We supply our customers with thorough engineering that is designed specifically to their building, and their specific application. In our opinion there is no such thing as a pre-engineered system. Yes, we do sell products that manufacturer’s consider pre-engineered but that is the actual system alone, and has nothing to do with your building, or the fabricated end anchors.

Engineering can be expensive. Most engineering firms will charge over $150 per hour to design these types of systems, but in the long run it’s a small amount of money to ensure the safety of your employees, and your facility.

OSHA states that all horizontal lifeline systems be designed, installed, and used under the supervision of a qualified person, as part of a complete personal fall arrest system, which maintains a safety factor of at least two. This being said, only a PE will have the ability to make the determination that your system has a safety factor of two, and his engineered drawings, and calculations will be your proof to OSHA that you have met these requirements.

Fall arrest systems are expensive no matter who is putting them in for you. Make sure your contractor is following OSHA guidelines by supplying you with the correct engineering. It’s essential to ensure the safety of your employees, your building, and the security of your company’s future.

John McHugh
Versatile Systems, Inc.