Improper Use of Lifeline Cuts Worker's Life Short

Lifelines, as the name says, are meant to be just that - lines that protect
your life. But if safety gear is used improperly, it can not only put you at
risk, it can cost you your life. Such was the case for a new worker in Canadian
British Columbia who died after falling through a gap in a metal roof. He was
attached to a self-retracting lifeline, but its steel cable broke during the
fall, landing him 10.5 metres below on a concrete floor.

The investigation concluded that the cable broke because the lifeline had been
used incorrectly. The lifeline, designed to be anchored above the new worker
and used vertically, was instead anchored horizontally on the low-slope roof,
on the same level as the worker, about 6.5 metres away from where he was
working when he fell. With the horizontal set-up, the lifeline's cable extended
across the roof and got caught on one of the roof's sharp metal edges. This
set-up also meant that the self-retracting mechanism was operating on its side
(which it was not designed to do) and as a result, the decelerator (part of the
self-retracting mechanism) failed to slow the worker's fall and ensure a softer
stop. The lifeline's cable was not strong enough to endure the combined stress
of being caught on the sharp edge and the sudden, intense load of the falling

Although the manufacturer's instructions clearly stated that the lifeline was
to be set up vertically, the instructions were not followed.

The investigation also determined that the new worker had not been properly
oriented and trained prior to starting work, and that the employer's fall
protection plan was inadequate.

Employers must take every reasonable precaution to protect workers from
hazards, and workers need training, knowledge and experience with the hazards
they face in order to avoid injuries, and need to meet the following safe work

  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for setting up and using fall protection equipment.

  • If using a temporary horizontal lifeline, ensure that it is:

    • manufactured for commercial distribution and installed and used according to the manufacturer's instructions, which are readily available at the workplace, or

    • installed and used according to written instructions that are certified by a professional engineer and readily available at the workplace, or

    • designed, installed, and used in accordance with the occupational health and safety regulations in your jurisdiction.

  • Prepare fall protection plans that are site-specific and address the type of equipment used at the workplace.

  • Provide workers who are working at heights with the information, training, and supervision needed to ensure their safety.

  • Provide new workers, before they start work, with a health and safety orientation and training that is specific to their workplace and equipment.

Further Information - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety