“Whose Liability is it Anyways?”

It’s the end of a successful 2015 and as a Department Manager I am inclined to sit back and reflect on what my department did well, what we did not do well and on how we can grow the business while continuing to exceed our customer’s expectations.

This type of introspection forces me to look at just what our “business” really is. Sure we at Pro-Bel inspect and load test roof anchors, roof davits and most other types of fall protection equipment. But what service do we really offer our clients?

Clearly it is important to have the Federal OSHA mandated roof anchor/davit inspections conducted, but when I really delve into what we are offer our clients I find myself settling on peace of mind.

The peace of mind we offer is truly a form of risk management in that as a property manager, facility manager or building owner, you can rest assured that the inspection of the equipment by Pro-Bel has been completed by competent, honest and reliable technicians.

Of course this peace of mind is provided if your facility has suitable roof anchors/roof davits which have been designed and engineered for the purpose of which they are being used. What if your facility does not have roof anchors or fall protection? How is Pro-Bel meeting your needs with respect to managing risk on those buildings and how can we be of service moving forward?

Over the past few weeks I’ve had some interesting conversations with Marc Lebel, our Founder and CEO, regarding this very topic and it seemed to me to be a natural fit for the first blog of 2016.

Marc and I are working together to see how we can help building owners identify and manage the risk associated with not only workers performing suspended maintenance work on our clients buildings, but any worker who is accessing the roof. This ranges from your own staff to HVAC Service Technicians. At any given time these workers may be exposed to the hazard of a fall of 4’ or greater and as such some form of fall protection shall be provided by the controlling employer.

Stage FailBut, who is the controlling employer? Is it the owner of the HVAC or window cleaning company or is it the property management firm or the Board of Directors of the condominium corporation? This question (through Marc’s help) has led me to an interesting document which discusses Federal OSHA’s Multi-Employer Citation Policy.

In this policy Federal OSHA defines the four types of employers and discusses their responsibilities throughout a project or task. The four types of employers are the Controlling Employer, Creating Employer, Exposing Employer and Correcting Employer.

While I won’t go into detail in this particular blog, I will advise that throughout 2016 Pro-Bel will assist our clients as to what category they fall into and how, by identifying this, they can minimize exposure and risk of civil and criminal liability.

Through a program we are developing, we will identify hazards on a particular project, whether or not there is existing fall protection and develop a program as to how to protect workers from injury and controlling employers from risk of liability.

We will educate our clients on codes and standards, common rigging practices and options available to ensure that any recognized hazards are eliminated.

Our goal is not to just provide our clients with roof anchors or roof davits. We want clients with a risk management issue to know that there are alternatives and assist them in developing a plan to minimize the risk which explores all of the options.

In 2016 Pro-Bel will work with you to explain your liability and exposure when allowing any person on your roof and how to ensure that this access is controlled.

Pro-Bel will be sending out regular updates on this blog throughout 2016, posting data that is both interesting and informative. We look forward to your comments, questions and concerns regarding anything to do with fall protection, roof safety, roof anchors or roof davits.

Yours in safety,

Brent LaPorte

 

 

 

Brent LaPorte

USA Inspections Manager

We are hiring Technical Sales Support Representative

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https://www.ziprecruiter.com/quiz/bb8436c7/post

Technical Sales Support Representative Role:

We are looking for a technically-oriented individual to join our sales support team. This person will provide day-to-day assistance to our technical sales managers. As part of the sales team, this position will also help support new revenue growth by working with the technical sales managers in developing and delivering sales and design proposals, answering RFP and RFQs for our new and existing customer base.

The Sales Support Representative Duties:

• Provide first line, inbound, technical support and guidance for our customers (Architects & Engineers, General Contractors, Facility Managers, and Property Managers/Building Owners).
• Be responsible for overall coordination and execution of tasks related to sales opportunities and technical customer support inquiries.
• Own the creation and workflow management in our internal CRM system of qualified sales opportunities and technical support opportunity management by creating, updating and maintaining leads, prospects and opportunities as information is gathered reactively or proactively.
• Work with the General Sales Manager and/or Engineering department when responding to product information requests.
• Help maintain a paperless work environment (whenever practical), ensuring all external interactions are captured in our sales system, are accurate, and up to date
• Ability to facilitate and deliver sales product demonstrations, in person or online (i.e. go to meeting now) or other sales actions as needed.
• Respond to technical service calls / emails from regional customers and provide support
• Identify new sales opportunities using our marketing process.
• Work with marketing to set up and work tradeshows as needed.

Knowledge/Skills/Experience Recommendations:

• Strong work ethic, efficiency, organizational skills and attention to detail
• Excellent telephone and email etiquette
• Sales and technical support experience with demonstrated ability to convey information verbally
• Technical aptitude with ability to learn and understand how to explain our products and technology
• Experience working with and/or reading architectural and structural drawings
• Ability to qualify customer situations, relate product features/benefits and respond to issues
• Skilled user of Word, Excel, and CRM software.

Wood Frame Buildings

A significant change to the Ontario Building Code (OBC) was just revealed that positively affects the fall arrest anchor and tie-back equipment industry. It was recently announced that wood frame buildings can be built up to six storeys tall in Ontario (which is an increase from four storeys) effective January 1, 2015.

Since roof anchor systems are required for maintenance and window washing equipment on buildings that are eight metres tall (usually over three storeys); our industry will see a dramatic shift from concrete and steel mid-rise to wood frame mid-rise.

The OBC change reflects codes in most European and some North American areas. Specifically, the change was made in British Columbia in 2009 and our Vancouver office is regularly seeing projects come through the door with wood frame (probably because of the affordability to the building Owner and the growing demand for mid-rise by the consumer).

 

While there are certainly challenges with putting our equipment on wood frame buildings there is always a solution.

The equipment should be close to the edge of the building (parapet) and utilize a pinned down outrigger beam to rig. The close proximity to the parapet eliminates a lot of inboard distance and decreases the force on the structure. This method also pulls the anchor away (perpendicular) upward from the structure which decreases the stress on the structure opposed to pulling horizontally (parallel) with the structure. Check out the pinned down outrigger beam detail below.

Portable Pinned Down Outrigger Beam

Like all roof anchors, the load requirements are still 1,000 lbs. (working) and 5,000 lbs. (ultimate). So to achieve this the structure around it must be “blocked up” similar in fashion to reinforcing certain steel structure (like open web steel joist).  There are a couple of examples of a wood structure roof anchors below (however modifications can be Engineered to accommodate the structure).

Wrap Around Wood Anchor

Wood Joist Roof Anchor

Also, like all projects, communication with us (the roof anchor manufacturer) and the Structural Engineer is crucial as all parties need to know specifically where the equipment is going and understand the load requirements.

You can read the news release at http://news.ontario.ca/mah/en/2014/09/ontario-increases-allowable-height-of-wood-frame-buildings-to-six-storeys.html

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Engineering a Complete Anchor System: Part 2

Since inception, Pro-Bel’s purpose has been to protect workers from falls.  The selection of fall protection, suspended maintenance, and window washing equipment to create an effective and efficient system is highly specialized and requires in depth knowledge of rigging methods / practices and safety regulations.

The Anchor Family

There are two common misconceptions related to the design of these systems.

1)    There is one standardized system.  Actually, each building is different in many ways and requires an individual approach and review (from the layout, quantity, and type of equipment.

2)    A design just needs to meet code.  While it is crucial that a design meets all of the codes, guidelines, regulations, and standards; it is also important that systems work.  It is not uncommon to see a design that meets code requirements but it will not allow a worker to perform their duties in an effective and efficient manner.  It is imperative that a design considers how workers will use equipment to alleviate function issues.

The local jurisdictional authorities are concerned with issues of fall protection and pay close attention to current codes.

ANSI I-14.1 is a leading standard in the United States (<—click to read more)

OSHA has several code requirements (including New York Code Rule 21 and CAL-OSHA)

CSA in Canada (<—click to read more) has very strict requirements relating to such equipment (along with specific provincial requirements such as the Ontario Ministry of Labour and British Columbia WCB rules).

Those are just a small sample size of all of the federal, provincial / state, regional, and international requirements.  The interpretation of each is certainly a daunting task!

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It is for the reasons noted above that Pro-Bel offers architects, building owners, construction managers, engineers, and general contractors a free design service for fall protection, suspended maintenance, and window washing equipment / systems.  This service includes a proposed layout, customized specification, and equipment details that will consider the codes, cost, effectiveness, and efficiency.

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Equipment on Terraces

As architects continue to imagine and design complex projects; it is becoming increasingly common that fall arrest and tie-back equipment are located on terraces of buildings.

As the condominium market is still as competitive as ever; builders and developers are coming up with special features and incentives to lure buyers.  Items like barbecues, bars, built in kitchens, gardens, lounges, hot tubs, patio furniture, and even pools are frequently being included on terraces of buildings.  While these are great selling features for buyers, they do create complications when designing window washing and fall protection systems.

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These condominiums are so lucrative that every detail is considered.  Therefore, as much of the buildings equipment is hidden as possible in common areas and private terraces (to not disrupt the aesthetics).  This usually means on terraces that our equipment is recessed under some sort of removable paver stones.  This regularly causes two major problems:

1)      the paver stones over the recessed equipment are not actually removable
2)      items are placed over top the recessed equipment

If it is planned accordingly there is a simple solution for problem “1)” as there are covers and inserts that can be manufactured and installed in paver stones that allow for them to be (rather easily) removed whenever recessed equipment (underneath them) require access.

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If the design of the window washing and fall protection system is provided to the architect then the architect can review to ensure there are no disruptions.

What should the architect review?

1)      They should ensure that no items (the special feature and incentives mentioned above or any others) are placed over top the recessed equipment.
2)      They should confirm items that are in line with the point of suspension (perpendicular from the parapet to the equipment) will not interfere with the rigging lines.

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This is where problem “2)” can become complicated.  The architect and equipment manufacturer have communicated and reviewed all of the areas but then a tenant installs a deck and built in kitchen on their terrace (usually without contacting the condominium corporation).  This makes accessing the recessed equipment nearly impossible which may mean a drop of windows cannot be washed or a section of the building façade cannot be maintained.

While usually a worker can move some items like small barbecues or potted plants, some items like large barbecues or large planter boxes simply cannot be moved.  A worker in some cases may not even want to move anything because they are concerned about damaging the property.

It must be stressed to tenants the importance of communicating any additions and modifications to their terrace that they are making.  The tenant should notify the condominium corporation and then the condominium corporation should contact the window washing and fall protection system manufacturer.  Also, the condominium corporation should notify tenants when the equipment is going to be inspected or used so that the tenant can remove any items that are over the recessed equipment.

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Engineering a Complete Anchor System: Part 1

Fall arrest and tie-back anchors are primarily designed to protect workers from falls while working on or over the roof edge.

While a clear understanding of codes, regulations, and standards is of the utmost importance; the first consideration (after safety of course) is function when designing proper window washing, suspended maintenance, and fall protection systems.  Often buildings will install a system only to meet the needs to comply with building codes, Federal standards, and safety regulations.  It is however essential to consider function to achieve and ensure long term success of any system.

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What is Function?

Firstly, you must consider what type of work is being completed while the system is in use?

  • Window washing
  • Exterior building maintenance (caulking, restoration, replacement, etc.)
  • Fixing/servicing/replacing equipment (cooling tower, drains, mechanical units) on the roof

(If you would like to read more about this then please see http://www.pro-bel.ca/blog/category/basics-of-fall-protection/)

Secondly, you must consider if the workers will think the system is convenient and easy to use.  This beyond anything else is the first thing that will jeopardize a workers safety.  Like all professions really, a worker will bypass or modify elements of the system if they believe it is inefficient and slowing down their pace.

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Technical Audits

It is fortunate to note that building technical audits (for warranty programs) are becoming more concerned with inadequately designed and impractical systems.  The audits are bringing this to the building’s attention as a way of saying that the inconvenient system is just as dangerous as a poorly engineered system because no worker will use it.

The Design Process

If you want to ensure that a system is compliant and efficient; manufacturers like Pro-Bel will work closely with architects, construction manager, engineers, and general contractors to provide design services which encourage and initiate discussions regarding the design (at an early stage of the design process).

This process seeks to:

  • Collect and analyze safe access and egress methods
  • Determine unique building needs
  • Establish functional and common relationship in equipment locations
  • Establish maintenance goals
  • State conventional rigging problems and methods
  • Uncover test methods and inspection practices

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Budget

This process also looks to balance budget, compliance, and function.  It must be stressed that caution should be used when budget is the main consideration for any design (as functionality is the first factor to go).

The design process discussions have a significant impact on the design of the system (and building even) as there are various perspectives included in the conversation.  It is almost a way of conducting thorough due diligence and quality assurance.

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Retrofitting Systems

It is always better to have fall arrest and tie-back anchors for window washing, suspended maintenance, and fall protection systems installed in the “new construction” phase.  But far too often, builders attempt to save the client money on construction costs without due consideration of retrofit.  There are a number of reasons to avoid retrofitting these systems when at all possible:

  • it is a lot more expensive
  • will require penetrating the roofing assembly and possibly voiding existing warranty
  • intrusive; retrofitting can require gaining access through suites to get on to balconies and terraces
  • construction work during occupancy can disrupt the day to day operation and enjoyment of the building and tenants units
  • reinforcing of the structure may be required
  • cutting open the ceiling in tenants units may be required

Unfortunately, each day buildings require retrofitting of anchor systems for a number of reasons.  They may be very old, the current system may be deficient, or the building may simply have never had a system installed.  When it is decided in these cases that a system will be installed there are some things that must be considered.

The Drawings

Search everywhere you can to try and locate the as built architectural and structural drawings.  If the window washing system manufacturer has full sets of drawings he may not need as much or any access to private suites and terraces thus eliminating the need to inconvenience tenants at the design stage.  Keep in mind, access will still be required to perform the installation and for annual inspections.  Note: If this particular building already has anchors, there is a good chance that a drawing of this anchor system is posted at the roof access point.

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Roof Warranty

Check to see if there is an existing warranty in effect on the roof.  If there is, be sure that that roofer does all the patch work for the roof anchor systems installation otherwise the existing warranty may be voided.  If there is no warranty, make sure the roof anchor contractor will provide its own roofing contractor.  It is also worth considering having your anchor system installed at the same time as re-roofing.

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Suite Access

If the anchor contractor tells you that suite access is required, make sure that tenants are aware of the exact date the site walkthrough will occur.  This way the roof anchor contractor and building super are not met with any resistance when entering tenants units.

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Window Washing or Suspended Maintenance?

One of the most important things to understand is what type of system is being proposed by the anchor contractors.  Clarify if you want window washing only or the ability to suspend swing stages for facade work.  The difference in cost and functionality can be quite significant. Knowledge is power.  At the end of the day knowing and understanding more will serve to save money and headaches from getting quotes to supervising the construction of the job.

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Common Misconceptions Series – Part 1

I recently became aware of some very serious misconceptions within our industry and I thought that this would be a great platform to clear them up.

One of the most frequent misconceptions that I hear is that “we need davits” for a building/project to complete window washing and suspended maintenance.  In certain situations this is definitely the case; however, they are not the typical starting point for any design.

I think the misconception is that anchors and davits are the same type of equipment and function the same way.

Anchors and davits are not the same thing

Anchors fundamentally refer to a U-bar tie-off that can take many different shapes and are quite versatile.

Davits consist of multiple elongated pieces that primarily allow for rigging over unique structures.

  • Anchors usually come in two different styles: roof or wall.
  • Davits consist of three components: base, boom, and mast.
Davit Arm

3 components: base, boom, and mast

  • A roof anchor is a stainless steel U-bar welded to a cylinder shaped steel pier (usually 15” or 18” tall).  A picture of a roof anchor is shown below.
steel pier RA

Roof anchor

  • A wall anchor is a stainless steel U-bar welded to a steel base plate (varying in size but usually a few inches).  A picture of a wall anchor is shown below.
WA

Wall anchor

  • The davit arm consists of an aluminum mast (varying in size but typically 5-6’ tall) and an aluminum boom (again varying in size but upwards of 8’ long).
  • Davits are quite large assemblies.
  • These components are pinned/secured together to form the “davit arm”



  • Anchors can (in both cases) be secured to structure in many ways.  Most commonly they can be bolted through structure, cast or embedded into concrete, glued into structure with adhesive epoxy, welded to structure, or wrapped around structure.
  • The davit arm is then pinned/secured to a davit base.
  • A davit base is a galvanized piece of equipment that is responsible for securing the davit arm assembly in place during use.
  • Davit bases can be secured to structure in the same ways that anchors are.

 

  • Anchors can be used in practically any rigging situation – fall protection, suspended maintenance, window washing, direct rigging, in-direct rigging, etc.
  • Davits are not a practical as anchors in the sense that there are very specific reasons and situations that you would use them (basically over tall parapets and non-structural structure).


Rigging scenarios

Davits are not the typical starting point for any design.  Pro-Bel will always look to include the most simple and cost effective system possible (which is an anchor based system) and build on the design from there based on the building/project conditions.

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The Inspections Department

The Inspections Department is an integral part of our company.  Fall arrest and tie-back anchors (for window washing systems and fall protection equipment) are required to be inspected annually in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations and the Department/Ministry of Labour.

Our mission in this Department is two-fold:

  • To develop first hand experience and maintain an expert team of Inspectors in this highly specialized field; thereby ensuring smooth information exchange that may affect liability or safety on buildings.
  • The Department must report on safety issues that may affect safety of the professional high-rise worker and the public.

In order to meet this mission statement the Department pro-actively promotes annual inspection programs which include:

  • Deficiency inspections,
  • Compliance inspections, and
  • Rigging inspections;

There are all supported by the Department/Ministry of Labour’s (DOL/MOL) input through their site inspections and published guidelines.  This collaborative involvement allows the agency (DOL/MOL) and all contractors using the equipment to work more harmoniously, in a safe manner.

The Inspections Department consists of dozens of professionals including trained inspectors, compliance specialists, testing technicians and professional engineers.  The Department also upgrades existing systems if needed, working closely with system designers and the operational teams as needed.

It also calls on the expertise of almost 150 skilled members of various Departments which may include AutoCAD designers, manufacturing and installation as required on a job-to-job basis.

Besides the general staff listed above, this Department includes and relies on five other major components:

1) Chief Executive Officer (CEO): responsible for formulating policy and providing the Inspections Department with first hand compliance information.  This executive direction is derived from the CEO’s experience dealing with the DOL/MOL; personally guiding the removal of Stop Work Orders (SWO) on buildings.  In addition to direct supervision, the CEO provides overall executive direction and broad administrative supervision for this Department.

2) Compliance Specialist (CS): reviews, routes, and tracks hazardous or potentially hazardous safety and structural conditions.  The CS’s staff is on call to respond to SWO’s or other safety and rigging issues or emergencies.  They can flag system conditions normally sited by DOL/MOL Inspectors or other sources, such as building inspections or technical auditors.  The CS evaluates all conditions; including review of site conditions, drawings, inspectors’ reports and photographs of the roof and conditions.  Subsequently, a “flag report packet” may be created; describing the type of upgrade or repair that may be needed (which may also include changes to the certified drawings or may need a DOL/MOL response report for removal, review and approval).

why inspection

3) In-House Maintenance Technicians & Skilled Installation Personnel: perform repairs to address flagged conditions.  Flagged repairs may include structural or other safety issues such as the repair of roof anchors, davit arms, safety tethers or locks, or other components damaged by corrosion or accident impact.   The maintenance and installation staff will perform the required corrective repair that will help to rehabilitate worn or defective components whose failure could affect long term service (such as heat shrink, mastic, cap flashings or remedial rust repair work).

4) Professional Engineering and Design Group: provides technical expertise related to normal engineering practices and principals; including reviewing the structure, preparing calculations and writing job specific test prescriptions.  The team also supplies invaluable engineering declarations for unsafe conditions that may affect the system.  The Professional Engineering Group member will make recommendations for immediate remediation, thereby assisting the CS in facilitating a proper solution.  The Professional Engineering group also provides technical expertise related to the procurement and development of system design and product development, supporting various areas of the division, including supervision of installation and inspection services.

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5) Administration Management & Invoicing Group: provides essential administrative and inspection process support, including tracking of each activity within the division.  The Senior Administration and Finance Group oversees and administers all administrative functions for the division, acting as liaison with the inspectors and technicians including, but not limited to:

  • Reviewing reports for completeness to ensure compliance and functionality is clear
  • Reviewing lists of equipment to ensure they match  drawings for quality control purposes
  • Tracking documents and publishing control documents to our web-based customer portal
  • Monitoring staff and supervising repairs flagged by inspectors or compliance specialists
  • Scheduling work performed by Pro-Bel installers or other contractors and producing mandated modification and repair reports on all activities
  • Managing the status of each warranty claim and ensuring products are tracked and replaced through our Pro-Bel case system
  • Ensuring all on-site inspections are preformed on time and that the field conditions are recorded

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The Inspections Department management takes a pro-active approach in the educating of Building Owners and Property Managers, as well as the training of workers and contractors in the use of equipment to work safely on roofs.

This professional Inspections Department will ensure a smooth yearly inspection process.  Each highly-specialized area is designed to address the essential services that are necessary to provide the expert service that our clients and industry expect.

In order to provide critical safety measures and due diligence on your rooftop please contact Pro-Bel for annual inspections, testing, safety assessments, rigging inspections or site training.

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Strength & Force Standards

Many people do not have first hand experience with fall arrest and tie-back roof anchors (for window washing systems and fall protection equipment) and are not versed in high-rate energy performance methods.

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An ideal fall arrest and tie-back roof anchor is designed to meet the strength and force standards contained in Federal OSHA 29CFR1910.66 Appendix C.

To arrest a fall in a controlled manner, it is essential that there is sufficient energy absorption capacity in the system.  Without this energy absorption, the fall can only be arrested by applying large forces to the worker and to the anchorage, which can result in either (or both) being severely affected.

A full understanding of the “force requirement” is a complex process.  A force-type review takes into account the energy consideration in the roof anchor design.  These loads can be considered “high-rate-energy forces”.  Actual loads on the user, anchorage and structure can vary widely.

Alho1Alho1The designer must recognize that the anchor, securement and structure can see various loads because of the varying:

  • user weight,
  • height of fall,
  • geometry, and
  • type of rigging equipment used

Many people do not have first hand experience with fall arrest and tie-back roof anchors (for window washing systems and fall protection equipment) and are not versed in high-rate energy performance methods.  Anchors are often over designed or under designed and may not adequately support a worker and the rigging equipment in the event of a failure.

Drop Test Procedures

Strength Test: a test weight is dropped once using 300 pounds plus or minus 5 pounds (135 kg plus or minus 2.5 kg) and should be used to test a safety anchor.

The drop test must be performed with a non-elastic wire rope lanyard.  The lanyard length should be 5 feet plus or minus 2 inches (1.83 m plus or minus 5 cm) as measured from the fixed rigid anchorage.

The test weight should fall without interference, obstruction, or hitting the floor or ground during the test.  Any breakage or slippage which permits the weight to fall free to the ground should constitute failure of the anchor and therefore the anchor does not pass the strength test.

Force Test: consists of dropping the respective test weight using a five foot shock absorbing lanyard.  The maximum elongation distance should be recorded during the force test.  The intent in the force test is to control and measure the applied arresting forces and loads.  A system design fails the force test if the recorded maximum arresting force exceeds 2,520 pounds (11.21 Kn) when using a body harness.

The force test is most often used when designing horizontal life line parts and components.  Understanding these force principles will help designers understand the anchor performance and design.

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Normally this means that the anchor eye may bend or yield, yet the anchorage or structure will be protected.”

Good design will include a factor of safety or proper engineering multiple over the allowable working load.  Proper design will ensure that the anchor deforms in order to absorb energy, yet at the same time will ensure that the final securement method or studs cannot fail.

The critical connections must include an increased importance factor of 1.9 vs. 1, if redundancy is not built into the design. It should also be mentioned that adhesive anchors have higher design requirements because of the possible abnormal deterioration of concrete and aging loss; redundancy in anchor bolts must also be considered.

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