United changes harness policy

15 April 2008

The world's biggest owner of aerial platforms, United Rentals, has modified its position on the wearing of full body harnesses when using scissor platforms, senior risk control manager Kevin Hernon (pictured right) tells ALH.

Now the company's policy for its own personnel is to use a 2– to 4–foot lanyard without shock–absorbing capability (“fall restraint”) by operators of small scissors. It still requires, however, a 6–foot tether and a shock–absorbing harness (“fall arrest”) when using rough–terrain scissors and boom lifts.

It recommends the same safety practices to its customers and makes appropriate PPE gear available. When asked about the role of rental companies in promoting the use of harnesses, Hernon says that the company emphatically makes its recommendations and that, according to US law, “…the employer must ensure compliance. It's not our position to say what customers must do.”

The use of harnesses in scissor lifts is coming under increasing scrutiny. The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF), for example, recommends not using harnesses in scissor lifts, except under exceptional circumstances.

Hernon, meanwhile, said training – although often perceived as a cost – could actually save companies money.

“More and more companies are finding out that dollars and safety go hand–in–hand,” Hernon says. “Lots of studies show that if employees are safe, they are more productive.

“The revenue from our training business is not what is important,” he continues. “What is important is the knowledge about safety that our customers walk away with. The quality of our training is part of a much larger customer service package.”

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