OSHA recently put into effect some substantial changes regarding fall protection safety rules for those who use knuckleboom trucks. Now that these rules are in effect, the subject of how to put them into practical use has created many questions among companies utilizing this equipment. It is important to ensure that either a knuckleboom truck dealer, or the company that has purchased used knuckleboom trucks, replace any existing fall protection equipment with the required, updated equipment at the time of the sale. Then, using the new guidelines, and outlining the changes to current rules, training must be provided for all operators.

Body Belts Replaced By Full Body Harnesses

Utility workers, whose companies often rely on used knuckleboom trucks, previously used body belts attached to fixed anchor points when working at great heights; this is no longer acceptable. OSHA safety rules now require that workers use either a full body harness, or a body belt-harness combination, which provides both fall prevention and fall protection properties. It also provides the necessary protection to work on both wood and steel poles as well as other structures, based on how the lanyards and lifelines can be anchored.

By utilizing the full harness or a combination of both, operators are always fully protected to either arrest a fall before it happens, or protect a worker from a fall already in process. Knuckleboom trucks dealers can often provide training to operators employed by companies operating this equipment.

Change in Procedure for Scaling Metal Poles

The other major change to OSHA’s fall protection safety rules concerns scaling and working on steel poles and towers, which previously were never outfitted with anchor points for fall protection equipment. Wooden poles allow workers to anchor to them easily; this is not the case with steel poles and other similar structures. There is an effort underway to improve this by retrofitting towers and poles to include anchor points. Other answers are needed in the meantime, involving both procedures and equipment.

Increased use of bucket trucks and aerial lifts in these situations requires additional training on the use of full body harnesses, lifelines, and lanyards while anchored to equipment. When climbing is still required, “first man up” techniques must be practiced, where rope and web lifelines used with mobile fall arresters and lanyards are lowered from the tops of steel poles and structures.

An Emphasis on Training

With the exception of the required improvement of safety harnesses and replacement of body belts, most of the changes to the OSHA regulations are training-based. The new rules require operators who work at heights – whether climbing, or using aerial lifts – to learn new safety techniques, especially how to incorporate more complex safety gear where it was not used before. Only through proper fit and application does any of the new gear actually provide both fall prevention and protection when using knuckleboom trucks, so understanding the use of full body harnesses, along with lanyards, lifelines and fall arresters is essential, and should be practiced before being put into actual use on the job.

For the full explanation of the improved OSHA fall protection rules and how they apply to companies that use knuckleboom trucks, employers must refer to the updated rules and OSHA’s suggestions on implementation of these increased regulations for work crews. Any new or used knuckleboom trucks company is advised to include these latest changes in their safety training for linesmen and anyone who operate bucket and knuckleboom trucks so they are in compliance with the new OSHA regulations. Additionally, remember when purchasing from knuckleboom trucks dealers, this more advanced safety equipment will not likely be included with any truck, and must be purchased individually by each company for their operators.

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