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Randall Wingfield is the President of Gravitec Systems, Inc. and the Chair of the Z359 Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) on Fall Protection and Related Systems.

The Z359 ASC is currently revising American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard Z359.1, “Safety Requirements for Personal Fall Arrest Systems.” In this interview, Wingfield gives an update of the standard’s revision process and explains how the revised Z359.1 standard will positively affect companies.

You are the Chair of the Z359 Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) on Fall Protection and Related Systems. This committee is currently revising American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard Z359.1, “Safety Requirements for Personal Fall Arrest Systems.” What is the status of this standard’s revision process thus far, and what changes will the revised standard include?

The technical committee has voted on and approved the majority of the standard. We hope that it will go to public ballot in the fall for release in early 2006.

The Z359.1 standard originated in 1992. It underwent minor revisions in 1999, and it has remained unchanged since then.

Under the current revision, the standard’s purpose has changed. While the existing standard focuses primarily on the design and testing of specific fall equipment items, the revised standard will include this information along with additional specifications for fall protection program development, fall hazard assessment, key person responsibility, training and program maintenance. The standard now also includes information on work-positioning systems and rescue systems, and it features new sections such as a comprehensive guide for the development of a Managed Fall Protection Program.

The revised standard is designed to be a “living document” that will change as industry and technology advance. It will offer those interested in fall protection a comprehensive document that will facilitate the generation of a new fall protection program or will augment an existing one.

What are your duties as Chair of the Z359 ASC, and what is your role in the preparation and execution of the revised Z359.1 standard?

Committee and subcommittee meetings bring together many industry professionals who work with numerous topics in a short period of time. These meetings constitute a considerable expense to its membership in time and travel. Therefore, it is imperative that the Chair conduct the meetings in a manner that is consistent and efficient. New issues are raised at each session, and the Chair must facilitate the formation of subcommittees and working groups to address each topic. The Chair also works closely with the secretary and subcommittee chairs to assist with technical issues, set deadlines and obtain consensus within the subcommittees and committee.

How is third-party certification of fall arrest and protection equipment performed? Why do you believe third-party certification is of value to safety professionals?

Third-party certification of equipment requires that each item of equipment be tested and sent to an independent, unbiased outside testing organization to determine if the equipment meets the design and performance requirements given in the standard. Historically, ANSI has not required third-party testing for items of fall protection equipment. Therefore, manufacturers have performed their own testing and have attested to the equipment’s compliance with the standard. Since the testing methods and standards may allow some interpretation, combined with the variation in testing abilities from one manufacturer to another, the situation has resulted in inconsistencies. The lack of unbiased third-party testing has allowed items to be labeled as meeting the ANSI standard when, in fact, they do not.

Most of the large equipment manufacturers have conducted third-party certification for years because their product lines are sold in other countries or in specific industries that require it. This creates a market that can be very confusing for consumers because it is difficult to determine which items have been independently tested and which items have not. Third-party testing is beneficial, not only for safety professionals, but for the entire industry, as it standardizes testing and increases equipment quality. If an independent organization has tested equipment according to a set standard, consumer confidence will increase.

You are the President of Gravitec Systems, Inc., which provides fall protection and rescue training, engineering and consulting services and equipment sales. How do you predict the revised Z359.1 standard will impact your company?

Gravitec Systems, Inc. as well as other fall protection companies will benefit from a better-educated clientele. This standard provides access to information that was not previously available. The fall protection industry has lacked guidance on the development of a fall protection program, and this standard offers that guidance.

Many organizations have created some type of fall protection program. Unfortunately, it often does not have a coordinated approach. Equipment is purchased without training, policies are written without assessing risk, systems are designed without engineering support, and rescue planning has yet to become an industry standard. This revised standard will offer a “road map” for organizations to develop their own programs. A more informed consumer base will benefit our company, the industry and workers who are exposed to the risk.

What measures will you take to ensure that state and federal governments recognize the revised Z359.1 standard? Do you anticipate any challenges?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has participated in the development of the Z359.1 standard since its conception. Governing bodies recognize advancements in the industry, and recognition and acceptance of the standard by federal and state governments will occur over time.

Do you believe that the revised Z359.1 standard should be recognized in other areas?

The Z359.1 standard was not written with a specific industry in mind. We believe that the standard has something to offer every company or organization that encounters fall hazards. Even if the organization is not working at heights everyday, there are elements within this standard that would benefit everyone. For example, the construction industry could use the standard’s hazard assessment sections, and the communications industry could benefit from the training sections.

What other projects does the Z359 ASC have in development?

The Z359.1 Committee is proud of the commitment that everyone has given to the revision of this standard during the past four years. Although this standard is quite comprehensive, the committee plans to further develop information for engineered systems (horizontal lifelines), hardware compatibility, rope access and rescue. These issues are scheduled as future projects for the committee.

Biography

Randall Wingfield is the Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Gravitec Systems, Inc., which has been at the forefront of fall protection technology, engineering, training and consulting for more than 20 years. Gravitec Systems, Inc. offers:

  • Fall protection education and training
  • Engineering systems design
  • Industrial rescue
  • Design and development of courses, training and engineering
  • Consulting in systems design and equipment purchases

As the company’s primary resource for forensic investigation of fall accidents, Wingfield presents expert opinions, depositions and testimony on the causes, mitigation and elimination of jobsite fall hazards and accidents.

Wingfield has been involved in the continuing development of national and international standards for fall protection equipment and training, and he is the President of the International Society for Fall Protection, President of the International Society of Fall Protection, Chair of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z359 Committee, past Vice Chair of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Z259 committee and a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers.