In the early years of fall protection, workers thought a body belt and a rope tied to an anchorage point would be a good way to arrest a fall from height. Although advances in fall protection have come a long way since those days, even today industrial falls still rank as the number-one cause of on-site, occupational fatalities in the United States.
Recognizing this fact, ASSE led a concerted effort in the 1980's to develop a national standard for fall protection equipment. This standard, entitled ANSI Z359.1-1992 (R1999) "Safety Requirements for Personal Fall Arrest Systems and Components," sets minimum specifications for eight components of personal fall arrest systems, including lanyards, energy absorbers, connectors, harnesses and so on. This standard does a good job at giving both buyers and manufacturers of fall protection gear a bright line between equipment that meets the standard and equipment that does not. The vast majority of all the fall protection equipment sold in the United States since the ANSI Z359.1 standard was published over 10 years ago meets or exceeds this important standard.
At the July 1999 meeting of ANSI Standards Committee meeting, ASSE's staff presented a proposal to develop a general industry fall protection standard, to be known as Z359.0. The intent of the proposal would be to address a full range of fall protection issues. Instead of being an equipment standard like Z359.1, Z359.0 would be a program standard, a standard which tells companies what policies, procedures, assessments, anchors, equipment, and trained personnel they need to maintain in order to establish a comprehensive managed approach to fall protection.
Initially this standard was intended to be a stand-alone document falling under the application of the ANSI Z359.1-1992 (R1999) standard. However, in 2002, it was the consensus of the full committee that this new document would eventually be merged within the Z359.1-1992 (R1999) standard as a portion of that revised document.
The need for this standards activity grew out of the continuing development of a series of fall protection-related standards. The idea is to tie the elements of those standards together and provide the tools with which employers may develop the programs that incorporate those elements. This standard also brings together the administrative requirements of those fall protection standards. It should be noted, as in all Z359-series standards, that this standard applies to all occupational and non-occupational activities except those in SIC Division C (construction). It also is not intended to apply to sports activities such as mountaineering.