004 - Is Your Lanyard Legit? - How ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 aka “The Dropped Objects Standard” Should Inform The Solutions You Choose


Nate (00:00):
ANSI standards are always great to tell manufacturers how to design and test the equipment, but we really need to help the workers implement programs and help them with the when and the how.

Al (00:20):
Welcome everybody to Radio Free Tenacity, the voice of worker safety. If you're new to the pod, welcome. If you're a few episodes deep, thanks for lending us your ears once again. Your reward as always is the sweet sound of strategies and solutions for a safer, more productive job site. I'm your co-host Al Buczkowski alongside work site safety specialist, former NWHL MVP, and all around impressive human being, Allie Thunstrom. Hey Allie!

Allie (00:51):
Hey Al, happy to be here once again on this lovely morning.

Al (00:54):
Likewise, likewise. It's always a good day when we get to record the pod and, you know, like something we really haven't talked about before on the pod, but you know, when you're not flying to every corner of the country consulting work crews on best practices, you're flying to every corner of the country trying out for the Olympics or setting goal scoring records and winning championships as a, as a member of the Minnesota Whitecaps in the National Women's Hockey League. Um, I guess in short, you're in a category of humans I call a force of nature. So maybe as a force of nature yourself you might have some unique insight into another force of nature. One that is every bit as troublesome to work crews as you are to your opponents on a, on a two on one break. I'm talking of course about that invisible menace, the big G, gravity.

Allie (01:44):
Thanks. I mean, I don't know if I necessarily deserve to be called a force of nature, like our good friend gravity.

Al (01:49):
You do. Own it.

Allie (01:49):
But, but in terms of gravity at the job site, you know, what we're really talking about is dropped and falling objects. And not sure if people are aware of the statistics that surround this hazard, but, you know, in talking about just injuries alone in 2017, we saw over 44,000 injuries as a result of the dropped or falling object. That number moved up to about 50,000 in 2018 to 54,000 in 2019. So unfortunately we are seeing that be on the rise. And when you think of the other at height safety risk, which is of course human falls, there is such an emphasis on fall protection. And when you look at those trendlines, trendlines, in terms of injuries and fatalities, there's actually somewhat of a nice downward trend that's occurring there, where, like I just mentioned with the stats we have for dropped and falling objects, it's actually pretty on the rise. And to give you an idea in terms of percentages for looking at all workplace injuries as a whole, in 2019 that accounted for over 6% of all workplace injuries. So when you look at the big picture of all the statistics that exist within the BLS guidebook and all of the injuries and fatalities that can occur, that are identified within that, that's a lot, that's a huge number for anything to be over, you know, a few percentage points. This is at six it's, it is a big deal and something that we definitely need to address. And in looking at what the industry is doing to kind of combat that problem back in 2018, um, ANSI and ISEA actually got together to create the new standard for dropped objects, which is, uh, ANSI/ISEA 121 that started to establish minimum requirements for solutions that are meant to prevent falling objects. But again, like I mentioned, the incidents are unfortunately still trending up. So it's clear that just having a standard isn't really enough. And so, you know, when we think about it as advocates for worker safety and for ensuring that everybody on a job site makes it home safe, I think it's really important to continue to raise awareness of this risk while also emphasizing the importance of widespread adherence to ANSI/ISEA 121 as a legitimate means to combat it.

Al (04:22):
But obviously it's, it's hard to adhere to something you know very little about.

Allie (04:27):
Oh for sure. And, you know, to know exactly what that standard means to a work sites day to day safety is another important part of that puzzle.

Al (04:35):
Totally, totally. You know, if only we had one of the industry's foremost experts in the subject matter readily available to talk us through all that.

Allie (04:44):
Well Al, as luck would have it...

Al (04:47):
Yes, yes I kid of course because we do have one of the industries foremost experts on the drop standard and he's here to interpret it for us, including how it can be used to make sure the tool lanyards being used on your work site are legit.

Allie (05:00):
Right, exactly. As product director at Ergodyne, Nate Bohmbach, has been very much at the leading edge of dropped object prevention for well over a decade. You know, he was the chair of the ISEA standards committee for dropped objects solutions and really helped lead the charge in the development of the 121 standard when it was written back in 2018. I know from working very closely with him over the last, uh, seven years that I've been at Ergodyne, this was a project that, uh, he took a lot of time and care into making sure that everything made sense and that at the end of the day it was never sacrificing the safety of people on a job.

Al (05:41):
All right. All right. A great opportunity to pick the brain of a true thought leader. So let's get right into it, shall we?

Allie (05:47):
Sounds like a plan.

Al (05:51):
Radio Free Tenacity, the voice of worker safety. We are happy to be joined now by Nate Bohmbach, a product director at Ergodyne, and just all around dropped object prevention innovator. Nate, welcome to the pod. Happy to have you, buddy.

Nate (06:12):
Al, Allie, thanks for having me. It's great to be here.

Al (06:15):
Um, so, you know, we don't like to toss a lot of softballs out. We just like to get, we come in just throwing a hundred miles an hour, uh, right away. So, so let's get into it. Let's talk about the drop objects standard 121. Um, and just, I guess we'll start simple. Why, why was the creation of this standard so important?

Nate (06:37):
Uh, it's simple: duct tape and rope. That's why it was so important. And when I say that what I mean is that that's what workers were using, um, to tether their tools and prevent dropped objects. Uh, it's been an issue since, uh, you know, gravity was invented and, uh, workers themselves took it, took it upon themselves to, you know, tie their tools off and that's because they knew they were dropping things and whether it was out of pure productivity savings, so they wouldn't have to climb down to, to gather their tools that have fallen or to help protect their comrades on the job site, they, they were putting makeshift solutions together, um, duct tape, twine, um, wire, things like that, just so they wouldn't drop anything. And the safety community recognized that and decided we need to put something in place to create consistency between tethering solutions in that and, and give confidence to those workers that they're using something that actually will help prevent a dropped object, not just some makeshift thing. Um, and so a group of us got together probably back in 2016 and then drafted it through in, uh, released in 2018. And, uh, thus was the creation of the dropped object standard.

Al (07:59):
Yeah, no, those, those makeshift, uh, solutions definitely not ideal. I'm wondering is that something you're still seeing Allie on the job site, um, as you, uh, make these site visits around the country? Are you seeing, uh, I guess the evolution of dropped object prevention take place? Or are people still trying to Mickey Mouse together these, these solutions?

Allie (08:23):
Yeah, I meancyou've definitely seen a shift in the attitude towards, uh, dropped object prevention and, you know, previously, like Nate mentioned, it's a lot of homemade solutions. It's a lot of people even drilling holes in tools to add rings to or whatever it might be. But now there is a better understanding, you know, what an ANSI compliant material is, what an ANSI compliant lanyard or tool attachment looks like, and at least an intent to try to bring that across the job site. Um, we've also seen a lot of the conversations start to shift from previously it was, you know, we're coming in to have this discussion after a near miss has already happened or potentially a incident. And now it's starting to be a little bit more proactive, which is really positive to see.

Al (09:06):
That's good. That's good. So with, with 121, uh, okay. We know, we know it's, uh, has to do a dropped object prevention and kind of guidelines for the manufacturing of, of those solutions. Um, can you unpack maybe some of the key pieces to that standard, Nate?

Nate (09:25):
Sure yeah. The, the pieces basically there's, there's three categories or I guess four categories, if you will. Um, that, that make this up. And when I say that, I should start with the fact that this is an equipment standard. So as we mentioned before, it's about the pieces, uh, in a tethering system and in containers that help prevent dropped objects. It doesn't necessarily tell you how to use them or when to use it. So that's a, that's a pretty important point. So the pieces then I'll of the standard, uh, include anchor and tool attachments. And if you had to define those a little bit, the anchor attachments are essentially what you tether to, um, where it's being anchored, whether it's on the body or, uh, on a structure or a part of the job site and the tool attachments are the opposite end. That's what's going on the tool itself. Um, so that's, that's kinda, that's the first couple of sections. And then you get into tool lanyards or tethers, uh, and that's what's connecting those two ends of the system. Uh, and then finally you have the section on containers. And containers, uh, are either static containers or portable containers that, that store the equipment or transport the equipment, um, to, and from heights. And so those sections kind of make up the, the products themselves. And then the other sections work on definitions and testing requirements, testing protocols, things like that. Um, so that's the makeup of the standard, if you will. And in the end, what it is, it's a guide for manufacturers to, to design, test, and manufacture the equipment appropriately so it's, so it's ready for the job.

Allie (11:14):
So Nate, you mentioned a few times, you know, about how it's a manufacturing guideline. Can you explain to potentially the listeners or safety directors onsite how this can help navigate conversations as far as policy goes? Because like you mentioned, it's not a governing use standard, but helps again, make sure that those lanyards and attachments and containers are rated properly.

Nate (11:36):
Yep, absolutely. No, it's a great question. Uh, yeah, what it is is, you know, it kind of comes down to that stamp, right? That, that label that says ANSI/ISEA 121 on it and that should, you know, help those, those safety managers sleep at night, knowing they have that type of equipment. And, you know, regardless of the manufacturer, um, that whatever you're using for a tethering system, if it's stamped with that you know you're using something that's, that's been designed and tested appropriately. Whereas before getting back to our, you know, our duct tape and twine conversation, it's, uh, you know, if workers were using that, it's not going to have that stamp. So it kinda makes you sweat when you know, that people are using those make, makeshift solutions. So this, this really helps by having that stamp on the equipment you know that you're using something appropriate and it also gives, gives, uh, uh, guidance for, for OSHA to be able to point to something like this, to say there is a, there is something out there. So, you know, the pushback of, I don't have to tether my tools because there's nothing out there that even speaks to tethering, um, is no longer a pushback. You know, people like OSHA or companies with strong safety cultures can point to that. And, uh, that's basically kind of the guidance that it can give.

Al (13:05):
Say that's interesting. Say, say a bit more about that Nate in, with regards to this standard and OSHA and how that can be connected back to the general duty clause.

Nate (13:19):
Yup. That's exactly it and whether it's, well, first off we should kinda dispel the myth that OSHA doesn't say anything specific about falling objects because it does come up multiple times in both the construction standard 1926 and the general industry standard 1910, they speak to it, you know, in multiple locations in those standards. So it's a myth that OSHA doesn't say you have to protect people from falling objects, but what they don't do is tell you how, and that's where standards like ANSI, ASTM, and others can help you with the how. And so for a safety manager, you do have to protect your workers from falling objects. It's something you're required to do. Um, and you should want to do frankly, but you know, with hard hats and everything, everybody's translated that to mean hardhats or, or netting or, you know, creating perimeter zones. But this allows you to implement a better risk mitigation in tying tools off and preventing them from falling in the first place. And OSHA is always going to steer towards best practice. And the best practice here is preventing objects from falling in the first place. And now there is a script in the 121 standard that OSHA could point to and say under the general duty clause, as you mentioned Al, to say, look, there is a defined best practice here in prevention and you should do the diligence of implementing that best practice.

Al (15:06):
Got it, got it. No, that makes sense. Allie, is that, is that something coming up in conversations that you're having?

Allie (15:12):
Definitely, um, you see a lot of attention to ANSI 121 and even just the other day we were on a job site and they were checking all of the equipment that they had to ensure that they had the proper labeling, ensure that all of their weight capacities and everything was, um, conforming to the ANSI 121 standard. So there definitely is, especially as Nate said, in companies that have a very strong safety culture and they want to do the best at preventing dropped objects, they are taking a lot of caution and attention when looking at these products. And probably the biggest reason for that is since this dropped object prevention has come into the limelight in the last, you know, three to four years, you see a lot of imitators coming onto the market that claim ANSI 121 compliance, but then when you dig deeper into understanding what that actually means, you find that they don't meet that standard. And so now I think it's becoming a lot more prevalent to be like, we want to make sure that what you're giving us and providing us that says, you know, it's going to protect a tool, a 15 pound tool, is it actually? And so I think that you see, uh, actually a lot more attention to that detail of ANSI 121 than you have in years past.

Al (16:23):
Got it, got it. Let's actually, let's, let's run with that a little bit more and, um, kind of identify for, uh, the audience right now how this standard, uh, you know, understanding that it is, I mean, any equipment standard, but how can that be mirrored, um, and, uh, as kind of an outward facing guide piece for those safety pros? Like how, how can the standard be used to guide their selection of say a tool lanyard, right? One of the most important parts in a tethering system, obviously, um, Nate, I mean, how do we, how do people use that standard to, uh, identify that their, their lanyard is legit?

Nate (17:05):
Yeah. And getting back to a little bit about what Allie was saying. So I mentioned earlier on that there's that stamp, right? That the ANSI/ISEA 121 on the label, that's the, that's the place you can start, but as Allie mentioned there ANSI standards aren't regulated. So there's not, you know, there's not anybody overseeing and kind of, you know, controlling the manufacturers. So some do put the stamp on the label, but there might be parts of, like you said, let's use a lanyard as an example that aren't quite quite there. So looking beyond the label, a couple of things you can look at is his number one, whatever the connector is. So in more often than not, it's usually a carabiner. So if you look at the carabiner, for example, ANSI requires people who make equipment to their standard to have a couple things on the carabiner. Number one a captive eye, which is captivating the lanyard, the webbing, or the cable or whatever you're you're using so that, that, that material doesn't roll up onto the gate and create a rollout, for example. So a captive eye is, is just that it's a, it's a captive point on that connector that keeps the webbing there. Uh, number two is a locking gate. So the gate itself must require multiple actions, uh, in a way to, to lock it. So whether that's a screw gate that needs to manually be unlocked or, um, you know, an auto-locking gate, folks in, that know fall protection well know very well, uh, about locking gates. So that's, that's on the connector itself, uh, in, in those are the, those are the big ones. Um, and then on the lanyard, you look for that label, as we mentioned. And in addition, if you, if you have any questions on whether or not this thing meets it, you can always ask the manufacturer for a certificate of conformity to that standard, and they can provide that to you. At Ergodyne we have all of our certificates online and available to everybody. So you can, you can go grab that. Um, and another place you can look is in the instructions, um, is making sure that there's a set of instructions that tell you how to use the equipment, how to inspect it. Um, and you can, you can keep that. And altogether, again, within the lanyard conversation, those components all need to be there for a legit lanyard.

Al (19:42):
Got it, got it. And for the folks listening if you want a little further guidance on kind of what to look for, uh, or a 121 compliant lanyard Uh, you can hop over to, uh, Ergodyne.com check out the Tenacious Blog and just search 121. Uh, and you'll be served up a whole wide array of resources to help you out there. Um, so you know, now that the standard is, uh, a few years old, Nate, uh, and Allie, how, how do you see this standard evolving? And do you ever kind of account for that when you're developing, uh, you know, new drops prevention equipment? I mean, meaning, do you kind of design to where you think the standard is going at the time, or is that just kind of a dangerous game to play?

Nate (20:32):
No it's, no, it's not a dangerous game to play with as long as you have the right mindset and you're going at it listening to end-users is the big one. You can kind of tell where a standard is going to go, and Allie can speak to this about what's coming up in the field because the, the workers out there will be the first to tell you what doesn't work and what does work and what they still need. Um, and in my opinion, it's not necessarily been scripted like this for the, the 121 committee, but there's a couple of directions that I think this is going to go. One is we, we have to consider tools themselves. So right now the system starts at a component, a retrofit component that's added to the tool and then up to a retrofit component added to the anchor. So, but the question always comes up is what about the tools? So there's gonna have to be some considerations there. And then one challenge we have, and I can let Allie, uh, speak to this a little bit too, is it's great, ANSI standards are always great to tell manufacturers how to design and test the equipment, but we really need to help the workers implement programs and help them with the when and the how. And ANSI standards don't always do that. Um, but there are standards out there, like the fall protection standard, like the eyewash station standard that actually do have components of it that help workers with those things. And what I would like to see is the dropped object standard, take that direction too, to help give guidance because I, I mean, Allie, you're, you're hearing it from the field that that's kind of what's being asked for, is it not?

Allie (22:22):
Yeah, definitely. And I think, you know, along with potentially looking for tools to already come with attachment points. The other thing that we're starting to see is, well, people are concerned about SKU count, for example, and, and trying to limit that to not have to manage as much inventory, there is definitely a shift in wanting more specialized options. So instead of, you know, having tail and tape, that's a very universal option that can be used on pretty much all of your tools. You know, if you're looking at a sleever bar, you want something that's specific to that sleever bar, that's not going to impede the way that that moves, the way that that's used. Um, same thing with a screwdriver and with a wrench. And you're starting to see that shift towards things that are very specific to one individual tool type, rather than something that can fit potentially a wide range of tools. And so I think that speaks a lot to potentially looking towards seeing tool manufacturers, just start creating these things. But as we know, tool molds cost a lot of money and to expect that tool manufacturers are going to go back to that drawing board and redo potentially millions of dollars of tool molds and reforge all of those is, is not something that's likely to happen in the very near future, but seeing more specialized attachments, um, and even lanyards, I think, is something that you'll start to that shift in the development process look like.

Al (23:48):
Got it, got it. So Nate kind of put you on the spot right now. Um, you know, a lot of, a lot of our listeners are very much interested in, um, innovation, what's new, um, what, what solutions are out there that can help them right away. So if you could, I'd love, I'd love to hear your maybe like top 3 121 compliant solutions that maybe you think every safety manager should absolutely, positively know about and why.

Nate (24:19):
Yeah. Yeah. You're putting me on the spot and where do we begin? Um, first of all, if you want to know what's in the pipeline, we're going to have to make you sign your life away and, uh, before we, we kind of pull back the curtain a little bit. Um, but no, I mean, as far as our, our current current lineup goes, um, I'd probably maybe take one, uh, one from each of the categories that we define as our three Ts and that's trapping, which is those connectors, those anchor and tool attachments. Um, and so for, from a trapping standpoint, um, the big, the big one to me that is one of our most popular is, and I think is universally loved by workers is our, is our tape measure trap. Tape measures are a finicky deal. Um, there was an infamous story that all the safety pros out there I've heard about from back in 2014, when the tape measure, unfortunately fell 50 stories and struck a delivery driver killing him. Um, so we've got a couple of different size tape measure traps that really act as a harness to wrap around a tape measure. And it's been a tried and true product for us for, for quite some time, but we've introduced a new size, uh, recently to accommodate those larger tape measures, um, that are really beefy to handle. Um, so I think folks really love those. Um, and then a newer solution is kinda like the tape measure trap is, uh, is a radio trap, which acts as a harness around radios, which again, listening to that end user saying, what are you dropping most often? Those are a couple of them, um, tape measures and radios. So, so that's a, that's a big one. And we have a whole host of new products, uh, in the pipeline, in the attachment realm. Um, and then from a lanyard standpoint, a must have is our, our retractable tool lanyards. Uh, we've really spent a lot of time and effort getting lower profile options, um, that can be worn on a harness, for example, um, that retract out there, excuse me, extend out and retract back into limit that spider web effect or that spaghetti effect or whatever metaphor you want to use. Um, these things are, are super selective and we're spending a lot of time in the retractable world cause just like fall protection move to retractables, tool tethering is, uh, as well. And then finally in the, in the topping world, um, we came out with what, one of the first, if not the first ANSI compliant hoist bucket last year, um, it's a zipper top bucket rated to a hundred pounds. Um, and these things have been tested tough. I mean, they, you have to load up a five to one safety factor in these things. Um, and that means 500 pounds are loaded in them, so these things are going to going to last on the job site, uh, and people have been loving them. So, and then conveniently enough, you can take that bucket and put out all your tethering stuff in it. So those, those are kind of the top three, I'd say Al is, you know, that tape measure and radio trap, um, that retractable tool lanyard, and then that the new ANSI compliant bucket would, uh, be three to come to mind.

Al (27:46):
Got it, got it. And that, uh, hoist bucket too, I think, uh, correct me if I'm wrong is a really great example too, of yeah designing, uh, to meet a standard, but then also taking into account, um, you know, all that, that user feedback we get, um, you know, that you get Nate, that Allie brings back from the field. Um, and I'm right in that, right? What, what sort of features, um, we're, we're kind of baked into that new design of the hoist bucket to account for end user feedback?

Nate (28:17):
Yeah. Uh, Allie might think of some too, but the, the hoist bucket, for example, we have a model, one of the most challenging elements of tethering is where do I tie off to? We always encourage people to take, take their lanyards off the body if they can. I know that's easier said than done, but one of the models of hoist buckets we have, you know, some anchor points that you can, you can attach to. Um, and then the other thing is, is these things get beat up. So the, the new synthetic fabric, we've moved a little bit away from canvas, um, because of the durability of it, this synthetic fabric it lasts. Um, so it's built on the bucket itself and then comes up to the top, which is a zipper top bucket that allows for like a super wide opening and people really preferred that zipper top rather than a removable top that was getting lost. So that, that feedback came in all the time to us is we want the top integrated into the bucket. So we did that with these new buckets and I think people really like it.

Al (29:24):
Got it. Are you, are you finding that Allie? Like it's, it's got to be kind of cool to, um, kind of see both ends of that process, right? Wherein you're, you're out there you're taking feedback, um, from, uh, you know, the safety pros and work crews, um, bringing that back to, uh, you know, our innovation team and then being able to deliver those, those solutions that actually bake those, uh, bake that feedback into it. It's gotta be pretty cool.

Allie (29:55):
Yeah. It's super rewarding. And, you know, there's, there's some things that we have in the pipeline that hopefully, you know, it will be really exciting to see come full circle. And of course, like Nate mentioned until we all sign our lives away we can't share that right now, but in, you know, other product categories and even within this one, you know, just the other day I was at one of the contractors that really helped us in the development of the low-profile retractables. And as I was at their job site and kind of showcasing those one of the gentlemen that was part of a lot of our VOC groups came up and he's like, Hey I had a huge part in the development of that. And so, you know, there's a lot of pride with the workers that do help and give us their opinions and, you know, field test some of the gear that we're putting out as we're in the prototyping phase or even potentially further down the line in the process. And, you know, they, they enjoy the process. They like that people are listening to them because ultimately they're the ones using these items. And so, you know, to, to watch that process come full circle and then see the product that we launch at the end of the day make it back to their job site where they can say, Hey, I provided a lot of opinions on this. I'm so excited to use it. Uh, it, it really is super rewarding and really fun to see. And you see a lot of it happening in tool tethering, especially because, you know, one of the biggest things that I hear when trying to implement a policy on site or help with that is you have a lot of workers who say, I've done this for 15, 20 years. I've never had to use a lanyard before. Why do I have to change the way that I work? And, you know, watching them kind of go through that process to number one, understand that yes, you know, you have done this, but all we're trying to do is ensure safety on the job site and make sure that everybody makes it home safe. Nobody goes to the, to work in the morning, intending to drop something. And, you know, as they start to see that shift and the product start to become less cumbersome and more, you know, like I mentioned, specific to the tool and really not interfere at all. It's really fun to see that shift in attitude and how they are, you know, actually grateful for the options that do exist on the market.

Al (32:08):
For sure, for sure. I think, I think that's a good positive vibe to end the convo on. Uh, Nate, uh, obviously, you know, we can probably make an entire podcast based on dropped object prevention, um, as a topic by itself. So we're definitely going to have you on, um, if, if you'll agree to it, uh, we'll have, we'll have you on, uh, definitely on, in the future, uh, to unpack, you know, more of this, uh, this topic. Um, and I just can't thank you enough, uh, for, for joining us and, and, uh, kind of demystifying 121, um, and, and translating that for us.

Nate (32:46):
Well, absolutely. Thanks for having me, you two. Always enjoy talking to you both and thank the listeners for, for liking this podcast and having me on as well. Hope, uh, hope you guys have a great day and, uh, you know, let me know next time, I'm in.

Al (33:01):
Sounds good. Uh, just a reminder, you can definitely check out, uh, all the solutions, uh, Nate and Allie were talking about on Ergodyne.com, um, in, for further guidance on, you know, how to select, how to use all of those great solutions, uh, jump over to the Tenacious Blog and search drops on, uh, in the search bar. So thanks everybody for joining us. Stay safe out there people.