Mixing and Matching Fall Protection: Can I do that?

Can I mix Fall Protection Equipment from different manufacturers?

Although many published documents from manufacturers contain statements such as “Brand X harnesses are designed for use with Brand X components.  Substitution or replacement with non-approved components combinations or subsystems or both may affect or interfere with the safe function of each other and endanger the compatibility within the system”, it does NOT violate OSHA or ANSI to utilize components from different manufacturers in a fall protection system. Mixing manufacturer’s equipment is less about regulations or safety and more about potential litigation should equipment fail. Manufacturers know that mixed brand fall protection systems are used every day with no harmful outcome. However, these same groups must state that this practice is ill-advised due to legal liability.

Using components from different manufacturers in assembling a fall protection system is safe and acceptable to OSHA and ANSI provided the components are “compatible” as determined by a competent person. ANSI defines compatible as; “Capable of orderly, efficient integration and operation with other elements or components in a system, without the need of special modification or conversion, such that connection will not fail when used in the manner intended”. OSHA 1926, Subpart M, Appendix C states; “Ideally, a personal fall arrest system is designed, tested, and supplied as a complete system. However, it is common practice for lanyards, connectors, lifelines, deceleration devices, body belts and body harnesses to be interchanged since some components wear out before others. The employer and employee should realize that not all components are interchangeable. For instance, … . Any substitution or change to a personal fall arrest system should be fully evaluated or tested by a competent person to determine that it meets the standard, before the modified system is put in use”.

Bottom line is you should strive to purchase your fall protection equipment from the same manufacturer, but when inheriting a mix of equipment already present at your site, changing over to a new brand, or needing specific equipment not available from your “preferred” manufacturer, you can safely, and in full compliance with OSHA, assemble personal fall protection systems with components from differing manufacturers provided all equipment is compatible with each other for their intended uses.

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