“It’s only as strong as its weakest link.”
This phrase has been used to describe many things, from a team to a process. This is a short way of saying that it takes many parts to achieve success, and a weakness in one area can negate all the strengths in the other areas.
I often use this phrase to explain the complexities of active fall protection systems. A system is made up of many different aspects, including multiple components and other intangible elements—all of which have to be correct for the system to work as intended. This complexity is why active fall protection should be a last resort for protecting workers.
Some potential weak links include:
- Inappropriate anchorage
- Inadequate clearance
- Equipment misuse
- Incompatible components
- Lack of use and rescue procedures
- Improper training
- Post-fall suspension time, due to lack of rescue planning
If you suspect weak links in your system, I recommend system certification, which is explained in the ANSI Z359.6 standard. System certification checks the essential elements of an existing system or confirms that all elements of a new system are correct.
For active fall protection systems, weak links can result in catastrophe—even if only one element isn’t correct. If a fall protection system is only as strong as its weakest link, your fall protection program is only as strong as your weakest system.