ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 Standard: Your questions answered about the new American National Standard for Dropped Object Prevention Solutions

In July 2018, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) published their 121-2018 Dropped Objects Standard.

Your questions answered

It’s been in development for some time, and now it’s here it’s likely to have implications for dropped object prevention around the world.

It’s an important step for dropped object prevention, and one you need to know about. We’re going to answer some of the most common questions about this new safety standard, including:

  • What is the ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 Standard?
  • Does it cover how to tether tools?
  • Is ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 mandatory?
  • If it’s for North America will it affect me if I don’t work there?
  • Does this mean I need to replace my tool tethers?
  • How can I check if a product is ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 approved?
  • Why has it been introduced?
  • What is the ANSI?
  • What is the ISEA?
  • Are NLG tool tethering systems ANSI/ISEA 121-compliant?

What is the ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 Standard?

The ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 Standard is for tethering and container equipment that’s designed for dropped object prevention. This new American National Standard for Dropped Object Prevention Solutions sets out the minimum design, performance, testing and labelling requirements for any products designed to prevent dropped objects.

It’s important to note that the emphasis is on dropped object prevention, not protection. That means it doesn’t cover the likes of personal protective equipment (PPE), netting, barricades, toe boards or anything else that’s designed to protect workers from dropped objects rather than to prevent objects being dropped in the first place.

The standard currently covers four kinds of solutions:

  • Tool attachments – Defined as any retrofitted attachment points that are fitted to tools or other equipment to enable them to be tethered.
  • Anchor attachments – These allow a tool to be tethered to someone or something. They’re also retrofitted attachment points, but to a fixed anchor location (such as a structure) or a worker.
  • Tool tethers – The tool lanyards that tether the equipment to an anchor point.
  • Containers – Any container that can be used to transport tools, equipment or parts to and from work areas at height. This can include bags, buckets and pouches.

Does it cover how to tether tools?

The short answer is no. This standard is not about how you tether tools. It’s focused on the equipment you’re using for tool tethering.

That means you need to follow manufacturer guidance on weight limits for tethers, anchor points and harnesses, and make use of their training materials to learn how to safely tether your tools.

ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 also doesn’t specify what tools need to be tethered or when you should tether them.

Is ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 mandatory?

ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 is only directly applicable to workers and businesses in North America and it’s a voluntary standard. It’s not mandatory but that doesn’t mean you can ignore it.

This standard is establishing best practice in the field of tool tethering equipment. The Occupational Health and Safety Association (OHSA) in America or the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK might not have formal regulations for tool tethering equipment, but both state that companies and workers should follow best practice.

ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 is establishing best practice. That means you can’t just ignore it.

Why?

Because if you are investigated over a dropped object injury or fatality, the OHSA, HSE or any other investigatory body will look to see if you were following industry best practice. If you weren’t, you’ll face much tougher penalties.

If it’s for North America will it affect me if I don’t work there?

As we’ve already said, this isn’t mandatory but it will impact working at height around the world. Industry best practice is accepted beyond geographical borders. Although ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 has been published in the USA, that doesn’t mean regulatory authorities in the UK or elsewhere around the world won’t take the findings on board.

It could also act as a catalyst to encourage other countries to publish similar safety standards for tool tethering systems. By adopting the ANSI/ISEA 121 standard now, you’ll be ahead of the curve.

Ultimately we should all want to make our workplaces safer. Following the best practice guidance set out by ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 will do that.

Does this mean I need to replace my tool tethers?

No. If you’re already using tool tethers there’s no need to replace them immediately. This is a voluntary standard. However, you may want to think about upgrading your tool tethering equipment to ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 compliant tool lanyards as and when they need replacing.

If you don’t have proper tool tethers and are using makeshift tethers like string and duct tape, you should invest in proper tool tethering systems.

Why has it been introduced?

In the US, ‘struck by object’ is one of the leading causes of death on construction sites. Figures from the Bureau of Labour Statistics show there are over 50,000 ‘struck by object’ incidents every year in the US.

Reducing these figures has to be a priority. A lot of work has gone into fall prevention. Now it’s time to focus on dropped object prevention.

More and more people are working at height. That means it’s even more important to improve safety and reduce dropped object incidents.

What is the ANSI?

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private, not-for-profit organisation in the USA. It promotes ‘voluntary consensus standards’, which is a fancy way of saying they help create safety and quality standards that can be adopted across a whole industry (or industries).

Although ANSI standards are voluntary, they are often recognised as industry best practice. That means regulators can refer to these when deciding whether a company has done everything possible to prevent an incident from occurring.

What is the ISEA?

The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) is the trade association for safety manufacturers. It has been established for over 75 years and deals with personal protective equipment as well as technologies that improve safety in the workplace.

Its members are leaders in safety equipment manufacturing and they contribute to the creation of standards, like 121-2018, which can then be adopted by organisations like ANSI. ISEA is a global organisation. Its aim is to promote the safety of those who work in hazardous environments around the world.

Are NLG tool tethering systems ANSI/ISEA 121-compliant?

At NLG we’re committed to dropped object prevention and manufacture our tool tethering equipment to the highest standards. Tool tethering equipment that already complies with this new standard will be clearly marked as ‘ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 compliant’ in the specification.

You’ll find it listed alongside other important information, such as its maximum load rating, dimensions and the materials it’s made of.

Here’s an example:

We’re always working to ensure our products are of the highest standard and that they meet best practice guidance.