There’s more to working at heights safety than just harnesses and lanyards. It can be a tricky landscape to navigate – especially with so many confusing and similar sounding terms thrown in. If you’ve ever felt lost or left out of the working at heights conversation, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. Keep reading for answers to the top five working at heights questions we often hear.
1. Fall Protection vs. Fall Arrest vs. Fall Restraint – What’s the Diff?!
The term fall protection is an umbrella term that encompasses two types of systems:
- Systems designed to arrest a free fall, and
- Systems designed to restrain a worker from reaching a fall hazard
Fall protection systems can either be active or passive.
2. What Makes PASSIVE Fall Protection Different than ACTIVE Fall Protection?
A passive fall protection system is stationary. It doesn’t move, adapt or change when it’s in or out of use. Passive systems don’t need workers to wear additional PPE when using them, or even any active participation from the user – they do all the work. Some examples of passive systems are netting, handrails, and guardrails. Passive systems work best in architectural designs and working environments where fall hazards can’t be engineered out.
Active fall protection systems are dynamic. The user needs to wear specific PPE and interact with the system for their active system to function properly. You’ll find two types of systems under the active fall protection category – fall restraint and fall arrest systems. Every active fall protection system secure a harnessed worker to an anchorage point with a lanyard, but there are some major differences between fall restraint, and fall arrest. Which leads us to…
3. So Then What’s Fall ARREST vs. Fall RESTRAINT?
I thought you’d never ask. Let’s break it down:
- Fall restraint systems typically use a fixed-length lanyard to keep a worker’s center of gravity from going over a fall hazard leading edge
- Fall arrest systems incorporate various types of lanyards – including rip stitch and SRLs – designed to stop a freefalling worker from impacting a lower level
Fall restraint and fall arrest tools are both active fall arrest systems, and can also be referred to as Personal Fall Arrest Systems (or PFAS).
4. Which Products Are Classified as ACTIVE Fall Protection Systems?
There are tons of options when it comes to active fall protection systems, but you need to make sure you select the right system for your particular application. Some of those include (but aren’t limited to!):
- Immovable point fall protection systems
- Great for jobs like high-rise window cleaning where overhead fall protection just won’t work
- Vertical fall protection systems
- Ideal for use in places like unprotected radio towers where workers can freely move up and down the entire height of the work area
- Horizontal fall protection systems
- Perfect for workplaces with strong overhead support structures that can support a horizontal system
5. What Makes an Active Fall Protection System?
In order to be classified as a truly active fall protection system, the product must include these essential, working parts:
Your fall arrest system isn’t complete unless all four of these components are included and properly used.
Whether your job-site uses passive or active fall protection systems, worker training, regular system maintenance and regular inspection of all your working at heights equipment are essential to maximizing the effectiveness and safety of your system. Chances are you’ll be able to kind a system sold in a kit, ready to install. Manufacturers also allow customers to order custom-made systems to meet the specific fall protection needs of their workplace.
Whatever your needs, be sure to select the fall protection system that maximizes workplace productivity, while minimizing both risk and cost. Still have questions? Consider signing up for one of our online fall protection courses.
And if you need help making the right selection for your working at heights needs, get in touch with us today.