According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety over 42,000 workers get injured annually due to fall incidents in Canada. That represented nearly 1 in 5 lost-time injuries in 2016. Understanding the lingo used is as important as knowing how fall protection PPE works.

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.

man working on beam wearing fall protection gear


1. What is fall protection?

Fall protection is an umbrella term for 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.

A man wearing a a yellow construction hat and harness is tied off to a piece of rebar

2. What’s the difference between passive and active fall protection?

Passive fall protection:

A passive fall protection system is stationary. It doesn’t move, adapt or change when it’s in or out of use.

Workers don’t have to wear additional PPE when using passive fall protection. The system does all the work.

Examples of passive systems include:

  • 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:

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.

Every active fall protection system secures 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. What’s fall arrest vs. fall restraint?

  • 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 many options when it comes to active fall protection systems, but you need to make sure you choose the right system for your need. Some of those include (but aren’t limited to!):

  • Immovable point fall protection systems: These are great for jobs like high-rise window cleaning where overhead fall protection 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:

  1. Anchorage
  2. Full-body harness
  3. Lanyard
  4. Connectors (i.e. carabiners, snap hooks)

Your fall arrest system isn’t complete unless all four of these components are included and properly used.

Bonus: Does Levitt-Safety offer fall protection courses?

Whether your job-site uses passive or active fall protection systems, it’s essential that you perform regular maintenance and inspection of your working at heights equipment. You also need to ensure your workers are trained with their equipment.

To help with that, we provide a variety of online and in-person courses, including:

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Michael Douglas

National Manager, Marketing Segments

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