Fall Protection

Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. Fall protection is consistently OSHA’s most commonly cited standard.  In fact, OSHA cited 6,010 fall protection violations in 2019. Among the different methods of fall protection, fall restraint and fall arrest are often used interchangeably. So, let’s look at the differences.

OSHA requires the use of some form of fall protection when:

  • a worker is working at a minimum height of 4 or 6 feet for general industry and construction respectively, or
  • a worker is working at any height where there is danger below. For example, objects that could impale the worker are below the work surface.

Fall Restraint

A fall restraint system stops the worker before they fall by preventing the fall. This method prevents workers from reaching the fall hazard by restraining the worker. An example of this is when a worker is anchored by a lanyard that is too short to allow them access to an unprotected leading edge. A guardrail is another example of fall restraint.

ANSI Z359.0-2007 defines fall restraint and fall restraint systems.

Eliminating the hazard, in this case preventing the fall, is always the best method of protection. However, some job tasks may require fall arrest methods.

Fall Arrest

A fall arrest system protects workers after they fall by stopping the fall. The purpose is to stop the worker before they impact with the lower level. An example of this type of equipment is a personal fall arrest system (PFAS) comprised of a harness, lanyard, fall break or deceleration device. The equipment must bring the worker to a stop before coming into contact with a lower level while reducing the force of the impact when the worker comes to a stop. A fall arrest system is most appropriate when workers are working near a leading edge and their center of gravity could cross over the edge.

ANSI Z359.0-2007 defines fall arrest and fall arrest systems.

How do you know which one to choose?

Choosing the right fall protection equipment is vital in protecting workers and reducing injuries. This will vary depending on the activities workers are expected to perform and the potential hazards around them. It is important to consider all forms of fall protection, such as PFAS, guardrails, and safety nets for example. Preparation is key to preventing falls.

Companies must:

Companies should always consider job risk factors. Utilizing a JSA can aid in identifying the hazards and risks associated with job tasks. (Download our free electronic JSA.) Additionally, companies should consider the scope of work being completed and the different types of protection available to best determine equipment needs and methods for completing the work. Equipment can include types of scaffolds, ladders, and safety gear. Workers should be trained on fall hazard awareness as well as how to use the equipment and follow safety procedures.  Staying alert, aware and prepared on the job can significantly reduce risk.

Which kind of fall protection is best for your worksite? 

ReSolve can provide experienced safety specialists to inspect your job site for hazards and make site specific recommendations to reduce your risk. We also provide OSHA compliant training that can teach your employees to recognize and respond to fall hazards. Contact us for additional information.

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