Fall Protection FAQs

Setting your team up with the right safety equipment for a job should be a top priority. Explore our answers to the questions we often hear about fall protection.

1. At What Height Is Fall Protection Required?

In general industries, fall protection equipment is required when workers are elevated a total of 4′ or higher. That said, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific guidelines for fall protection based on the environment employees work in. For example, those operating in the construction field must have fall protection equipment when working heights exceeding 6′.

2. What Is the Difference Between Fall Arrest and Fall Restraint?

Fall arrest and fall restraint systems sound similar, but they work differently. A fall arrest system allows a fall to occur, but the technology is designed to minimize the chances of a person making contact with another surface. In other words, these systems shorten the distance of the fall and catch the worker in suspension, rather than preventing it.

On the other hand, a fall restraint system utilizes a tie-off system that prevents workers from reaching an edge, falling over an edge, or sliding off a surface entirely.

The right system for you will depend on factors like your location, the task at hand, and how much space you have available.

3. What Are the Three Components of a Personal Fall Arrest System?

A personal fall arrest system (PFAS) includes an anchor, bodywear, and connectors. When worn properly, the main components of the system make it safe to complete tasks at working heights. A deceleration device is an optional fourth component.

Learn more about the function of each piece of a PFAS below:

  • Anchor: The piece a worker attaches to while working at elevation.
  • Bodywear: The full-body harness portion of a PFAS.
  • Connectors: Components that bridge the gap between the user harness and the anchorage point.
  • Deceleration devices: A piece of hardware that allows the user to be lowered safely post-fall.

4. What Is a Competent Person?

The term Competent Person describes a safety manager, supervisor or individual with exceptional safety training in the workplace. These individuals are able to identify workplace hazards, stop work completely, and take action to correct issues relating to dangerous or unsanitary environments.

5. What Is a Qualified Person?

Qualified Person mostly works away from your job site. These individuals undergo extensive training and may hold a degree to approve structures (i.e. an engineer). You may find a Qualified Person visiting your facility occasionally when taking on a larger building project.

6. What Is an SRL in Fall Protection?

Self-retracting lifelines (SRLs) are pieces of equipment that detect when someone is falling and initiate an auto-locking mechanism to arrest the fall. The devices allow users to move freely at working heights with a set amount of tension on the restraint. If the SRL detects an increase in speed, it will stop the ropes from extending farther.

You might think of an SRL like a vehicle seatbelt. The device offers slight tension so the wearer can adjust it and stay comfortable, but the system locks as soon as there’s an abrupt pull.

7. What Is a Vertical Lifeline Assembly?

Those working in construction or roofing industries use vertical lifeline assemblies (VLAs) in fall restraint scenarios. These systems consist of poly-rope, a self-locking snap hook and a positioning device to keep users from stepping over an edge. Positioning devices are adjustable based on the size of a workspace.

8. What Is the Hierarchy of Fall Protection?

Facility managers can follow a series of steps to protect employees from falls. The hierarchy of fall protection is as follows:

  1. Eliminating the hazard: See what steps your facility can take to minimize falling hazards. Anything you can do to limit the time workers are at heights is helpful. For example, crews can do some preparation work from the ground, like building walls with cranes or putting the equipment together before installing it at elevation.
  2. Controlling the perimeter: Install guardrails and hole covers on a jobsite to reduce the chances of falls.
  3. Restraining the fall: Consider using harnesses and tie-off points to keep employees a set distance away from a roof’s edge. The closest you should allow someone to an edge is 6′.
  4. Arresting the fall: Some jobs leave little choice but to work near a fall hazard. Ensure fall arrest equipment is in place and employees have the training to use it properly.
  5. Performing administrative control: Be sure to alert others of fall hazards. Steps here might include drawing warning lines or making controlled access zones for select personnel.

9. What Is the Life Span of My Fall Protection?

Some types of fall protection equipment may have an expiration date. You can typically find information about your equipment’s life span in the owner’s manual.

Not all equipment will have an expiration date. In these cases, a Competent Person should regularly inspect your gear to ensure it’s in an acceptable condition for use. You can prolong the life of your personal fall protection equipment by storing it in a temperature-controlled setting and keeping it clean.

10. What Are the ABCDs of Fall Protection?

The main components of a fall arrest system are referred to as the ABCDs of fall protection because each part starts with one of the first four letters of the alphabet. These include the anchor, body harness, connectors, and a deceleration device.

11. What Are the Four Methods of Fall Protection?

You can take four approaches to prevent falls on the job site:

  • Fall elimination: Managers assess the risks associated with a job site and remove them. The action might include lowering equipment so workers can complete jobs closer to the ground.
  • Fall prevention: Workers utilize active or passive systems in addition to working near guardrails.
  • Fall arrest: Individuals use specific equipment to prevent themselves from hitting a lower surface or the ground after a fall.
  • Fall restraint: Lanyards and lifelines set at specific lengths make it impossible for workers to fall.

12. What Is the Difference Between OSHA and ANSI?

OSHA is connected to the United States Department of Labor, and it is responsible for establishing guidelines around safe working conditions in the country. The group enforces standards nationwide through ongoing training and education assistance. OSHA creates the standards that become the law across various industries.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a nonprofit organization that determines how products and systems are to be manufactured and used. In some cases, OSHA may choose to adopt ANSI regulations as laws.

13. How Do I Choose the Right Safety Harness?

To find the right fall protection harness for a given application, you’ll need to assess the physical characteristics of the equipment to see whether or not it’s suitable for your industry. Keep these factors in mind:

  1. The harness should meet the OSHA and ANSI standards for your industry.
  2. Your equipment must have D-Rings in the correct locations for the job.
  3. A safety harness should fit tightly without constricting the user.
  4. Harnesses should be lightweight and comfortable for daily use.
  5. Safety harnesses should be reflective or bright in color to ensure visibility.
  6. Only harnesses inspected or reviewed by a Competent Person belong on your job site.

14. How Do I Choose the Correct Connector?

Keep these steps in mind when selecting the best harness connector for your job:

  1. Learn what type of anchor is available on-site.
  2. Determine whether the anchor point will be above or below you.
  3. See how far the anchor will be from the worksite.
  4. Decide whether leading edge protection is necessary.
  5. Determine whether single or dual lifelines are necessary.

15. What Fall Protection Gear Do I Need?

The ideal fall protection gear for you depends on your field. You can use the Outfit Your Crew tool from Malta Dynamics to find equipment that’s comfortable, durable and compliant.

16. What Is the Purpose of a Trauma Relief Strap?

Trauma relief straps stay stowed near the waist section of a safety harness and can be deployed if a fall occurs. They create a bridge, or step, for the worker to stand on while they wait for rescue. They reduce pressure on the stress points of the body post-fall so the individual can remain comfortable and keep circulation going to their legs. The two main types of trauma relief straps are stirrup and single straps.

Stirrup trauma relief straps require users to step in with each foot. Single straps call for the user to step on the device similar to a bridge.

17. How Do I Use a D-Ring?

You can place D-Rings in different locations on a harness, including the dorsal, side, chest or shoulder areas. It’s important to ensure a harness fits correctly before fastening other equipment to your D-Rings.

It’s important to know what each D-Ring is used for before starting work. Side D-Rings are for work positioning applications, only.

18. How Often Should Fall Protection Equipment Be Inspected?

Workers who use fall protection equipment should inspect their setup daily. You should also have a Competent Person inspect your company’s fall protection equipment at least once per year. You may consider more frequent inspections if you regularly work in changing conditions.

19. When Should I Replace My Harness?

If your fall protection harness has an expiration date, be sure to follow manufacturer instructions. Otherwise, look for signs of deterioration before each use. Focus on the material of the harness and its hardware. Replace the harness immediately if you notice the following:

  • Fading of the harness webbing
  • Missing D-Rings, belts or buckles
  • Moisture spots on harness materials
  • Cuts or fraying on the webbing

You should also replace a harness if it’s been compromised or involved in a fall.

20. Is a Self-Retracting Lifeline the Same as a Yo-Yo?

Self-retracting lifelines and yo-yos are both deceleration devices used to arrest a fall. Depending on where you operate, you might also know these devices as self-retracting lanyards, retracts, or retractable lifelines.

21. Can I Use an SRL Without a Shock Absorber?

Most SRLs on the market have some sort of energy absorption device equipped. Some models have an external shock pack, while others have a braking mechanism inside. All Class A and Class B SRLs have shock absorption technology in some form. You can verify this information with your owner’s manual.

22. Why Do I Need a Rescue Plan and How Do I Create One?

OSHA requires businesses to have a written fall protection rescue plan in place. Falls are a leading cause of death for professionals in the construction industry, so having a plan ready for an emergency is essential.

Malta Dynamics has templates available online to help you identify hazards on your site and map out an effective rescue plan for every worker.

23. Are Annual Inspections Required for Fall Protection Equipment?

OSHA requires that all businesses have a Competent Person inspect fall protection equipment once per year. Teams working in extreme temperatures may have a Competent Person assess equipment more often.

A Competent Person will look at each component of a fall protection system during an inspection, including harnesses, lifelines, lanyards and SRLs.

24. How Do I Inspect My Fall Protection Harness?

You can check that your fall protection harness is in working condition from day to day by inspecting the following:

  • Stitching and webbing: Look for cut, broken or pulled stitches on the harness. Push webbing surfaces into an inverted U-shape to check for imperfections from chemicals and heat exposure.
  • Harness tags: Verify the harness’s manufacturing date and expiration date if one is listed.
  • D-Rings: Make sure there are no cracks or signs of corrosion on harness D-Rings. None of the hardware on your harness should be loose or have a hard time connecting with corresponding pieces.

25. How Do I Get My Crew to Wear Safety Gear?

Team leaders are responsible for encouraging the use of safety gear. Remind your crew that this equipment is intended to save lives and prevent injuries. You should also ensure your workers are aware of the repercussions of not wearing safety gear, which might include fines for your company or dismissal from a site.

Contact Malta Dynamics With Other Questions

Still have questions about fall protection equipment? Reach out to the professionals at Malta Dynamics by calling (800) 494-1840 for more information.