What Does PFAS Stand For?

PFAS stands for the words Personal Fall Arrest System, so what does that mean? According to OSHA, this phrase is what we call a “system used to arrest an employee in a fall from a working level. It consists of an anchorage, connectors, a body belt or body harness, and may include a lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline, or suitable combinations of these.”

OSHA standard 1926.502(d)

OSHA mandates what when a personal fall arrest system is used to stop a fall, it shall:

  • limit maximum arresting force on an employee to 900 lbs. (4 kN) when used with a body belt;
  • limit maximum arresting force on an employee to 1,800 lbs. (8 kN) when used with a body harness;
  • be rigged such that an employee can neither free fall more than 6’ (1.8 m), nor contact any lower level;
  • bring an employee to a complete stop and limit maximum deceleration distance an employee travels to 3.5’ (1.07 m); and,
  • have sufficient strength to withstand twice the potential impact energy of an employee free falling a distance of 6’ (1.8 m), or the free fall distance permitted by the system, whichever is less.

The ABCD’s of Fall Protection

Like all good places to start, fall protection begins with the ABC’s as well. Anchors, bodywear, and connectors are the three main components of a personal fall arrest system. When used together these three components form a complete fall arrest system to provide appropriate safety while working at heights. There is, however, one more component of the PFAS that you should remember; the letter ‘D’. This stands for the deceleration device, the ability to rescue a worker after a fall. For a full overview of the ABCD’s of fall protection, you can watch our free webinar here.


Anchors are the point of attachment for the rest of the fall arrest system. It is incredibly important to make sure the anchor you utilize has been approved by a competent person. Your PFAS is only as strong as the anchor you’re attaching to. The anchor is what the worker ultimately attaches to, and it must be able to support the intended loads and provide the required safety factor for fall arrest. OSHA 1926.502(d)(15) states that anchorage used for personal fall arrest must be capable of supporting at least 5,000 lbs. per employee attached.


Bodywear for personal fall arrest systems typically come in the form of a full body harness. Fully body harnesses are designed to distribute the forces of a fall over the upper thighs, pelvis, chest, and shoulders. Previously body belts were an acceptable form of bodywear, but studies have shown body belts can cause severe organ damage in the case of a fall. Today’s body harnesses are designed to help distribute suspension forces over the body until the worker can be rescued.

Connecting Devices

Connectors come in a large variety of forms from lanyards to self-retracting lifelines. They are all designed to connect the worker’s full body harness to the anchorage point. When connecting devices, such as lanyards, are used in the fall restraint application they must be short enough to limit the worker from reaching the hazardous edge. When connecting devices are used in fall arrest scenarios, they must incorporate some sort of shock absorption, like a shock absorbing lanyard or shock pack on a self-retracting lifeline. One end of the connecting device attaches to the harness and the other end connects to the anchor to create a chain system.

Deceleration Devices

The deceleration device is an equally important factor in the personal fall arrest system. A swift and well planned rescue is vital to saving a worker’s life after a fall has been arrested. A descending device that will allow you to engage and provide the capability to lower or rise a worker to a safe rescue. A rescue self-retracting lifeline is a good example of an effective deceleration device. It will arrest the fall if one occurs and then allow the worker to be hoisted or repelled to safety, usually with a built-in winch.

With the proper equipment maintenance and employee training, this combination of the anchor, bodywear, connecting device, and deceleration device will create a reliable personal fall arrest system to keep you and your workers safe while working at heights.

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