Why is it better to work in fall restraint than it is to work in fall arrest?

On this week’s episode of Dynamic Discussions, Greg and David tell us why it’s better to work in fall restraint rather than fall arrest. Fall arrest is when a worker is tied-off to a personal fall arrest system and has the ability to fall over an edge. Active fall restraint is when a worker is tied-off to a personal fall arrest system and cannot reach an edge. Passive fall restraint is when a worker physically cannot get over an edge because of a barrier, like guardrail.

The hierarchy of fall protection outlines the preferred methods of fall safety. In order of most preferred to least preferred, the elements of the hierarchy or fall protection are:

1. Eliminate the Hazard
2. Passive Fall Restraint
3. Active Fall Restraint
4. Fall Arrest Systems
5. Controlled Access Zones

The Hierarchy of Fall Protection

Fall prevention is the preferred method of protection and that involves completely removing the hazard. Fall restraint is the next most preferred method and that involves adding measures that protect against falling over the hazardous edge. Things like guardrail and safety netting are examples of passive fall restraint protection. Fall arrest is a scenario that involves wearing the components of the personal fall arrest system. Wearing the harness, anchor, and lifeline allow a worker to operate safely at heights and will catch, or arrest, the fall if an accident occurs.

Fall Restraint

When working at heights, keeping your workers safe from a fall is the number one goal. There are several different ways to achieve this, but one of the most effective and preferred ways is to work in fall restraint.

There are a couple of different types of fall restraint; passive and active.

Passive Fall Restraint

When working in passive fall restraint it is not necessary for the worker to utilize a personal fall arrest system (PFAS). Passive fall restraint focuses on guarding edges and other fall hazards with a designed or manufactured solution that would prevent a worker from exposing themselves to a fall hazard.

Guardrails are a good example of a passive fall restraint solution.

Active Fall Restraint

Active fall restraint involves the worker wearing a full body harness and complete personal fall arrest system. For example, if you are 4 feet from the edge, you’ll have a 2-3 ft. lanyard so you can’t reach the edge. That is what you would use with active fall restraint. You can anchor yourself to several different things such as a single anchor point or an engineered fall protection system.

Fall Arrest

When restraint is not an option, you move to working in fall arrest. When in fall arrest, you can experience a fall and the Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS) is designed to arrest a fall and keep the worker as safe as possible. 

Fall arrest is used when the worker is exposed to fall hazards. A PFAS is utilized to arrest a fall if one occurs. The key component to arresting a fall is the deceleration device, either a lanyard or self-retracting lifeline. It is important that all workers are trained on the components of the PFAS, and the rescue plan should a situation arise.

So Why Fall Restraint Over Fall Arrest?

The main benefit of working in fall restraint over fall arrest is that the worker doesn’t fall. When working with the hierarchy of fall protection it’s important to eliminate as many steps as possible. If eliminating the hazard is not an option, then working in fall restraint is the next safest practice.

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