Working in Fall Restraint or Fall Arrest
If you can work in restraint, it’s much better than fall arrest. When you’re working in restraint, you’re removing the fall hazards. So, you’re not able to fall over an edge or off of a working surface. There’s a couple of different types of fall restraint. The most popular on most job sites is called passive. That would be if you had a guardrail or something that works as a guardrail setup. In passive, you do not wear a safety harness, you work in your area and then there are certain parameters in which the guardrail has to be per OSHA standards.
The passive system has guardrails where you have mobile bases or you can mount them into wood or concrete, just depending on the surface you’re working on. With those, you are required to be able to withstand a 200 lb outward force and 200 lb downward force. They typically have a top rail and middle rail and sometimes a toe board. It just depends on the work and the environment. There is a huge variety of options. These options include mobile, permanent, some that fold down, and some that are aesthetically pleasing. Passive fall protection is a wide game with a lot of good products.
Active fall restraint means that you are wearing a safety harness but then a non-shock absorbing lanyard. 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’s what you’d 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. We like to use the example of a dog on a leash. So, for example, your roof is your yard and your neighbor’s yard is your fall hazard. What you want to do is make sure the leash that you have on your dog doesn’t allow them to reach your neighbor’s yard. You can put them on a leash that allows them to go back and forth just as long as they can’t get to the fall hazard.
The last case is fall arrest, which means you can fall. You’re working on a roof or somewhere where you can get to the edge and if you were able to make it to the edge you can fall. We teach the hierarchy of fall protection and the number one is you want to remove the fall hazard. You don’t want to have to work in restraint or fall arrest. If you are unable to do that, then work in restraint first. If you have the ability to work in passive that’s great. If you have the ability to work in active fall restraint that’s better than exposing yourself to a fall regardless if you have the right gear to arrest your fall.
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