Falls are a leading cause of workplace injuries and fatalities, so fall protection is essential to workplace safety. Therefore, to reduce the risk of falls, employers must implement proper fall protection measures, including fall arrest and fall restraint systems.
Fall arrest and fall restraint are two common types of fall protection systems used in workplaces to protect workers from falls. Fall arrest systems are designed to stop a fall that has already occurred, whereas fall restraint systems are designed to prevent falls from occurring in the first place.
In this blog, we will provide an overview of fall arrest vs fall restraint, including their benefits, limitations, and how they work.
By understanding the differences between these two systems, employers can select the most appropriate fall protection system for their workplace and ensure the safety of their workers at heights.
Fall Arrest Systems
Fall arrest is a type of fall protection system designed to stop a fall that has already occurred.
It typically involves using a body harness connected to an anchor point and a shock-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lifeline. In the event of a fall, the shock-absorbing component of the system will deploy, reducing the impact on the worker's body.
Fall arrest systems are commonly used when workers are required to work at heights and cannot be protected by a fall restraint system.
Fall Restraint Systems
Fall restraint is a type of fall protection system designed to prevent falls from occurring in the first place.
It typically involves using a body harness connected to an anchor point by a lanyard or lifeline that restricts the worker's movement to a safe working area. In addition, fall restraint systems are designed to keep workers from reaching the edge of a fall hazard, ensuring they cannot fall.
Unlike fall arrest systems, fall restraint systems do not allow workers to fall at all, eliminating the need for a shock-absorbing component.
Fall restraint systems are commonly used when workers are required to work at heights, and a physical barrier or guardrail is not feasible or practical.
Differences between fall restraint and fall arrest systems
Here's a table highlighting some of the critical differences between fall restraint and fall arrest systems:
||Prevents falls from occurring in the first place by restricting worker movement to a safe area
||Stops a fall that has already occurred
||Limits worker mobility with a lanyard or lifeline to prevent falls
||Allows worker mobility but includes a shock-absorbing component to minimise the impact of a fall
||Anchor point located to prevent worker from reaching fall hazard
||Anchor point located to stop fall after it has occurred
||Shorter clearance requirements since worker cannot fall
||Longer clearance requirements due to the need to absorb fall impact
||Not required since the worker cannot fall
||Essential to reduce the impact of a fall
||Must be worn properly to prevent worker from reaching fall hazard
||Must be worn properly to ensure the shock-absorbing component can deploy correctly
||No fall distance since the worker cannot fall
||A fall distance must be taken into account to ensure the system can safely stop the fall
||Lower risk since the worker cannot fall
||Higher risk since the worker is allowed to move within the fall hazard area
||Focuses on proper use of the system and positioning within the safe area
||Focuses on proper use of the system and fall rescue procedures
||Often less expensive since it requires less equipment
||May be more expensive due to the need for additional equipment and shock-absorbing component
||Ideal for situations where a physical barrier or guardrail is not practical
||Ideal for situations where fall hazards cannot be eliminated or mitigated through other means
Training and Maintenance
Whether fall arrest or restraint, fall protection systems are only effective if used properly. Improper use can lead to severe injury or even death. Therefore, workers using fall protection systems must receive proper training.
Training should cover the equipment's proper use, inspection, and maintenance. It should also cover rescue procedures in case of a fall.
Proper training ensures workers understand how to use the equipment correctly and recognize potential hazards.
For example, they will learn how to inspect the equipment before each use, put on and adjust the harness properly, and properly connect to the anchor point. They will also learn how to recognize signs of wear and damage and when to remove equipment from service.
In addition to training, maintenance is essential to keep fall protection systems in good working condition. Fall arrest and restraint systems should be inspected regularly to ensure they are in good working condition. Inspections should include the following:
Checking the harness for wear and damage.
Inspecting the lanyard or lifeline for frays or cuts.
Inspecting the anchor point for damage or corrosion.
Fall arrest systems require additional maintenance, such as regular testing of the shock-absorbing component to ensure it functions properly. The manufacturer's instructions should be followed when conducting testing or maintenance.
Proper fall protection training and maintenance are essential for the safe use of fall protection systems. Workers must understand how to use the equipment correctly and recognize potential hazards. Regular inspections and maintenance are also necessary to keep the equipment in good working condition.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which system is better: fall restraint or fall arrest?
No "better" system exists as the choice between fall restraint and fall arrest depends on the specific work environment, hazards, and work tasks involved.
What is the maximum fall distance for fall restraint systems?
The maximum fall distance for fall restraint systems is zero, as the system is designed to prevent a worker from falling.
How do I choose the right fall protection system for my job?
Choosing the right fall protection system for a job involves assessing the work environment, identifying potential fall hazards, and selecting the appropriate system based on factors such as fall distance, anchor points, and mobility needs.
Both fall arrest and restraint systems are essential in protecting workers from fall hazards. However, the two systems differ significantly in their purpose, design, and use, so its important to understand the difference between fall arrest vs fall restraint.
Choosing the right fall protection system requires a thorough understanding of the work environment, the type of work being performed, and the potential fall hazards.
Workers must also receive proper online safety training and be equipped with the appropriate equipment to ensure their safety.
Regular maintenance and inspection of fall protection systems are also essential to ensure that they remain in good working condition and provide the necessary protection.
Ultimately, fall protection is a critical component of workplace safety, and it's essential to prioritise the well-being of workers who are at risk of falls.
By understanding the differences between fall arrest and fall restraint systems and ensuring that workers are equipped with the appropriate equipment and training, employers can create a safe work environment and prevent falls from occurring.