A Beginner’s Guide to Fall Protection Systems


For more than a decade, the responsibility to have fall protection and ineffective or missing fall protection have been OSHA’s most-cited violations.

Not only has inefficient or absent fall protection been on OSHA’s most-cited violation list for more than a decade, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls to a lower level were the fourth leading fatal event in 2019 and the fifth leading event resulting in days away from work.

Fall Arrest: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Fall arrest is a type of fall prevention in which a person is safely stopped from falling. Fall guarding (protection that prevents a person from entering a fall danger area) and fall restraint are two further types of fall prevention (protection preventing the falling of persons working in a fall hazard area).

Fall arrest devices are required in instances when workers must work at elevated positions and are at risk of falling. Anyone operating at a height of 6 feet or greater should use them. The distance between the walking or working surface and the lower level is known as working height.

General and personal fall arrest are the two most common forms of fall arrest. When or if a fall happens, the fall arrest system is activated. Personal fall arrest devices must be retractable lifelines or full-body harnesses with shock-absorbing lanyards, according to OSHA requirements. Shock-absorbing lanyards reduce overall fall arresting forces, whereas full-body harnesses disperse forces across the employees’ bodies.

Beyond Arrest in the fall

There are four types of fall prevention devices in addition to fall arrest:

  1. Positioning

These technologies keep people in position while allowing them to operate with their hands free. When the employees lean back, they activate them. They do not offer fall protection.

  1. Davit Arms

Another one is reliable Davit arms, which are most commonly utilized in fall prevention, restricted area entry and retrieval, and rescue. Many various manufacturers provide different combinations of this unique equipment that can be temporary or permanent, manual or motorized, adjustable or fixed, and come in a variety of sizes.

  1. Suspension

These systems lower and support employees while allowing them to complete their tasks with their hands free. They’re typically utilized in combination with fall arrest devices in painting and window cleaning.

  1.  Retrieval

In the case of a fall, this category encompasses retrieval strategies and should be included in all fall management plans.

Fall arrest devices, as you can see, are an important technique to give adequate protection in the event of a fall. The other categories are intended to avoid or mitigate the effects of falls.

Types and Specifications of Fall Protection Systems

OSHA recommends several forms of fall safety devices depending on the purpose and activities they are used for:

  • Body belts save people working in dangerous positions from falling.
  • Chest harnesses can be utilized in locations with restricted fall hazards that do not entail vertical free fall, or for retrieving people from tanks, bins, or tight areas.
  • Full body harnesses have the power to arrest the most severe falls.
  • Suspension belts can be used to assist personnel who need to modify their vertical posture or conduct various tasks while suspended.
  • Because of their elastic qualities, rope lanyards are utilized as restraints.
  • Web lanyards are excellent for work areas where the risk of falling is less than 2 feet.
  • In hot or corrosive situations, cable lanyards function best, but they should be supported up with shock-absorbing devices.
  • Shock absorbers lower fall arresting forces and the danger of harm.
  • Rope grips are deceleration devices that travel on lifelines and allow the worker to safely ascend and descend while also locking the lifeline in the event of a fall.
  • In high-fall-hazard situations, retractable lifelines provide fall protection and mobility.
  • Safety nets are suitable for projects with no temporary flooring or scaffolding and a fall distance of more than 25 feet.
  • Rails can be used to prevent falls on fixed ladders and curved surfaces.

It shouldn’t be difficult to stay compliant and keep yourself safe by ensuring your M.A.F. does not exceed acceptable levels. Make sure you’re utilizing reputable brands of fall protective equipment, that they’re ANSI-certified, and that you’re following the manufacturer’s instructions.

There is no need for you to conduct any weird math, science, or sorcery because the manufacturers, OSHA, and ANSI have taken care of everything.