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What Are the 4 Methods of Fall Protection – [Updated 2022]

July 14, 2022

Work environments need a rescue plan and fall protection system in place to protect workers and prevent falls.  Here, we discuss the four methods of fall protection and other safety protocol.

Active fall protection systems are crucial in the construction industry, and fall arrest systems and various types of fall protection must be taken seriously. You must actively equip yourself with the knowledge to navigate a fall hazard and your work environments safely. Moreover, your employees need fall protection training in order to properly use their equipment and to maintain OSHA compliance.

Learn more about active and passive fall protection, the various fall restraint systems and methods, and how a fall protection system can keep you safe.  After you check out this article, be sure to check out our complete list of fall protection safety tips as well.

1. Fall Arrest Systems Safety Harness for Scissor Lifts

A fall arrest system is comprised of an anchorage, connector, and body harness. These systems are used as deceleration devices so a falling worker doesn’t hit the ground at full force. Administrative controls are used to keep the device in check.

2. Positioning Systems

These systems are designed to utilize a harness as a fall restraint to prevent falls on vertical surfaces. A fall restraint system allows the worker to keep both hands free in case of an emergency by positioning them in such a way that the harness support their weight if they slip.

3. Suspension Systems

A suspension system is commonly used by window washers so that they are protected from a potential hazard when working. Arresting forces work against the worker’s weight and gravity and are active unlike passive fall protection of physical barriers.

4. Retrieval Systems

Where other systems simply practice fall guarding, retrieval systems are designed to rescue the worker by reeling them in after an incident so that they aren’t left dangling in mid-air.

Safety Harness Parts

What Are the 2 Types of Fall Protection?

To avoid fall hazards, personal protective equipment (PPE) is required in every company. Most PPE can be sorted into one of two broader categories: active protection and passive protection.

1. Active Fall Protection Systems

Lifelines are a personal system designed to keep a worker from falling and sustaining serious injuries. This type of protective equipment serves as a personal restraint in the form of body harnesses worn by the worker, anchorages, and components that snap into place. Safety body belts are prohibited from being used as a personal fall arrest system.

Lifelines enable a free fall distance of no more than six feet, preventing severe injuries from being sustained by workers. Personal arrest systems must be safely attached to anchor points by a qualified person who can both design and install said points. As such, this type of protection is considered to be active accident protection due to the participation of the worker and the anchor points.

2. Passive Fall Arrest Protection Systems

This type of arrest system is considered passive protection for accidents. A body harness or anchor point may not be feasible when considering fall protection solutions for the construction industry. With nets, the total fall distance for workers cannot be more than 30 feet to ensure they are not hurt during the incident. Alongside netting, guard rails serve to prevent accidents passively as well.

Passive protection plans for accidents work best in environments where engineering controls cannot be implemented for height hazards. Administrative controls, while beneficial, are not always effective in architectural settings where full-body harnesses can get tangled up. Passive systems are stationary and require no effort from the workers to be effective.

Fall Protection Diagram

What Are 3 Types of Fall Protection Devices?

It’s also important to know about the different devices designed to support workers in the event of a tumble on the job. Accidents happen even when a hazard area is clearly marked, so educating yourself and other employees about these devices and fall protection training can eliminate the fall risk in the workplace.

While these are not the only devices available, they are widely used to ensure occupational safety for those in the construction industry. By learning about these devices, you can better understand how to use them in an emergency which may just save your life.

1. Shock-Absorbing Lanyards

Used as part of a protection system, a shock-absorbing lanyard is designed to support workers’ body weight in case of an accident as a combined tool with a body harness. Window washers, for example, tend to work more than six feet off the ground, resulting in the need for a self-retracting lifeline in case of an emergency.

With this arrest system in place, the rope grabs onto the worker as they tumble and absorbs the impact so that the body harness safely supports the fallen worker while minimizing the damage they take from the accident.

2. Guard Rail Systems

A leading cause of accidents is a lack of guard rails in the construction industry. It’s easy to lose your footing when you’re moving about and working on unstable surfaces. Fall protection equipment is necessary for ensuring workers are safe on the job.

3. Nets

Nets are best used as a deceleration device in construction areas needing a fall protection plan. As restraint systems, nets can support the body weight and the force of the worker hitting the net, carefully slowing the worker down and cushioning their body. When other devices are not feasible, a net can do the work for you.

What Is the Best Method of Fall Protection in the Workplace?

The best way to protect against a fall hazard is to have comprehensive fall prevention training so that you and your team are educated on the risks and procedures in case of an accident. Educating yourself about the different devices can help you understand how they work and how you can assist your fellow workers if they find themselves in trouble.

Each method has benefits and drawbacks for different scenarios. Staying up to date with the latest safety information can help you decide what the right system is for you and your team.

Creating Systems for Safety

Many systems can be used to prevent disastrous accidents in the construction industry and each one has different purposes to be most effective. Knowing which accident protection system is best for your job site and how to best maintain it can be life-saving.

Don’t let your workers get hurt when you can take action to protect them. Use these systems and devices to protect everyone on-site.