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What’s the Difference between Fall Protection, Fall Arrest and Fall Restraint?


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When undertaking a project at height, you must first establish whether working at height is the safest method by which to conduct the work. There are a greater number of potential hazards present when working from height than working from the ground. Understandably, the most effective way to control these hazards is to eliminate them. However where this is not possible then you must control the risks present to an acceptable level.

Legislation in the UK states that for situations where fall hazards exist, people working at a height of two metres or above must have fall-arrest equipment.

The Hierarchy of Fall Protection demands that certain stages are followed to protect workers from injury that can occur by falling. These stages are as follows: 

1. Adequate guards or handrails – These fall protection systems form a protective barrier around an edge or opening to prevent workers falling to a lower level. These can be temporary or permanent fixtures.

2. Fall Restraint – These are systems that prevent workers from travelling too close to an edge or opening where they could fall.

3. Fall Arrest – These are systems that stop workers from hitting the surface below after they fall.

What is Fall Protection?

Fall protection uses a guard rail or similar to prevent a person from falling. Fall protection must be provided at different minimum heights for different industries – four feet for general industry, five feet for shipyards, six feet in construction and eight feet in longshoring. It must also be in place if you workers will be working above dangerous machinery or equipment.

There are a number of measures that you must comply with in regards to fall protection including providing guard rails and guarding every floor hole into which a worker can accidentally walk into.

Where it is not possible to eliminate the risk of falling then you must ensure that there is a proper fall protection system in place to minimise the risk of a fall. This can be through installing a fall arrest or a fall restraint system. A fall restraint system prevents a worker from reaching a hazard, a fall arrest system allows workers to reach potential hazards but protects them should they fall.

What is Fall Restraint?

Fall restraint systems allow workers to move around in order to conduct their duties. However it will prevent them from reaching a point where a fall could occur. Typically fall restrain systems are positioned at around 2 metres from the hazard with the worker connected to a fixed length 1.5 metre lanyard.

What is Fall Arrest?

Fall arrest systems involve safely stopping a person who is already falling. These systems allow maximum freedom to conduct work. It allows them to reach the point where a potential fall could happen, such as a roof edge to conduct work. In the event of a fall the fall arrest system will come into effect by allowing the person to either effect a self-rescue or be rescued. An example of fall arrest equipment is safety netting. Safety netting is commonly used in the construction industry and should be installed as closely to the building as possible to protect workers and catch falling debris.

Industrial Rope Access Fall Safety

Inspection & Rope Access Specialists, rope access specialists based in Scotland, have experience completing rope access work in a number of different industries, including erecting netting as a fall protection method for oil rigs. We pride ourselves on our safety and efficiency and carefully plan all of our work at height projects before undertaking them. If you have a project in the UK or abroad that you believe would benefit from rope access methods, then contact us today to discuss.


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