When you’re working at heights and you can’t physically remove the hazard, you must install fall protection. The first thing to know, there are two different types of fall protection, passive and active.
What’s the difference? Well, that’s a great question!
Second, when tasked with keeping your crew safe on a jobsite that’s 6ft or higher you must determine which type of fall protection you need. Do you need active or passive fall protection.
Active fall protection is easily transported gear that protects workers from falling. Furthermore, this type of fall protection has two categories; fall restraint and fall arrest. A fall restraint system tethers you to the building, stopping you before you reach the edge. These are typically harnesses that you wear with a lifeline that is attached to an anchor. Whereas a fall arrest system is designed to protect you once you’ve fallen. They will catch you before the ground does! This system is a full body harnesses and lifelines that are attached to anchors.
Passive fall protection is installed to block access to a fall hazard such as unprotected edges or holes in the ground. For example, guardrails along the edges of a rooftop, barriers around the opening of a manhole and scaffolding are all passive types of fall protection.
Employers must set up the work place to prevent employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated work stations or into holes in the floor and walls. OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in longshoring operations. In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance. (OSHA)
To prevent employees from being injured from falls, employers must:
- Guard every floor hole into which a worker can accidentally walk (using a railing and toe-board or a floor hole cover).
- Provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open sided platform, floor or runway.
- Regardless of height, if a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment (such as a vat of acid or a conveyor belt) employers must provide guardrails and toe-boards to prevent workers from falling and getting injured.
- Other means of fall protection that may be required on certain jobs include safety harness and line, safety nets, stair railings and hand rails.
What Industries Use Fall Protection
The OSHA requirement is any job at a height of 6 feet or more needs to implement fall protection safeguards. There may be industries you may not have realized should be using fall protection… maybe you’re working in one of them. And, that’s our goal! We want to make sure you go home safe at night.
Here is the list of common jobs that should be using one of these types of fall protection:
- Building Maintenance
- Sewers & Confined Space
- Wind Power
- Power Plants
- Farms (think silo safety!)
- Billboard Installers
- Bridge Workers
- Distribution & Fulfillment
- Lumber & Paper
- Distilleries & Breweries
- Aircraft Maintenance
- Telcom Towers
- Pipe Racks
- Roof Maintenance
- Power Transmission Towers
There are many options for you to choose from when in comes to the different types of fall protection.
Let’s dive deeper into each of the types of fall protection and the gear you may need.
Passive Fall Protection
Passive fall protection is a system that is non-dynamic and does not move whether in or out of use. Some examples include scaffolding, sky rails, manhole protectors, aerial lifts & platforms, safety netting, delineator posts, caution tape, and barricades. These offer a higher level of protection than active fall protection because it’s a physical barrier to the hazard. Furthermore the opportunity for human error is minimal compared to active fall protection PPE gear.
Active Fall Restraint Protection
Fall restraint systems tethers you to the building, making it impossible to reach the hazard if worn. These can include harnesses, anchors and horizonal lifelines that restrict the access to the hazard. Below are a few of the many options we offer.
Mobile Tie Down Cart (fall restraint):
The Penetrator Mobile Fall Protection Cart by Tie Down is the lightest mobile fall protection system available on the market. This system penetrates a surface while ensuring minimal injury. When set up properly, the Penetrator Mobile Fall Protection System is intended for a maximum of 3 people for a fall arrest and 2 for fall restraint (averaging a combined weight of no more than 310 lbs. per person). When used with a body harness, the maximum arresting force is limited to 1,800 lbs. and the free-fall height should be no more than 6 feet.
Tripod System (fall restraint)
To meet a wide range of confined space entry and retrieval applications, FallTech® Tripods are built with two-stage adjustable aluminum alloy legs for high strength, portability, and ease of use. We offer two distinct tripod system platforms, with maximum working heights of 8 or 11 feet. Both are sold in kit configurations with a range of confined space devices, such as SRL-Rs and personnel winches. All of the prepacked system kits include storage bags and device leg brackets for easy set-up. However, tripods and devices are also available separately for add-on applications or to assemble your own custom rig.
more about the tripod system here:
What if I still fall… is there anything that will help me?
The short answer is, yes!
This is called a Fall arrest system
Fall arrest gear won’t prevent you from falling however it protects you from being injured from a fall. It will catch you before the ground does. Furthermore, with shock eliminating technology you’ll avoid secondary injuries from the fall. A fall arrest system includes a full body harness and anchors, energy absorbing lifelines that prevent impact with the ground. When this gear is used correctly it will also prevent further injury while your crew member awaits rescue.
NOTE from OSHA: Fall restraint systems are often underutilized because they are not specifically mentioned in many regulations. However, they are preferred over fall arrest systems. Free fall distance is not an issue for fall restraint systems, therefore arresting forces, clearance requirements, secondary injuries, and rescue issues are virtually eliminated. Fall restraint is always better than fall arrest. Fall restraint systems prevent most secondary injuries due to the fall and make rescue easy since the worker is still accessible.
There are many elements to planning for fall protection. The hierarchy should be applied to any hazard before buying inappropriate equipment or systems. By evaluating a fall hazard using the hierarchy, the best solution is often very evident. Here’s a diagram of the different types of fall protection to help you decide which system is right for your job.
So, you’re taking the first step to rescue planning by learning about different types of fall protection. And, that’s great!
There’s so much more to the planning process. Want more rescue planning? Check out our Rescue Plan blog post.