Fall Arrest vs Fall Restraint
Falls from heights stand as the second leading cause of work-related deaths in Australia. In order to decrease the number of tragedies that occur each year, a positive safety culture is being promoted in workplaces. This movement will increase the commitment to health and safety from everyone on the work site, not just supervisors or managers. Increasing awareness and dedication to safer workplaces draws direct attention to the safety equipment being used (or lack of).
Fall restraint and fall arrest systems are crucial for the safety of those working at heights. On the surface, the terms ‘fall restraint’ and ‘fall arrest’ could be mistaken as the same concept. However, while both processes relate to the working at heights topic as a whole, it is important for business leaders to understand the key differences between the two.
Understanding the features of the equipment, what each system is used for and how it protects the worker, will guide your decision on which option is most suitable.
What are fall arrest systems?
A fall arrest system is designed to safely stop a worker falling from heights. In the case that the working from height professional does fall, the arrest system will kick in and the person can be saved from injury or even death.
What is fall arrest equipment & how is it used?
The most commonly used fall arrest systems are general and personal. General fall arrest systems must be used in every circumstance possible, and include catch platforms and safety nets. Each system should be used alongside scaffolding, and should prevent workers from falling greater than 1 metre, or a maximum of 2 metres with a safety net.
What are personal fall arrest systems?
Personal fall arrest systems arrest a fall through the use of Height Safety PPE equipment. This can include harnesses, lanyards with shock absorbers, and self-retracting lifelines.
Roof anchor point systems, lanyards, rope lines and pole straps are essential in the personal fall arrest setup, however the harness in particular is the most important. What is a fall arrest harness going to offer workers? A full body harness has the power to stop even the most dangerous falls. The fall arrest line is attached to the point on the harness that will provide the most appropriate protection for the situation. A full body harness must be worn at all times when working in fall arrest under Australian standards and must be comfortable for the worker to wear all day.
An overhead rail system is used when working above machinery or for façade access. When a retracting lifeline is attached, it prevents the worker from falling and ensures they remain in a restraint position.
An individual arrest system must only be used when circumstances do not permit a higher level of control. They rely on workers to take safety into their own hands, and require thorough checks and testing before each use.
What are fall restraint systems?
Fall restraint systems can be used when workers need to operate on the edge of a hazard, but not exactly at the point of risk. They should be used in all situations where danger could occur to assist with minimising the risk of a fall.
What is fall restraint equipment & how is it used?
Fall restraint equipment refers to guardrails, walkway systems and static restraint lines. These restraint systems are used for lower risk situations to prevent workers from reaching the point of hazard.
Walkways and guardrails are a permanent system, providing safe access for workers on almost all elevated surfaces. They are considered the best fall protection system and provide a great level of security when working at heights.
Static line systems provide continuous attachment, and are strategically installed to ensure workers can access all areas of work without needing to detach the line.
Fall Restraint or Fall Arrest?
Which system is best?
It is important to assess the falling risk for each individual work site. Details like the location, stability and surface should be considered when deciding on whether a fall arrest or restraint system is necessary.
Overall, fall restraints stop people accessing a fall hazard through a tie off system, while fall arrest allows a fall to occur but arrests and minimises injury in the event of a fall. While it largely depends on the environment, each system has its benefits and uses within the area of a working at heights situation.
If working at heights professionals are operating on a roof, a fall restraint system can be applied so these workers don’t get themselves into a position where a fall could occur.
When workers have to engage in an environment where a fall could occur, it is better to have a fall arrest system in place. For example, a worker conducting maintenance on top of a narrow machine and the only anchorage is at feet level therefore to safely complete their task, they would be required to work in fall arrest.
Applying the right solution
As discussed, the difference between fall arrest and fall restraint systems is quite significant, however both are designed to keep workers safe and reduce fatalities when undertaking work at heights.
It is important to make a full assessment of every individual situation to determine which system is best.
When is fall protection required? If you’re unsure, the team at Anchor Safe have a wealth of experience, and are more than happy to help. If your business is looking for a solution to ensure the safety of your workers, feel free to get in contact with us today.