Fall arrest and fall restraint are common height safety systems for protecting workers and ensuring regulatory compliance. Both the arrest and restraint systems are ‘active’, requiring user interaction to function effectively. This interaction introduces an element of risk. This includes actions like clipping onto an anchor point or static line, ensuring lanyards are the correct length, and even fitting PPE such as harnesses correctly. While these systems are similar, they are intended for different working-at-height scenarios and have vastly different amounts of potential risk.
Fall Arrest vs Fall Restraint – What’s the Difference
The main difference between an arrest and a restraint system is that fall restraint physically prevents a fall, while fall arrest allows the fall but minimises potential injury. To explain further, a fall restraint system will prevent an individual from accessing fall hazards through a tie-off or work positioning system. The user is physically restrained from reaching a fall edge and so can not physically fall. Alternatively, a fall arrest system will not prevent the initial fall from occurring, instead focusing on promptly arresting the fall before the user contacts the ground or surface below.
Fall restraint systems are safer than fall arrest systems because they prevent the fall from occurring and minimise the potential for injury. In accordance with the hierarchy of control measures, fall arrest systems should only be used where all other forms of fall prevention such as risk elimination, passive fall prevention, or fall restraint systems have been deemed not reasonably practicable.
Anchor Safe is Australia’s leading height safety services company offering a range of Fall Arrest and Fall Restraint systems as well as installation and certification services. Browse our product range or get in touch for a solution designed for your specific purposes.
Fall Arrest Systems
What is a fall arrest system?
A fall arrest system is a safety mechanism designed to protect workers in the event of a fall from heights of 2 meters or more. It is specifically designed to arrest or stop the fall after it has occurred and minimise the impact forces exerted on the worker’s body. Fall arrest systems are organised into two categories; general and personal.
General fall arrest systems
General fall arrest systems should be installed at every possible opportunity where it is reasonably practicable to do so. These systems include catch platforms such as scaffolding and/or safety nets that are positioned to safely arrest a person’s fall. Fall arrest netting must safely arrest a person’s fall within 2 metres. Platforms intended to arrest a fall must only allow for a maximum fall distance of 1 metre. General fall arrest systems have a high inherent risk and potential for injury and should not be relied on as a primary means of fall protection.
Personal fall arrest systems
A personal fall arrest system allows the user to work within reach of a fall hazard whilst still being protected. For example, a fall arrest system is effective in allowing a user to ascend or descend a vertical ladder without impeding their ability to climb. Another common use case is when a user is working on top of a tall vehicle or piece of machinery where the working area is too narrow for any other fall prevention system to be applicable.
Personal fall arrest systems require specific height safety PPE including full body harnesses and shock-absorbing lanyards. The lanyard is attached to a fall arrest-rated and certified anchor point(s), a pole strap like the image below, or an overhead rail system. The system must be designed to arrest the fall within 1 metre and avoid the pendulum effect to minimise potential injury.
A full-body harness must be worn at all times when using a fall arrest system under Australian standards. It is important that the harness meets Australian standards, has been certified and is comfortable enough for the worker to wear all day. The fall arrest line or lanyard should be attached to the point on the harness that will provide the most appropriate protection for the situation.
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 specific user training as well as thorough checks and testing before each use. Proper positioning of anchor points is crucial for ensuring the safety of workers using a personal fall arrest system. Failure to correctly set up a personal fall arrest system or a failure in any components of the system can result in severe injury or death.
Fall Restraint Systems
What is a fall restraint system?
A fall restraint system is a safety measure designed to prevent workers from reaching an edge they could potentially fall from at heights of 2 metres or more. Sometimes referred to as a work positioning system, the user is physically restricted from accessing a fall edge, typically through the use of harnesses, lanyards, and some form of anchoring device.
What is fall restraint equipment & how is it used?
Because of their higher safety factor compared to fall arrest systems, fall restraint is often used in larger working areas such as rooftops and in construction work. They are also typically simpler systems which makes them a cost-effective and safe way to manage the risk of falls where regular access is required.
Fall restraint systems require specific height safety PPE including full-body harnesses and lanyards of specific length to ensure the worker is always in a “restraint position” and unable to access a fall edge. The user simply connects their two lanyards to a certified anchor point(s), a static line, or an overhead rail system. They can then move around the workspace with relative freedom and safety.
To operate in compliance with Australian laws and codes of practice, at least one lanyard must be connected to an anchoring device at all times with a second backup lanyard also connected unless transferring between anchoring devices. A full-body harness is recommended to be worn when using a fall restraint system. It is important that the harness meets Australian standards, has been certified and is comfortable enough for the worker to wear all day.
Proper positioning of anchoring devices is crucial for ensuring the safety of workers. Anchor points should be strategically placed in areas that are easily accessible to workers and provide maximum coverage for fall protection.
Fall Arrest or Fall Restraint? – Applying the right solution
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.