Fall restraint systems – what you need to know

We have recently been examining the difference between fall arrest and fall restraint systems, as well as a closer look at the former and the situations in which you should consider using them. Now, for the last entry in this series, we’re going to examine fall restraint systems, and discuss the situations where they are your most appropriate height safety option.

As we have mentioned, fall-arrest options are used in the most perilous scenarios, and are designed to stop a workers fall after an incident has occurred. Fall restraints, on the other hand, are the right option for somewhat lower risk situations, and are used to prevent a worker from reaching the point of hazard. As with all jobs that involve working at heights, there are always potential dangers, but an effective fall restraint system can help to minimise the chances of a fall occurring.

An effective fall restraint system can help to minimise the chances of a fall.

When should fall restraint systems be used?

Understanding exactly where the point of hazard is on a particular job may not always be easy, so let’s look at an example. In the event that you or others in your organisation are working on a roof, precisely where the task is being carried out will make a difference when selecting the right safety solution.

When working right at the edge of the rooftop, perhaps repairing some guttering or something similar, you are considered to be right at the point of hazard, and therefore a fall arrest system should be used. If you are working in the middle of the roof, however, the risk of completely falling off is relatively low, and fall restraint is the right choice.

Think of it this way – if you or a worker happens to trip and fall, are they only dropping as far as what’s directly under their feet? If so, attaching them to the roof with a fall restraint system should be enough to prevent serious injury.

14106564

When working on a roof but not close to the edge, fall restraint is the right choice.

Types of fall restraint system

While equipment such as guardrails and walkway systems can be considered part of a comprehensive fall restraint solution, their size and weight means they’re not always the most appropriate option or even one that’s available. If you are working in an area that is unable to accommodate larger pieces of height work safety equipment, then perhaps heavy duty roof anchors are the right tools to use.

The Western Australia Department of Commerce outlines the three key ingredients for an effective fall restraint system as:

  • an anchorage point or points;
  • a static or restraint line of appropriate strength and length; and
  • a harness or restraint belt.

The installation of such a system is quite simple. Once you have found a suitably strong point and affixed your roof anchor, the worker’s belt or harness is connected to the anchor with the restraint line, limiting the ability to move beyond a certain distance towards the point of hazard (a roof edge, for example).

Know your falling risk

A fall restraint system should be considered as a contingency plan, so taking into account some details of the location where you are working is important. Pay particular attention to things like the stability of the ground underfoot, or the surface upon which you will be standing. If the risk of falling is increased by the slope of the surface, or if it’s a smooth, potentially slippery material such as a metal roof, you may need to opt for a more protective height safety solution.

For further advice about when to use a fall restraints, or when a fall arrest system might be the wiser choice, speak to Anchor Safe Systems. We have both the equipment and the know-how to make sure you are protected on the job.