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Fall Restraint vs. Fall Arrest: Understanding the Differences

When it comes to protecting workers at heights, understanding the differences between fall restraint and fall arrest systems is crucial. In this article, we will explore applications and considerations specific to both types of fall protection systems.

What is the main difference between fall arrest and fall restraint systems?
Simply put, fall arrest equipment is designed to stop a fall that has already happened. It is activated after a worker slips, “arresting” their fall in mid-air. On the other hand, fall restraint equipment is designed to prevent a fall in the first place.

Fall Arrest Systems
So, what is a fall arrest system? According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States, a fall arrest system, often referred to as a Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS), involves a series of components. It includes a body harness, anchor point, and connecting device. This system activates after a worker slips, halting their fall before they hit a lower level. The PFAS will not be used in situations where there is not enough distance between the top level and the lower level for the system to effectively stop the fall.

Key Considerations for Fall Arrest Systems:
  • Total Fall Clearance: The amount of distance needed to ensure a worker does not encounter the bottom level.
  • Free Fall Distance: The distance a falling worker will travel before the fall arrest system begins to stop the fall.
  • Deceleration Distance: The stretch of the lanyard as the deceleration device is deployed.
  • Worker Height and D-Ring Shift: Calculations must include the height of the worker and the amount the D-ring shifts from its location between the shoulder blades.
  • Lanyard Length and Anchor Point Height: The length of the lanyard and the height of its anchor point are crucial. If the lanyard is attached to a horizontal lifeline, the line will stretch during a fall event.
  • Safety Factor: An additional safety factor of 2 feet is added to the total clearance required.
If these calculations indicate that there is insufficient clearance, a fall restraint system will need to be employed instead.

Fall Restraint Systems
Fall restraint systems prevent a fall from happening. They typically include a body harness and a lanyard connected to a secure anchor point. The key is ensuring the worker cannot reach the fall hazard.

Key Considerations for Fall Restraint Systems:
  • Anchor Points: These must withstand double the force needed to prevent a fall. They can be permanent or temporary, provided they are properly secured.
  • Planning and Engineering: Anchor points for fall arrest systems need meticulous planning. It's essential to ensure the structure to which the system is attached can handle the forces involved in a fall. Swing fall hazards, where the worker might swing into a structure, must also be considered. Training for fall arrest systems is a must for anyone working in such environments.
In conclusion, this article has provided an overview of fall restraint and fall arrest considerations. The suitability of a fall restraint or fall arrest system depends on the nature of the fall hazards at a worksite. As with all fall protection measures, a great deal of planning and pre-engineering is required to determine the appropriate system.

In navigating the complexities of fall prevention and protection, trust Power Bolt and Tool as your one-stop-shop for accessing top-tier products and expert guidance, ensuring safety and peace of mind for you and your team at every elevation.
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