How Do Different Fall Arrest Systems Compare?

If you’re working at height, you need to be aware of the different fall arrest systems available and how they compare. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the most popular systems and see how they stack up against each other.

What are fall arrest systems?

Fall arrest systems are devices that are used to protect a worker from falling from a height. There are many different types of fall arrest systems, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Fall arrest systems can be broadly divided into three main categories: personal fall arrest systems, work positioning systems, and edge protection systems.

Personal fall arrest systems are the most common type of fall arrest system. They typically consist of a body harness, a lanyard, and an anchor point. The body harness is worn by the worker, and the lanyard is attached to the harness and to an anchor point. If the worker falls, the lanyard will prevent them from falling more than a few feet.

Work positioning systems are similar to personal fall arrest systems in that they consist of a body harness and a lanyard. However, instead of being attached to an anchor point, the lanyard is attached to a work positioning device. This device allows the worker to move freely around while remaining securely attached to the anchor point.

Edge protection systems are designed to protect workers who are working near edges (such as roof edges). They typically consist of guardrails or safety nets installed around the edge of the work area.

How do fall arrest systems work?

A fall arrest system is designed to stop a person who is falling, or who has already fallen and is suspended in the air. The most common type of fall arrest system is a harness and lanyard combo. The lanyard is connected to the harness at the user’s back, and the other end of the lanyard is clipped to an anchor point. If the user falls, the lanyard will catch them and stop their fall.

Other types of fall arrest systems include rigid rail systems and horizontal lifelines. Rigid rail systems are installed along the edge of a roof or platform, and users clip their lanyards onto the rail as they move along. Horizontal lifelines are ropes or cables that are strung between two anchor points, and users clip their lanyards onto the line as they move along.

All fall arrest systems have one thing in common: they provide a safe way for people to work at heights.

The different types of fall arrest systems

There are many different types of fall arrest systems available on the market, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here is a brief overview of some of the most popular systems:

Anchor points: These are typically installed in structural members such as beams or columns, and provide a secure attachment point for fall arrest cables or lanyards. The main advantage of anchor points is that they require no special training to use; however, they can be difficult to retrofit into existing buildings, and may not provide adequate protection for workers who are moving around a lot or working at heights above six feet.

Personal fall arrest systems: These typically consist of a full-body harness connected to an anchor point by a cable or lanyard. The main advantage of personal fall arrest systems is that they can be used by multiple workers simultaneously; however, they require regular inspection and maintenance, and workers must be properly trained in their use.

Work positioning systems: These allow workers to safely maintain their position while working at heights, without the need for an anchor point. Work positioning systems can be used by multiple workers simultaneously, but they require regular inspection and maintenance, and workers must be properly trained in their use.

Rope access systems: Rope access systems consist of a series of ropes and pulleys that allow workers to safely access difficult-to-reach areas. The main advantage of rope access systems is that they can be used in a variety of different situations; however, they require specialized training to use correctly, and there is always the potential for worker injury if the system is not used correctly.

The benefits of fall arrest systems

Fall arrest systems are designed to stop a worker who has fallen, or who is about to fall, from reaching the ground. There are several different types of fall arrest systems, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Edge protection systems have several advantages over other types of fall arrest systems. First, they provide a physical barrier that prevents workers from falling in the first place. Second, they can be used in conjunction with other safety devices (such as personal fall arrest or work positioning systems) to provide a higher level of protection.

Work positioning systems are not as effective as personal fall arrest systems at preventing serious injuries, but they have some advantages. First, they allow workers to move around more freely while still being protected from falls. Second, they can be used in conjunction with other safety devices (such as guardrails) to provide a higher level of protection.

Body-harness fall arrest systems are the most common type of system. They consist of a harness that is worn by the worker, with one or more lanyards attached to the harness. The lanyards are connected to an anchor point, such as a safety line or a scaffold. If the worker falls, the lanyards will prevent them from hitting the ground. Body-harness fall arrest systems have the advantage of being relatively simple and inexpensive.

Bucket trucks and other vehicles equipped with Fall Arrest Systems (FAS) provide mobile workers with a degree of safety not possible with other types of systems. FAS bucket trucks have an anchor point located at the top front edge of the bucket. If the worker falls out of the bucket, their fall will be arrested by the FAS system.

Bucket trucks have several advantages over other types of fall arrest systems. They allow workers to move around more freely, and they provide a higher degree of protection from falling objects. In addition, bucket trucks can be equipped with secondary safety features, such as guardrails and nets, which can further protect workers from falling objects and help to prevent injuries in case of a fall.

The drawbacks of fall arrest systems

Personal fall arrest systems are very effective at preventing serious injuries, but they have some drawbacks.

First, they only work if the worker is wearing them correctly. Second, if the worker falls from a great height, the lanyard may not be long enough to keep them from hitting the ground. Personal fall arrest systems do nothing to prevent the worker from falling in the first place; they only provide protection after the fact.

Fall arrest systems can also be uncomfortable for workers, and they can also limit mobility. Another issue is that fall arrest systems can be costly to maintain and inspect. Finally, fall arrest systems can give workers a false sense of security, which may lead to complacency and dangerous situations.

Edge protection systems have some disadvantages; they can be costly to install and maintain, and they can create obstacles that workers need to navigate around while working

Another type of fall arrest system is the shock-absorbing lanyard. This system consists of a lanyard (a rope or cable connecting the worker to an anchorage point) that has an energy-absorbing device built into it. Shock-absorbing lanyards can help to reduce the force of a fall, but they are not as effective as full-body harnesses at preventing injuries.

The third type of fall arrest system is the self-retracting lifeline (SRL). This system consists of a length of cable connected to an anchor point, with a device that automatically retracts the cable when not in use. SRLs are very effective at preventing falls, but they can be difficult to install and use properly.

How to choose the right fall arrest system

When choosing the right fall arrest system for you or your workers, it’s important to compare different systems to find the one that best fits your needs. Here are a few key factors to consider:

  • Anchorage: All fall arrest systems must be securely anchored to a solid structure, such as a column, I-beam, or tie-off point. The anchorage should be strong enough to support at least two times the maximum allowable loaded weight of the system.
  • Attachments: Some fall arrest systems use lanyards or webbing with snap hooks that attach directly to the D-ring on the back of a worker’s harness. Other systems use an inertia reel or other device that is mounted on the worker’s back and retrieves webbing from an attachment point above.
  • Webbing: Fall arrest systems use either polyester or nylon webbing. Nylon is stronger than polyester and may be a good choice for applications where workers are exposed to sharp edges. However, nylon can absorb water, which can reduce its strength over time. Polyester webbing is more resistant to water damage and may be a better choice for applications where workers are exposed to moisture.
  • Components: Most fall arrest systems include a shock absorber that helps protect workers from sudden loads, such as when they are pulled up short by the system. Shock absorbers are typically mounted between the attachment point and the D-ring on the back of the worker’s harness.

The importance of fall arrest system maintenance

A fall arrest system can be the last line of defense against a fatal or catastrophic injury, so it is important to make sure that the system is properly maintained.

Fall arrest systems are critical for workers in many industries who are exposed to fall hazards. OSHA estimates that fatal falls account for about 12 percent of workplace deaths each year, and many more workers suffer serious injuries in falls.

Here are some tips on how to do that:

  • Inspect the system regularly.
  • Check for wear and tear, damage, and any other potential issues.
  • Make sure that all parts of the system are compatible with each other. Using incompatible components can reduce the effectiveness of the system or even cause it to fail.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation and use.
  • Have a qualified person perform annual inspections of fall arrest systems.

The future of fall arrest systems

The future of fall arrest systems will continue to be refined and made more accessible to workers in a variety of industries. There are many different fall arrest systems available on the market today, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. As materials and technology continue to improve, fall safety arrest systems will evolve. For now, it is important to choose the right system for your needs, as well as to ensure that it is properly installed and maintained.

In Closing

No matter which type of fall arrest system you choose, it is important to make sure that it is properly installed and maintained. All components of the system should be inspected regularly for signs of wear or damage and replaced as necessary. Also, fall arrest systems are an important part of keeping workers safe on the job, but only if they are used correctly.

NEXT UP: What Is a Retractable Fall Arrester?

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James Sylvester
About James Sylvester

James S. Sylvester is an experienced OSHA Safety Supervisor with years of experience in the construction and oil & gas industries. He focuses on workplace safety, occupational health and safety systems. Learn more about James' here or connect with him on Twitter

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