The Difference between Vertical and Horizontal Fall Protection

Here at Safety Fabrications we like to make sure all of our readers are well information about the risks involved when working at height.  Our job is to supply safe access systems that can be used to reach work areas while minimising the risks involved when working at height and this is where our area of expertise lies.  As a duty holder, fall protection is your responsibility so today we’re going to take a look at the two different types of fall protection, vertical and horizontal so that you know the difference and make an informed choice when it comes to providing fall protection systems for your employees.   

Basically, a vertical fall is typically a fall that occurs between two different levels (for example, falling from the roof, a ladder or scaffold to the ground).  A horizontal fall, however, is a fall which occurs on the level upon which the workers is standing or moving – for example tripping whilst walking or running. 

Fall arrest needs to be handled in different ways depending on whether it’s a horizontal or vertical fall scenario because there are different types of criteria that need to be met  depending on which type of fall may occur in any given situation. 

Horizontal fall protection systems are used to protect workers from a fall or reduce the severity of injuries sustained should a fall occur.  These types of system are commonly found on rooftops situation, on overhead gantries and cranes or inside industries units.  Horizontal systems can be cable based or rail based and require the users to connect to them using a harness and lanyard.  This means that anybody using this type of fall protection system should be correctly trained to use the type of equipment in place.  It is also the responsibility of the duty holder to ensure than anybody using a fall arrest system has received the requisite training and that the training is up to date and relevant to the type of equipment being used.

Vertical fall protection systems are commonly found on masts, towers, aerials and (more and more frequently) on ladders.  These are designed to protect the worker when accessing their workplace and, often during the time that the task is being carried out.  The worker is connected to a cable or rail via a harness and lanyard and workers must undergo specific training on the systems used.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 [Schedule 5, part 1, paragraph 1(b)] states “personal fall protection systems shall be used only if the user and a sufficient number of available persons have received adequate training specific to the operations envisaged”. 

Getting it right is essential when it comes to work at height and this applies to the training undertaken, the type of equipment used and the type of work being undertaken.  Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of death and life threatening injuries in the workplace here in the UK so there’s no room for complacency when it comes to fall protection.