Common Types of Active Fall Protection for the Construction Industry

Common Types of Active Fall Protection for the Construction Industry

25th January 2021

Fall protection can broadly be categorised into two major groups: active and passive fall protection. Passive controls require no interaction from the employee and are far safer than active controls. However, in construction, it will be very rare to see chances where contractors choose passive controls as the cost-effective or most preferred option.

This explains the need for active fall protection in creating a safer work environment. These controls can help alleviate possible liability or lawsuits in the case of an incident. As the employer, it’s your duty to prevent falls in your workplace. To achieve this, you need to maintain a safe work environment through proper training, ensuring workers use the personal protection equipment (PPE) properly, and by implementing proper fall protection education.

It is important that we learn of the different types and applicable codes for active controls. In the construction industry, active fall protection falls into four groups: fall arrest, positioning systems, suspension, and retrieval.

  1. Fall Arrest Systems

Fall arrest systems are necessary whenever an employee is exposed to a fall hazard – a drop of 6 or more from a walking/working surface to a lower level. Exceptions include (but not limited to) steelwork, safety ladders, and scaffolding. Common fall arrest systems include body harnesses, anchor points, and connectors.

Body harnesses are your first line of defence. The type of harness that you need depends on the kind of task being done. The harness should be able to support an employee with a combined tool and body weight. It should also be used with deceleration and anchorage devices that limit the impact forces of the fall.

Connectors include self-retracting lifeline and lanyards. Lanyards connect the harness safely to the anchor. They’re available in different types, all with specific purposes.

Anchor points are expected to withstand up to twice the anticipated weight of an employee free falling a distance of 6 feet. You need to ensure all anchor points are designed and installed by a competent and qualified person to ensure their effectiveness. Remember, the lanyard and harness are only effective if the anchor point doesn’t break.

  1. Positioning Systems

These systems allow the employee to sit back in their harness while conducting their job with both hands. They are efficient when the employee needs to perform their tasks from a ladder. These systems are not designed to be used for fall arrest. Therefore, you need to ensure to use them in conjunction with a fall arrest system like harnesses and body belts.

  1. Retrieval

This is also referred to as a rescue plan. It is a crucial step to consider when developing your fall protection plan. It covers the post-fall scenario to retrieve an employee who has fallen. You need to have an efficient plan in place to enhance your preparedness to handle work at height incidents, including falls. Your place will be unique to your workplace based on the findings of your risk assessment.

  1. Suspension

Suspension equipment systems are efficient for hands-free work environments as they can lower and support the employee to enable them to work and move safely. The systems are mainly utilised by painters and window washers. It’s crucial that you use the suspension systems alongside a fall arrest system to enhance your safety.