Passive Vs. Active Fall Systems: What’s the Difference?

Passive Vs. Active Fall Systems: What’s the Difference?

17th February 2020

Falls from heights remain the biggest cause for concern as far as workplace injuries are concerned. It’s the responsibility of the safety officers and managers of all workplaces involving elevation or altitude to have an efficient fall safety program. However, fall safety systems are of two types: passive and active systems. This guide contains a detailed comparison between the two to help you decide the best choice for your workplace. Please read on.  

Passive Systems

There refers to the systems with no active mechanisms or moving parts when in or out of use and require no human interaction to function properly once installed. Because there’s no worker engagement, chances of user error are fewer. They’re usually installed as the second line of defence against fall when working at heights. With these systems in place, there might be no need for personal protective gear. They include guardrails, barricades, netting, and handrails.

These systems are usually preferred in working environments where fall hazards can hardly be solved through engineering controls. For instance, step units can provide a solution to complex access issues experienced in areas with pipework, parapet walls, or gutters while enhancing the safety of your workers.    

Active Systems

Active systems are dynamic and require human interaction to function properly. Equipment specifically designed to prevent a fall from occurring or restrict the victim’s ability to place themselves in a free-fall should always be used. There are different parts of an active fall protection system, and all are equally important although they may be often sold as separate components. All the parts need to be compatible or else the whole system is useless. You also need to purchase a system that meets certain predetermined standards to ensure the product is functioning as per the set requirements by the relevant EU bodies. 

An active fall system consists of two subcategories: fall restraint and fall arrest systems. Fall restraint systems focus on limiting the ability of workers to place themselves in situations where they might fall off elevated work areas. For instance, if a lanyard is connected to you, it will provide you with the clearance to pass the threshold where you could free fall off the elevated work area. 

Fall arrest systems, on the other hand, are designed to stop workers from hitting a low-level surface in the event of a free fall. Workers are expected to wear full-body harnesses that can evenly distribute the force of the free-fall throughout the body. Again, it’s essential to invest in job-site approved gear to enhance the safety of your workforce at all times. When issuing fall arrest systems to your workers, it’s also essential to plan for a rescue plan. The arrest systems can only prevent the victim from hitting a low-level surface. The victim needs to be retrieved promptly and efficiently to avoid the risk of suspension trauma that can after the fall.  

The Bottom Line

You need to conduct a risk assessment to identify whether you need to invest in a passive or active system - or both. Ensure to involve the workers and managers to give you ideas on what they think will be the best solution. But ensure the system is in accordance with the company’s safety policies and other relevant guidelines and directives.