Fall Arrest v Fall Restraint

By Jason Godfrey, Safesite general manager

According to the work at height hierarchy of control, wherever possible work at height should be avoided, and if impossible, collective fall protection such as guardrails or barriers should be the next step.

However, what if guardrails or barriers are not deemed reasonably practicable?

After avoiding work completely and collective protection, personal fall protection might be your only option.

‘Personal Fall Protection’ refers to systems such as horizontal lifelines or portable anchor points, which can be used in both ‘fall restraint’ and ‘fall arrest. Regardless of how the system is used it must be designed and rated to the Fall Arrest Standard. But what’s the difference?


Fall Restraint

Fall restraint, essentially, prevents you from falling. They usually make use of a body holding device, such as a harness, lanyard and then connected to an anchor point, physically preventing you from reaching an area of high fall risk. You may also see fall restraint referred to as ‘work restraint’ or simply ‘restraint’.

In the work at height hierarchy of controls restraint is described as preferable to fall arrest, as it is reduces the risk of injury, can be more cost effective due to the absence of shock absorbers and perhaps most importantly, does not require a rescue plan.

You do however have to consider evacuation in the event of accident or emergency.

Often fall restraint is the only feasible option, due to low building height, or vehicles, racking and machinery reducing fall distance.


How about Fall Arrest?

When you see the term ‘fall arrest’, it will be referring to systems which do not restrict you from going near areas where there is a fall risk, but will activate if you do happen to fall and should stop you before you hit the ground.

Much like fall restraint, arrest systems feature harnesses, lanyards and anchor points. shock absorbers will be incorperated in the system to effectively slow your fall and or reduce the forces applied to the anchor points also limiting damage to your body from the forces of gravity.


When should I use a fall arrest system over fall restraint?

When you are working on a fragile surface, such as near rooflights or on older roof surfaces, or on a narrow ledge, fall arrest will likely your best option; you will be less confident about when and where you may actually fall. More people fall through fragile roofs than from the edge.

The fall arrest system should be used with personal protective equipment, and you must either have the correct training or ensure your employees and contractors have that training themselves. You are also required to have a rescue plan in place which ensures the person that falls can be retrieved as quickly as possible.


For more information about fall arrest or fall restraint, or to enquire about our systems, you can either call us on 01293 529977 or use our online contact form.

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