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Author; Jeff Ord, ForkliftSafety.com

All fall protection products fit into four functional categories.

  1. Fall Arrest; 2. Positioning; 3. Suspension; 4. Retrieval.

Fall Arrest: A fall arrest system is required if any risk exists that a worker may fall from an elevated position, as a general rule, the fall arrest system should be used anytime a working height of six feet or more is reached. Working height is the distance from the walking/working surface to a grade or lower level. A fall arrest system will only come into service should a fall occur. A full-body harness with a shock-absorbing lanyard or a retractable lifeline is the only product recommended. A full-body harness distributes the forces throughout the body, and the shock-absorbing lanyard decreases the total fall arresting forces.

Positioning: This system holds the worker in place while keeping his/her hands free to work. Whenever the worker leans back, the system is activated. However, the personal positioning system is not specifically designed for fall arrest purposes.

Suspension: This equipment lowers and supports the worker while allowing a hands-free work environment, and is widely used in window washing and painting industries. This suspension system components are not designed to arrest a free fall; a backup fall arrest system should be used in conjunction with the suspension system.

Retrieval: Preplanning for retrieval in the event of a fall should be taken into consideration when developing a proactive fall management program.

Fall Protection Systems: Listed below are different types of fall safety equipment and their recommended usage.

  • Class 1- Body belts (single or double D-ring) are designed to restrain a person in a hazardous work position and to reduce the possibility of falls. They should not be used when fall potential exists; positioning only.
  • Class 2- Chest harnesses are used when there are only limited fall hazards (no vertical free fall hazard), or for retrieving persons such as removal of persons from a tank or a bin.
  • Class 3- Full body harnesses are designed to arrest the most severe free falls.
  • Class 4- Suspension belts are independent work supports used to suspend a worker, such as boatswain’s chairs or raising or lowering harnesses.
  • Rope Lanyard- Offers some elastic properties for all arrest; used for restraint purpose.
  • Web Lanyard- Ideal for restraint purposes where fall hazards are less than 2 feet.
  • Cable Positioning Lanyards- Designed for corrosive or excess heat environments and must be used in conjunction with shock absorbing devices.
  • Shock Absorbers- When used, the fall arresting force will be greatly reduced if a fall occurs.
  • Rope Grabs- A deceleration device which travels on a lifeline, used to safely ascend or descend ladders or sloped surfaces and automatically, by friction, engages the lifeline and locks so as to arrest the fall of an employee.
  • Retractable Lifeline Systems- Gives fall protection and mobility to the user when working at height or in areas where there is a danger of falling.
  • Safety Nets- Can be used to lessen the fall exposure when working where temporary floors and scaffolds are not used and the fall distance exceeds 25 feet.
  • Rail Systems- When climbing a ladder, rail systems can be used on any fixed ladder as well as curved surfaces as a reliable method of fall prevention.

The information contained within this document was obtained partially from the St. Paul-Tie or Die Fall Protection Program manual.

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