There are two ways to protect individual users working at height: fall arrest systems and restraint systems. The aim of this post is to outline the considerations to be made when choosing between the two, and to explain the differences.
In both cases, a user wears a safety harness that is connected to the fall protection solution with a lanyard. For example, users can connect themselves to a horizontal lifeline or to a single anchor point.
Both systems require sufficient user knowledge (which can be acquired through training) and approved Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The difference is this: a fall arrest solution on your building protects users in case they fall, and a restraint system prevents users from getting into a position from where a fall could occur.
Obviously, the latter option is preferable from a safety point-of-view, but in reality there are plenty of scenarios in which work needs to be done in the proximity of the roof edge.
Left to right: fall arrest system, restraint system with adjustable lanyard, restraint system with fixed lanyard.
With a restraint system, the length of a lanyard prevents a user from falling over the edge of the roof. The safest way to prevent this, is to use a lanyard with a fixed length. In this case, the length of the lanyard is based on the distance between the attachment point and the roof edge.
However, for situations where the distance to the edge is always different, it is more practical to use an adjustable lanyard. In that case, the user manually adjusts the lanyard to the desired length. Of course, this entails a greater risk of misuse. To deal with this risk, an adjustable lanyard can be equipped with an integrated shock absorber.
Fall arrest systems
A fall arrest system does not limit the movement of the user, but deals with the consequences of a fall: it makes sure that the fall is arrested before a user hits the ground. This system is mostly used for jobs that take place near the edges of the roof.
With a fall arrest system, additional equipment is required to handle the forces released if a user falls from height. First, the shock on the body of the user needs to be absorbed, either by a shock absorber integrated in the lanyard or by an automatic fall arrest device. Second, it may be necessary to install equipment that protects the surface of the roof – when a fall occurs, the forces released may cause damage to the roof at the points where the system is anchored.
Of course, what needs to be considered when choosing between a fall arrest and a restrain system, is the work that will be done by the users. More specifically, think about the different types of jobs, how long these jobs are likely to take, how frequently these jobs occur and where these jobs will take place exactly.
Freedom of movement
Then, the next thing to consider is freedom of movement. As opposed to a restraint system, a fall arrest system offers users freedom of movement.
If fall protection is frequently used for maintenance jobs near the edge of the roof, a fall arrest system could be a more user-friendly solution. This is especially true if these jobs occur frequently, take some time or require users to move around regularly.
If you would like more information about our fall protection solutions, request our fall protection brochure. For advice about the most suitable fall protection solution for your building or project, it’s best to contact us directly.