Working at height involves a certain level of risk to workers. It’s critical that the correct safety system is selected as part of risk control based on the application requirement, namely fall arrest, fall restraint and fall prevention. The correct selection is based on proper understanding of these working at height terminologies.

Sayfa Group provides a simple explanation of these three different terms used extensively in the height safety industry. It is very important to follow the hierarchy of risk control:

  • Eliminate the risk by undertaking the work at ground level or from a solid construction.
  • Substitute the means of performing the work to a safe zone.
  • Isolate the hazard by providing a barrier or fence.
  • Engineer the risk by using a control measure such as a fall arrest system.
  • Administer the risk by using signage, line marking and operational instructions.

Fall prevention

According to the hierarchy of control, this is the highest form of protection and removes the risk of the worker falling by providing a barrier between them and the fall hazard. Guardrails and skylight protectors are examples of the types of equipment in this category.

This method requires the least amount of operator competence for working at heights.

Fall restraint

This system restricts the movement of the worker in reaching the fall edge. The lanyard is typically a fixed length system that does not extend past the fall edge and effectively acts like a leash preventing a fall arrest situation. This method is dependent on correct operator use, especially if an adjustable length lanyard is being used.

Static lines and anchors are commonly used as fall restraint systems. User competence and system training are essential when using fall arrest equipment. It is important that anchorages and support structures are fall arrest rated (15 kN) even if the system is used as a restraint system.

Fall arrest

This type of protection arrests the fall of a worker once it has occurred. It does not prevent the worker from falling and has the highest potential for injury. A rescue plan must be in place prior to any person using the fall arrest device.

Overhead rigid rail systems are often used for fall arrest applications.

In the hierarchy of control, this form of protection is the least favourable; however, it is still a useful option when other methods are not practical for any specific application.