Working at height remains the greatest area of risk for those working on-site.
While perhaps this isn’t new information, this issue has been bought to attention once again by recent statistics released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Almost half of all construction accidents (47%) in 2020 were falls from height… it’s a worrying picture.
Furthermore, there were 40 fatal injuries on-site in the same year, which is up on the 5-year average of 37. A disturbing 29 of those fatalities came as a result of falls from height, with most involving falls from ladders, scaffolds, working platforms, roof edges or through fragile roofs.
These figures highlight the magnitude of the problem, and the importance of upping our efforts to reduce risks when working at height and improve outcomes for construction workers.
Fall protection equipment, such as fall arrest and fall restraint systems, are vital to achieving this, but deploying these systems in the wrong way could have catastrophic consequences.
That’s why it’s important to understand the difference between fall arrest and fall restraint, enabling those planning work at height to ensure workers utilise each piece of height safety equipment in the right way.
So, in the latest Leach’s blog we’ll pose the question: fall arrest vs fall restraint… what’s the difference?
What is fall restraint?
The safest form of protection when working at height is to first review whether it’s necessary in the first place. If possible, it’s always advised to carry out a task with two feet on the ground.
If it is deemed necessary for work at height to take place, a fall restraint system should be the first consideration to prevent a fall from occurring.
Fall restraint systems use a body holding device, such as a harness, connected to a reliable anchor, to prevent the wearer from entering dangerous zones where there may be a risk of a fall. It therefore restrains where the wearer can go, but it shouldn’t restrict them from performing their duties.
When do I need fall restraint equipment?
Preventing a fall is always better than dealing with its consequences. That’s why a fall restraint system should always be considered when working at height as a first port of call, and before a fall arrest system, as stated in the current work at height regulations.
Fall restraint system include: an anchorage point – tested to EN795 for Restraint or Fall Arrest, a work positioning belt, also known as a restraint belt or a full body safety harness and, a restraint lanyard or a work positioning system.
What is fall arrest?
Where a fall restraint system prevents dangerous scenarios from occurring, a fall arrest system gives workers freedom to move wherever they wish. However, this does mean a worker could reach a position where an accidental fall could occur.
In the event of a fall, the fall arrest system ensures the worker will be caught before descending. Fall arrest equipment must be selected and positioned to limit the distance a worker can fall, therefore lessening the consequences of a fall. Put simply, a fall arrest system protects workers after a fall, whereas a fall restraint system prevents a fall from happening.
If the work needed involves the risk of a fall from height, it is necessary to use fall protection equipment that will arrest the fall by absorbing the forces generated. A fall arrest system includes: an anchorage point – tested to EN795 for Fall Arrest, a full body safety harness, a fall arrest lanyard, energy absorbing lanyard or a self-retracting lifeline.
When do I need to use fall arrest equipment?
A fall arrest system should only be used if it isn’t feasible to restrict a worker from reaching a risk fall hazard. This may include situations where, for example, work needs to be completed on fragile surfaces, or if a worker is required to work over the edge of a fall hazard. If a worker is able to reach a fall hazard, fall arrest equipment must be used. If a fall does occur, it’s imperative that there is a thorough rescue and evacuation plan in place to improve the outcomes of a fall.
Fall restraint prevents; fall arrest protects
To summarise, fall restraint systems prevent a fall from occurring, whereas fall arrest systems protect those who do fall from height. Both have their advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation, and it’s important to always consult a height safety specialist to ensure you are using either solution in the best manner possible.