Fall Protection Categories
Four Different Categories of Fall Protection
All active fall protection in the construction industry can fall under four functional categories. OSHA helps us understand these categories by providing standards for each category of fall protection.
A fall arrest system is required when any risk exists that a worker may fall from an elevated position. This 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. This system is will only come into service when a fall occurs.
There are two major types of fall arrest: general fall arrest, such as nets; and personal fall arrest, such as lifelines. Lifeline systems must include four elements referred to as the ABCD’s of fall arrest:
A- Anchorage-A fixed structure or structural adaptation, often including an anchorage connector, to which the other components of the personal fall arrest are rigged.
B- Body Wear-A full body harness worn by the worker.
C- Connector-A subsystem component connecting the harness to the anchorage.
D- Deceleration Device-A subsystem component designed to dissipate the forces associated with a fall arrest event.
Positioning systems allow the worker to “sit back” in their harness while performing work with both hands. This type of protection is not designed to be used to arrest a fall, and must be used in conjunction with a fall arrest system.
Suspension allows the worker a hands-free work environment while lowering and supporting them. This type of fall protection is widely used in window washing and painting industries. This equipment is not designed to arrest a free fall, a backup fall arrest system should always be used in conjunction with suspension.
Otherwise known as a rescue plan, retrieval is a crucial step in the development of a fall protection plan. This system covers the post fall scenario of retrieving a worker who has fallen. OSHA does not give any instruction regarding how to accomplish this, but does say that there must be a plan in place.
Utilizing the proper fall protection education, equipment, and training will help employers maintain a safer work environment. It is important for employers to be educated on all OSHA fall protection regulations and standards.