Three Most Common Types Of Fall Arrest Systems

Fall protection is a crucial safety factor when working in high places. It’s imperative that those who work at heights be equipped with the right measures to ensure their safety and peace of mind, no matter what activity they may be conducting. With this in mind, there are three commonly used fall arrest systems that you should know about if you’re looking for reliable security. In this blog post, we’ll take an in-depth look into each type of system so you can choose the one best suited to your needs and environment.

Common Types Of Fall Arrest Systems

The three most common types of fall arrest equipment are safety harnesses, safety nets, and airbags.

1. Safety Harnesses

Safety harnesses should only be used when conventional protection, using guard rails, is no longer practicable. Such conditions occur when falling 2 m or more from an open edge is possible. The following points must be considered when safety harnesses are to be used:

  • The length of the fall only is reduced by a safety harness. The worker may still be injured due to the shock load applied to him when the fall is arrested. A free fall limit of about 2 m is maintained to reduce this shock loading. Lanyards are often fitted with shock absorbers to reduce the effect of shock loading. 
  • The worker must be attached to a secure anchorage point before they move into an unsafe position. The lanyard should always be attached above the worker, whenever possible. 
  • Only specifically trained and competent workers should attach lanyards to anchorage points and work in safety harnesses. Those who wear safety harnesses must be able to undertake safety checks and adjust the harness before it is used. 
Types Of Fall Arrest Systems

Three levels of inspection are recommended for safety harnesses as follows:

  • A pre-use check is undertaken by the user at the beginning of each shift to check if there are no visible or surface defects. 
  • A detailed inspection is undertaken at least every six months. However, for frequently used equipment, this should be increased to at least every three months, particularly when the equipment is used in arduous environments (e.g. demolition, steel erection, scaffolding, steel masts/towers with edges). The results of the inspection should be formally recorded. 
  • An interim inspection is also an in-depth, recorded inspection. It may be needed between detailed inspections because the associated risk assessment has identified a risk that could result in significant deterioration, affecting the safety of the lanyard before the next detailed inspection is due. The need for and frequency of interim inspections will depend on their use. Examples of situations where they may be appropriate include risks from arduous working environments involving paints, chemicals, or grit blasting. 

Any defects discovered by these inspections must be reported to the employer immediately.

2. Safety Nets

Safety nets are widely used to arrest falls of people, tools, and materials from a height, but competent installation is essential. The correct tensioning of the net is important; normally, specialist companies are available to fit nets. The popularity of nets has grown since the Construction Regulations came into force in 1996 and the subsequent advocacy of their use by the HSE. Nets are used for roofing work and some refurbishment work. Nets, however, have a limited application since they are not suitable for use in low-level construction where there is insufficient clearance below the net to allow it to deflect the required distance after impact. Nets should be positioned so that workers will not fall more than 2 m, in case they hit the ground or other obstructions. 

Airbags are used when it is either not possible or practical to use safety nets. Therefore they are used extensively in domestic house building or when it is difficult to position anchorage points for safety harnesses. When airbags are used, it is important to ensure that the bags are of sufficient strength and the air pressure high enough to ensure that any falling person does not make contact with the ground. Only reputable suppliers should be employed for the provision of airbags. Air bags or bean bags are known as soft landing systems used to protect workers from the effects of inward falls. Other possible solutions to this problem of the inward fall are the use of internal scaffolding or lightweight ‘crash deck systems.

3. Air Bags

Air bags may be linked together to form an inflated crash deck system. Such a system is suitable when a safety net is not viable. It consists of a series of interlinked air mattresses positioned beneath the working area and is suitable for working at height inside a building where safety harnesses would not be practicable. The mattresses are interconnected by secure couplings and inflated in position on-site using an air pump. The mattresses are made in various sizes so that any floor area configuration can be covered. A similar form of the crash deck can be made from bean bags that are clipped together.

After the completion of the construction project, cable-based fall arrest systems are usually suitable for ongoing building maintenance work. They may also be used to construct complex roof structures, such as parabolic or dome structures, where a safety net may be more than 2 m below the structure’s highest point.

About Malik Imran

Hi, my name is Imran and I am a safety engineer currently working at ADNOC Company in the United Arab Emirates. I have over 6 years of experience in this field, which has allowed me to gain extensive knowledge and skills to ensure the safety of individuals and the environment in the workplace.

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