Learn what fall restraint systems are, how they can protect workers from falls at heights, the types of equipment involved, and the importance of regular inspections.
Published 30 Jun 2023
Fall restraint systems, also called tie-off systems, are safety measures to prevent workers from falling while working at heights. These systems are designed to limit the worker's movement and ensure they cannot reach the edge of the working surface.
Fall restraint systems can include harnesses, lanyards, anchor points, and other equipment. They are crucial for tasks at elevated heights, such as construction workers, window washers, and roofers.
It’s essential to regularly inspect fall restraint systems and equipment to ensure they are in good working condition. Immediately replace any damaged equipment to prevent accidents. Employers should also periodically train workers to use fall restraint systems to ensure safety.
Safety is paramount when working at heights. For example, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates fall protection at specific elevations in various workplace industries. The following are the height limits:
Fall protection systems prevent workers from falling and potentially suffering severe injuries or death. Two of the most common systems are fall arrest and fall restraint.
Fall arrest systems stop workers who have already fallen by using a lanyard or harness to arrest the fall. If workers fall, the system will activate and prevent them from hitting the ground.
On the other hand, fall restraint systems prevent workers from falling in the first place by restricting their movement. Instead of stopping a fall, this system will prevent workers from reaching the edge of a surface or structure where they could fall.
Assessing the need for a fall restraint system is advisable before implementing a fall arrest system. A fall restraint system may be necessary if there’s limited distance to the ground.
In addition, it allows workers to work continuously at a fixed distance without much intervention. The safety measures reduce the need for a rescue plan during the work, as there is little risk of a worker falling or being suspended in their harness.
Furthermore, the current height safety regulations established by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) require the following:
Create Your Own Fall Risk Assessment ChecklistEliminate manual tasks and streamline your operations.Get started for free
Eliminate manual tasks and streamline your operations.
Fall protection systems, whether fall arrest or fall restraint, consist of three crucial pieces of equipment: anchors, lanyards, and harnesses. This section will discuss each piece of equipment in more detail.
An anchorage connects self-retracting lanyards or lifelines to a worker’s body harness for fall arrest or restraint. It may be a pre-engineered system or a secure connection point on a structure. The effectiveness of an anchorage depends on its design, condition, orientation, and connection to the supporting structure.
According to OSHA standard 1910.140(c)(13), anchors should be “capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds (22.2 kN) per employee attached; or designed, installed, and used, under the supervision of qualified person, as part of a complete personal fall protection system that maintains a safety factor of at least two.”
Qualified individuals must regularly inspect permanent anchor points and fall restraint systems, following specific guidelines for these safety features. The frequency of assessments may need to be modified based on hazard identification and equipment evaluation.
Document these inspections by keeping the following information:
Additionally, it’s important to visually inspect anchor points before attaching fall protection systems. Avoid using the anchorage point if any visible issues such as corrosion, cracks, or damage are present. Loose, weakened, or damaged fasteners can directly impact the strength and stability of the anchor point.
A harness typically comprises straps that wrap around the worker’s torso and legs, a D-ring or other attachment point on the back, and a lanyard or lifeline connecting the harness to an anchor point. The lanyard or lifeline may be retractable or adjustable to allow the worker some freedom of movement while still keeping them safe.
It’s essential to consider various factors before choosing a harness, such as the worker’s weight and height, the type of work, and the environment they’ll be working in. Proper fit and adjustment are also crucial to ensure maximum safety and comfort.
Additionally, you should inspect the harness before every use. You can follow the steps below:
Lanyards are made of strong, lightweight materials such as nylon or polyester. These devices attach to a worker’s safety belt or harness and an anchor point. Several types of lanyards are available, including shock-absorbing lanyards, self-retracting lanyards (SRLs), and positioning lanyards.
Before using any lanyard, inspecting these specific points is crucial:
Additionally, to ensure a comprehensive examination of the webbing and rope components in a shock-absorbing lanyard, it is advisable to adhere to the following steps:
Regularly inspecting fall restraint equipment is critical to ensuring the safety of workers working at heights. However, traditional paper-based inspections can be time-consuming and prone to errors. Fortunately, SafetyCulture can help you streamline your inspections and improve safety in the workplace.
With SafetyCulture, you can:
Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.
What are the Goals of Ergonomics Training? Ergonomics is defined as the study of how humans at work ...
Benefits Big or small, businesses across industries are exposed to a myriad of risks. If unmitigated...
Why It’s Important to Maintain TCS Food Safety An estimated 1.3 billion tons of edible food is ...