The Work at Height Regulations 2005 state that employers have a responsibility to provide control measures that prevent falls from causing serious injury or death in the workplace. These control measures fall into a hierarchy, with the safest precautions first, leading to last resort prevention methods. Aside from not working at height and putting collective protection methods in place that require no additional training, there are two main fall protection methods: implementing either a fall arrest or fall restraint system. While the terminology surrounding fall protection can be confusing, it’s important to understand the difference between these two systems, in order to choose which best suits your business needs.

 

Fall restraint systems 

A fall restraint system is the first method you should explore when controlling working at height operations, as its aim is to prevent individuals from reaching high-risk areas before they have a chance of falling. Fall restraints usually work by providing a lanyard attached via an anchored point to a body hardness and they are of a fixed-length to prevent operators from reaching the high-risk area. For example, an operator working in a MEWP would use a restraint lanyard to prevent them leaning too far or climbing out of the basket.

This fall protection method is preferable for many businesses as it is relatively risk-free. The operator using this system is highly unlikely to fall and, because of this, they won’t experience the intense shock and force experienced when a fall occurs. 

However, not all types of work will be suitable for this kind of system, as certain jobs may require operators to be placed in more precarious situations. In these cases, you are likely to need a fall arrest system. 

 

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Fall Arrest systems 

Fall arrest systems should be the final measure of control you consider and should only be implemented where there are no other practical or viable alternatives, such as a fall restraint system. The main difference between a fall restraint and an arrest system is that the restraint system prevents the fall and an arrest system stops the fall before contact with a surface. They are typically used when the work being done requires an operator to be in a potentially dangerous position in order for it to be carried out successfully, such as work being done on the side of, or around, a high building. 

A simple example of a fall arrest system would be a fall arrest lanyard attached via a body harness to an anchor point which (should an operator lose balance) is designed to shorten the distance of a fall.

It’s important to note that fall arrest systems don’t stop a fall completely, but utilise a shock absorber to lessen the shock and impact experienced. When choosing a fall arrest system, it’s important to take into consideration the size, shape and strength of the structure you will be attaching it to, the position of the anchor point and the fall distance an operator will travel should they fall. 

 

Choosing the right fall protection system

Choosing a fall protection system depends on your individual work environment and the circumstances of the work being undertaken. As an employer or duty of care holder, it’s your responsibility to ensure the appropriate measures are in place to prevent injury or death from falling, so it’s important to make sure you’re educated in your decision. This way, you can ensure the protection system you provide is suitable for your work environment while staying compliant with the Working at Height regulations.

 

For everything you need to know about the Working at height regulations (2005), download our free no-nonsense guide so you can be sure you’re making the right choice for your business, and keeping your employees safe. 

 

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