In the fall safety hierarchy, the elimination of the hazard itself takes precedence over all other methods. Installing a Passive Fall Protection Systems, followed by an Active Fall Arrest System as a last resort, is the next step if this is not possible.
What Is Passive Fall Protection Systems
A passive fall prevention system is a device that is stationary and does not move, change, or adapt while in use or not. Personal protection gear and active employee participation are not required by passive systems. Passive systems frequently include nets, handrails, and guardrails. When technical controls are unable to reduce the risk of falls, passive solutions are especially useful in architectural designs and workplace environments.
In contrast to passive fall protection systems, active fall protection systems are dynamic and necessitate the use of specialized equipment and employee participation. There are two types of active fall protection systems: fall arrest systems and restraint systems. In all active fall prevention systems, a worker wearing a harness is fastened to an anchoring point by means of a lanyard.
In fall restraint systems like horizontal lifelines, a fixed-length lanyard is frequently used to prevent a worker’s center of gravity from crossing over the leading edge of a fall hazard. Fall arrest systems use a variety of lanyards, such as SRLs and rip stitch lanyards, to prevent a worker who is falling to a lower level from hitting it. Personal Fall Arrest Systems is another name for active fall protection systems.
When deciding on the kind of Fall Protection System that will best suit your requirements, there are a lot of factors to take into account. This includes meeting OSHA’s fall protection requirements.
The Difference between Active and Passive Fall Protection
According to The Centre for Construction Research and Training, most fatal construction injuries involve workers falling. The OSHA statistic is in line with this finding: The OSHA rule that is most frequently disregarded is that of providing adequate fall protection.
The Fall Safety Hierarchy Implementing a comprehensive fall hazard protection system is one of the best practices in all altitude-related workplaces. The removal of the hazard itself takes precedence over all other approaches in the fall safety hierarchy.
Where is Fall Prevention Mandatory?
A fall safety program must be implemented in all workplaces with elevation or altitude, as mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Employers are obligated to take precautions if the underlisted height limits are reached or exceeded because there are varying height limits for various kinds of workplaces. The following height restrictions apply:
- Four feet for industrial workspaces
- Five feet for shipyards
- Six feet for construction sites
- Eight feet for long-shoring
OSHA requires all workplaces that operate dangerous machinery or equipment to implement safety precautions, regardless of the elevation.
The safety of workers is the goal: Protect yourself from anything that could potentially harm you.
Comparing a Passive Fall Protection System to an Active Fall Arrest System
A passive fall protection system includes any and all protections that are static, fixed, or inactive. There is no human association with the framework required after establishment and there is no need of individual defensive outfitting. These are installed as a fall protection second line. Barricades, guardrails, netting, and other similar items are examples of passive protection systems that are administered.
On the other hand, active fall protection systems are movable, require special gearing, and require the worker’s active participation. A body harness, lanyard, anchor, lifeline, and connectors like snap hooks make up these systems. The components of a fall arrest and restraint system are shared by all of the available variations.
If active fall protection is to be implemented, there are a few prerequisites that must be met.
Training is the most important thing – Active fall safety must not be used by unlicensed or untrained individuals. Before each utilization, it is prescribed to go through a simple-to-execute salvage plan in case of a fall. To ensure that fall protection is secure and in place, workers must regularly inspect all equipment and its components, thoroughly.
Active fall protection that is not used right can be dangerous and ineffective. Ensure that the appropriate equipment is installed. Take, for instance, anchorage which is rated for the number of users.
There are many different kinds of equipment in active fall safety systems. Self-retracting and shock-absorbing lifelines, for instance, are available; you can choose the appropriate one based on the total fall distance at the location. The following lengths can be added to get this distance: free fall distance, the length of the harness, the worker’s height, the arresting device’s elongation distance, and the buffer distance are all factors.
Safety Net Systems for Fall Protection: When Should a Safety Net Be Used?
Safety nets are one option for a fall protection plan. The policy and procedures for assembling, maintaining, inspecting, using, and dismantling equipment like ladders, scaffolds, or platforms used for working at heights as well as any fall protection equipment should be outlined in a fall protection plan for workplaces with a risk of falling.
Safety nets are passive fall protection systems that can be installed either above the work to catch a worker who falls or as a barrier to prevent a fall. Safety nets are made to reduce the distance a person has to fall, to absorb the energy of a fall, and to lower the severity of injury.
However, workers are not prevented from falling by safety nets. The best way to stop a worker from falling is to put up a fixed barrier like guardrails, opening covers, or walls. When it is impossible or impractical to use an anchored and lifeline system or install fixed barriers, safety nets are most often used.
What is required by your jurisdiction?
Generally, when a worker has the potential to fall approximately 3 meters (10 feet), occupational health and safety laws require action. Check with your local government because the exact requirements can vary. Take note of the fact that, in most jurisdictions, personal protective equipment (PPE) must be used before or in addition to specific fall protection measures.
Check your local laws to see if there are any requirements regarding the use of a safety net, such as:
- Are your safety nets required to adhere to a specific standard, like ANSI/ASSE A10.11-2010 (R2016) Safety Requirements for Personnel Nets – Construction and Demolition Operations?
- Does the safety net need to be installed by a certified installer or a professional engineer?
- Before the safety net can be used, does it need to be tested by an expert engineer or some other qualified individual?
- When using the safety net, do you have to do any testing or keep records?
- Do employees have to receive fall protection training?
How should a safety net system be used first?
Create and adhere to a fall protection plan outlining the various ways that each worksite will control or eliminate fall hazards. Safety nets’ suitability as a fall protection method will be determined by the nature of the work and the worksite itself. A fall protection plan, for instance, should outline all procedures for:
- Assembling, maintaining, inspecting, using, and removing the personnel safety net or fall arrest system
- Rescuing a worker who has fallen and is suspended by the system or caught by the safety net (if the worker is unable to return to the ground or another safe surface)
- What is in the areas above, below, and around the safety net
- The weight and type of load a safety net will need to support;
- The length of time the safety net will be used and the possible local weather conditions during that time;
- All manufacturer’s specifications;
- Local requirements for your jurisdiction that are related to safety net systems specifically and fall protection in general.
Only use safety nets to catch workers falling when the drop area is clear. It is a good idea to look into other fall protection methods that will reduce the risk of injury if a worker falls and comes into contact with nearby structures or objects, including sharp edges.
When using a safety net system, what actions should be taken?
- As required by your jurisdiction, install all safety nets at a distance below the falling hazard. For instance, the Workers Compensation Board of PEI mandates that personnel safety nets be installed within 4.6 meters (15 feet) of the work area.
- Check the entire potential fall area to ensure that it is unobstructed; the net sags when supporting the forces imposed on it, so a falling worker will not come into contact with the ground or any other objects. Not all falls involve a straight plunge from an opening or edge. When working on bridges or construction sites with a lot of sharp edges and structural elements that protrude, this factor may be crucial.
- Ensure that the safety net extends beyond the work surface area’s boundaries. For instance, according to the Fall Protection Guide published by Safe Work Manitoba, the net must extend at least 2.5 meters beyond the boundaries of a work area.