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Fall Prevention vs. Fall Arrest

Fall-related injuries and fatalities occur most often in the construction industry, and out of all the occupations in the construction industry, roofers are at the highest risk of fall-related fatalities. As inadequate fall protection is responsible for the majority of these fatalities, it is imperative that roofing professionals place a greater emphasis on recognizing and preventing fall hazards. Fall hazards can be addressed in two main methods: fall prevention and fall arrest. 

This article will discuss the difference between fall prevention, such as fall restraint systems, and fall arrest as well as how you can adhere to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations regarding fall protection on your jobsite. 

Fall Prevention

OSHA defines fall prevention as the prevention of workers from falling by way of engineering controls or restraint systems. Fall prevention is used most frequently to describe passive fall protection systems employed in stable, unchanging work areas. This includes devices like guard rails and barricades that stand in place to minimize the impact of fall hazards.

Another form of fall prevention, fall restraint systems are designed to prevent workers from falling any distance. OSHA recognizes fall restraint systems as suitable protection in lieu of traditional arrest systems, such as guardrails, under the following conditions: 

  • Fall restraint systems should have the capacity to withstand twice the maximum expected force needed to restrain the worker from exposure to fall hazards.
  • The anchorage must be strong enough to prevent the worker from moving past the point where the system is fully extended.

Related: Fall Restraint Systems: Get Compliant Before It’s Too Late

Fall Arrest

OSHA defines fall arrest as the prevention or reduction of injuries when a worker falls from an elevated height. Fall arrest systems are similar to rooftop fall restraint systems and can take the form of single point anchors that workers connect to with body harnesses and lanyards; however, fall arrest equipment must be capable of stopping falls. To prevent workers from falling more than six feet, personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) should be provided. A personal fall arrest system consists of the following:

  • Anchorage: Anchorage systems, at the minimum, must include a building structure and an anchorage device. Fall protection anchor points will be on either the roof or connected to lanyards or a lifeline. To be effective, anchorages must support up to 5,000 pounds.
  • Connectors: Connectors are devices used to couple parts of the personal fall arrest system and the positioning devices. Connectors can come in the form of independent components, such as carabiners, or parts of the system, such as self-retracting lanyards.
  • Full-body harness: A full-body harness consists of straps secured around the employee to distribute the fall arrest forces on areas, such as the thighs, pelvis, waist, chest, and shoulders. 

Related: Ladder Safety and the Types of Personal Fall Arrest Systems

As knowledgeable OSHA lawyers with insight into the construction industry, we know the dangers of falls that result from a lack of adequate protection. Employers and workers are responsible for understanding and adhering to OSHA’s regulations regarding fall prevention and arrest. Our roofing lawyers can assist contractors with any concerns regarding fall protection regulations on a construction site.

If you would like to speak with a roofing attorney regarding fall restraint systems, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

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