Fall Restraint v Fall Arrest. What’s the difference?

Unfortunately, falls from height are still the most common cause of death. As of HSE 2015/2016 statistics, there were 144 workers killed at work during 2015/2016, 26% of these were because of Falls from Height.

Stating the obvious here – the ideal thing to do is not work from height at all. BUT of course, this is not always possible. To ensure the safety of your workforce you must make sure you use the correct equipment.

The two most common categories of equipment used for working at height are Fall Restraint and Fall Arrest. Although these two categories share a common theme, they are actually quite different.

This week we will be explaining the difference between Fall Restraint and Fall Arrest and giving you some examples of when and where you should use them.

What is Fall Restraint?

Fall Restraint prevents you from falling in the first place and should always be the first option when working at height.

Fall Restraint equipment is generally used when work is taking place at the edge of a hazard, such as cleaning gutters. The equipment allows the user to perform the work needed, but stops them from being able to lean or reach any further than the job requires.

Fall Restraint Image

Examples of when you would use Fall Restraint:

• Scaffolding
• Roof Ledges
• Working above an open manhole

What is Fall Arrest?

The first thing to state is that Fall Arrest is NOT a fall prevention device.

In a nutshell, Fall Arrest equipment stops you from hitting the ground, after you have already fallen. It also acts to limit the impact of the force created on the human body, that falling generates. Fall Arrest equipment generally provides more freedom of movement to the user, but of course brings with it a greater risk of falling.

Fall Arrest image

Examples of when you would use Fall Arrest:

• Entering Manholes
• Loading and unloading arctic trolleys

Rescue Plan

One thing that must always be remembered with Fall Arrest is that you must have a Rescue plan in place and qualified staff to implement it. It’s all well and good being able to stop someone falling, but how do you then get them back to safety?

When suspended in mid-air after a fall has occurred, Suspension Trauma is a serious possibility. Due to the nature of most harnesses and the leg straps they utilise, when left to hang there is a considerable amount of pressure placed onto the arteries on the legs. This pressure causes the blood being pumped around the body to begin to pool in the legs, which in turn reduces the oxygen supply to the brain. If left for even 10 minutes, the user will have seriously high levels of stale blood in their legs. Because the blood is pooled in the legs, the brain cannot receive the required amount of oxygen necessary to function correctly, thus causing you to faint and in danger of death.

So, there you have it. Apologies for finishing on such a sombre note but that’s the scary truth of working at height.

As always, we’re always keen to hear your thoughts. What are your experiences with working at height?

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