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How Do I Choose the Best Fall Arrest System?

Harness systems are commonly used to arrest falls in electricians and construction workers.
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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2014
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The best fall arrest system depends on a number of factors. In many countries, there are guidelines that must be followed when people are working in areas that they could fall from. Checking with the requirements through organizations such as the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) in the US is your first step when selecting a fall arrest system. In addition to considering the requirements mandated by government organizations, examine the area that people could fall from and choose a device that works well for that area.

For a roof, the requirements for the height and strength of a fall arrest system depend on the pitch of the roof. A warning line is often used on a roof to alert people that they are nearing the edge. These lines are not strong enough, however, to catch a person who is falling, though they offer some slight resistance if the worker steps against one of them. They are colorful, providing a visual reminder to the worker that the edge is near. A slide guard, which is a physical block that comes off the roof at an upward angle can also be used as a fall arrest system on a roof.

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Flat surfaces can be outfitted with a guard rail system in order to prevent people from tumbling off the edge. They are built out of wood, metal, or metal rope and are strong enough to stop a falling person. For the most part, regulations state that guardrails must have three rails at specific distances from each other and at a specific distance from the surface that people are walking on. These may be used on flat roofs, buildings under construction, and around holes and pits.

There are also fall arrest systems that catch a person who has already fallen. Harnesses are commonly worn by workers or athletes to catch them in case they fall. These devices only work when there is something solid for the harness to attach to. Full body harnesses offer much more protection than partial body harnesses.

Nets can also be used to catch people who fall off of surfaces. These devices work well on the edges of buildings, especially as a secondary fall arrest system in case a guard rail or warning line does not prevent a fall. Nets can prevent serious injury, though people who fall into them can still be hurt by the fall.

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