Active & Passive Fall Protection

Doug Kotecki
Did you know that fall protection comes in both active and passive varieties? Don't worry there is no such thing as passive aggressive fall protection. However, knowing the difference between active and passive fall protection will help you identify and eliminate fall hazards in the safest way possible. So, what's the difference? That's what we're going to cover Mr. Impatient.

The first step to eliminating a fall hazard is passive fall protection. Don't go reaching for anchors, harnesses, and lanyards before you have to. Passive fall protection prevents falls from happening. One of the best examples of passive fall protection is a guardrail system. Guardrail systems can be made of steel or two by fours.

At first glance, the price of a guardrail system may seem a bit steep, but when you think about outfitting your entire crew with safety harnesses and lanyards (which will deteriorate) the cost is a little more palatable. It's a simple solution. A railing around the perimeter of your job site can instantly eliminate falls. And for those of you who think it's impossible to find a safety rail for your job site... I doubt it. Manufacturers now produce guardrail posts for almost any structure, including concrete.

Another example of passive fall protection would be warning lines. Much like a warning track in baseball, a warning line system alerts workers that there is an edge coming up. It's almost like those velvety ropes at a museum. Same principle. Don't touch the exhibit... Don't go over there.

So, what if you can't keep your crew away from a drop? What if you can't eliminate the fall and need to protect against it? Well, then (and only then) you reach for some active fall protection.

Active fall protection is the equipment most people think about when they think of fall protection. When you're using active fall protection, workers are working near edges and can fall. Whereas passive fall protection keeps workers from falling, active fall protection protects workers if they fall.

Every active fall protection system includes 5 basic components.

1. Anchorage Point - A place of structural integrity that can support 5,000 lbs. of arresting force in the direction of a fall.

2. Anchor - Connects to an anchorage point to create safe tie-off site for workers to use.

3. Body Harness - A big jock strap that catches and supports you body during and after a fall.

4. Connector - Attaches a harness to an anchor (ex. lanyards, retractables...)

5. Rescue - Equipment to rescue a fallen worker.

Now, that you know the difference between these similar terms you'll be better prepared to address fall hazards on your job site. Remember, active fall protection is your second course of action, and that whenever possible, you should use passive fall protection.

About the Author
Doug Kotecki is the owner of and has been working in the safety industry for the past four years. Fall Protection works with customers to provide personal service and an easy to use website.

Don't Forget Protection,

Doug Kotecki
P: 608-719-8395
F: 888-353-8914

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