7 Things You Should Know About Active Fall Protection - Dakota Safety

All forms of fall protection exist to decrease the number of fall-related worker incidents, maintain safety in the workplace, and enhance productivity. However, not all fall protection solutions are created equal.

As falls consistently account for the highest number of fatalities in the construction industry, it’s no wonder that OSHA highlights very specific guidelines to correspond with each system of fall protection. Identifying and addressing these details is the key to sustained workplace safety.


Passive systems – like guardrails, handrails, gates, and barriers – are stationary and non-dynamic, and require minimal effort from workers beyond installation and basic training. On the other hand, active systems – including fixed-point anchors, lanyards, horizontal lifelines, and conventional beam and trolley systems – require regulated, active participation from the users and thus, more consistent attention at the worksite.

Though sometimes convenient, necessary, or preferred, active fall systems come with their fair share of fine print. It’s in your best interest to be informed.

Here are 7 things you should know about active fall protection systems, whether you’re considering implementing them or they are already in use in your workplace.

1. Inspections and Ongoing Maintenance

Though all fall protection systems will deteriorate with time, the constant wear and use of active systems can put additional strain on the equipment, leading to an earlier need for replacements and repairs.

Due to the severity of potential problems that might arise from damaged equipment, thorough inspection is required both before and after use to ensure safety. Not only does OSHA mandate that personal protective equipment, like harnesses, be inspected by an OSHA-competent individual routinely, but workers should also be knowledgeable about what damages to look out for.

2. Costs

The upfront costs of purchasing active fall protection systems are generally lower than passive solutions; however, maintenance, replacements, and training expenses also account for a significant amount of money.

You should expect to see some damage and maintenance costs, especially for personal protective equipment like harnesses, lanyards, and lifelines, because of their consistent use. OSHA mandates that equipment be checked and replaced at the first sign of damage, as well as after any fall-related incident. In addition, thorough preparation and quality training sessions will help you make well-informed decisions when buying equipment, reduce potential costs of insurance and injury compensation claims, and prevent falls from occurring.

3. Training

Active fall protection requires all employees who use the equipment to undergo training from an OSHA-competent person before use. Though training is indispensable to all systems, active systems require constant and ongoing training, as well as periodic assessments of workers’ knowledge and skills. These systems also require training from those not using the equipment in order to check and balance the whole process.

According to OSHA, “Affected employees shall also be trained so that they can demonstrate the proper use, inspection, and storage of their equipment.” Indeed, training is equally critical to workers who are in charge of checking and balancing the systems as it is to those using them.

Employers must provide training to authorized workers who will be exposed to fall hazards on a regular basis. In addition, training should take place whenever a new employee is brought on board, if any work conditions change, or when new equipment and procedures are issued. Likewise, management must be up-to-date on all training guidelines and be trained themselves to verify that the equipment is set up properly before each use and to ensure a safer and happier worksite.

4. Proper Installation

Active systems require a certified installer to come on site to set up the equipment. Often, passive systems do not require external personnel to install equipment, but active solutions need more attention.

5. User Action = Potential User Error

Not knowing how to use personal protective equipment correctly and safely can have serious and fatal consequences. When choosing an active system for the workplace, your workers and their skill sets also need to be considered. Do they know how to recognize fall hazards? Do they adhere to fall protection procedures and standards? What can they do to eliminate or control fall hazards? How do you ensure that unsupervised employees are utilizing active fall protection and not taking shortcuts or skipping using it? How do you make sure subcontractors on-site are also utilizing active measures when working at height? All of these factors need to be addressed when implementing any kind of safety system into your work, but it’s especially true of active fall protection.

6. Limited Productivity

Active fall systems add additional work and time to each job as workers have to set up and tear down the anchor points and equipment. In order to ensure proper and safe use, detailed inspections and meticulous assembly are required by workers and employers alike.

Moreover, the actual time available for work is shortened by the limited mobility of each system within a site. Anchors and lifelines often need to be repositioned and then re-checked as the work is completed and the employees move along. In order to be as safe as possible, active fall protection systems require conscientious effort and constant attention, which can be time- and energy-consuming for workers.

7. Additional Rescue Plans

Whenever a fall protection system is in place, a rescue plan must also be in place. However, rescue plans are one of the most neglected aspects of fall protection. Even the most proactive organizations tend to minimize, or worse, blatantly ignore the need for fall protection rescue.

Failure to enforce rescue procedures means that your company isn’t doing everything it can to prevent injuries. Accidents won’t help grow your business and will undoubtedly jeopardize your reputation. Following fall protection rescue standards shows that you genuinely care about the safety of your workers.

Though some rescue scenarios can be complicated, often, effective rescue plans can be accomplished simply by using a portable ladder. Such elementary plans are often the best. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time you come up with a rescue plan, yet it must be thought through in advance. Hence, it’s important for construction employers to stay proactive and make sure the right people and equipment are always ready when needed so that workers can be rescued in a quick manner.


Like any fall protection strategy, active fall protection requires some consideration and planning before getting started. However, it also demands ongoing thought and management. OSHA compliance and consistent review of your equipment are paramount to your safety success.


Want to know more about finding a fall protection solution that’s right for your industry? Contact us today.

The post 7 Things You Should Know About Active Fall Protection appeared first on Dakota Safety.

Active fall protectionFall safety 101HarnessesInspectionsInstallationOngoing maintenanceTraining

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