What's the Difference Between Fall Restraint and Fall Arrest?

22 January 2020
 Categories: , Blog


If some of your crew are going to work on a job at a dangerous height, then you need to give them maximum protection against falls. This could involve setting up restraint or arrest systems. What's the difference between the two and how do you choose the right option?

What Is a Fall Restraint System?

A restraint height safety system protects against accidental falls by preventing workers from accessing risk areas. For example, you could set up guardrails along a walkway. These rails stop people from falling off the edge. They create a physical barrier.

If your crew will work with harnesses, then you can also attach them to a restraint system. To do this, you use ropes to limit the places a person can go. They won't be able to access a place that is a fall hazard because their ropes won't allow them to move to that location.

What Is a Fall Arrest System?

While fall restraints aim to keep people away from dangerous areas, fall arrest systems protect them if they do have a fall. Often, this involves harnesses, lifelines and anchor points or rail guards. Larger or more dangerous jobs also sometimes use safety nets.

For example, if someone falls from a height without a fall arrest mechanism, then there isn't anything to stop the fall. If the worker wears a harness with a retracting lifeline, then the line halts the fall and pulls the person back up. Or, if they wear a harness attached to a rail guard or anchor, then the attaching rope will stop the fall when it spools itself out. A safety net under workers catches them before they hit the ground.

Which Height Safety System Do You Need?

In some cases, a fall restraint system is enough protection. If a person can't physically get to a fall-risk location and there is no other chance that they might fall, then restraint might be all you need. However, if there is any risk that one of your crew could have a fall even if you have a restraint system in place, then you also need to factor in fall arrest. This is also vital if they will work in conditions where it is hard to set up a full restraint solution.

Bear in mind that you have to comply with health and safety regulations for falls in high working areas. To get a compliant solution that delivers the right levels of protection, ask your height safety products supplier for advice.