What is a fall arrest system?

A fall-arrest system is intended to safely stop a worker falling an uncontrolled distance and reduce the impact of the fall. This system must only be used if it is not reasonably practicable to use higher level controls or if higher level controls might not be fully effective in preventing a fall on their own.

All equipment used for fall-arrest should be designed, manufactured, selected and used in compliance with the AS1891 series of standards.

Key safety considerations in using fall arrest systems are:

  1. the correct selection, installation and use of the equipment
  2. that the equipment and anchorages are designed, manufactured and installed to be capable of withstanding the force applied to them as a result of a person’s fall
  3. that the system is designed and installed so that the person travels the shortest possible distance before having the fall stopped
  4. that workers using a fall-arrest system wear adequate head protection to protect them in the event of a fall
  5. that if the equipment has been used to arrest a fall it is not used again until it has been inspected and certified by a competent person as safe to use.

A fall arrest system can be:

  • Catch platforms -A catch platform is a temporary platform located below a work area to catch a worker in the event of a fall. The platform should be of robust construction and designed to withstand the maximum potential impact load. Scaffolding components may be used to construct fixed and mobile catch platforms
  • Industrial safety nets -Safety nets can provide a satisfactory means of protection while allowing workers maximum freedom of movement. They should not be used to enter or exit a work area or as a working platform.
  • Individual fall-arrest system -Individual fall-arrest systems consist of some or all of the following components:
    1. anchorages
    2. lifelines
    3. inertia reel
    4. lanyard of fixed length
    5. retractable lifelines
    6. rope grabs
    7. wire grabs
    8. rail system
    9. shock absorbers, both personal and industrial
    10. harness
    11. snap hooks (double or triple action to prevent rollout)
    12. karabiners (double or triple action to prevent rollout)
    13. rescue equipment.

    Individual fall-arrest systems rely on workers wearing and using them correctly, and therefore workers who will use such a system must be trained in its safe use. They should only be used where it is not reasonably practicable to use higher level control measures.

    Relevant Australian/New Zealand Standards for personal fall-arrest equipment require that they be permanently marked or labelled to indicate their purpose, correct use, limitations and other relevant information aimed at reducing misuse of the equipment.