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The ABC's of Fall Protection

Selecting the right equipment for a job can be an daunting task. Working in hazardous areas is stressful enough; avoid feeling overwhelmed by remembering your fall protection ABC's.

Every Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS) has three vital components:

Body Wear
Connecting Devices


Anchor points are the foundation of your PFAS. Anchors are installed and attached to substrates - structural materials such as steel, wood, or concrete. An anchor can be penetrating or non-penetrating, depending on the installation area (roof, beam, window, etc.) and the requirements of the job. According to OSHA regulations, an anchor used in fall arrest should be able to support a minimum of 5,000 lbs.

(B)ody Wear

Full-body harnesses are designed to evenly distribute the force of a fall arrest across a worker's body. The primary components of a harness include webbing, buckles (type up to personal preference), and D-rings. Unsure whether you've picked the right harness? D-ring configuration can be a great indicator.

Harness D-Ring Placement
  • Dorsal (Back) D-Ring*: Compliant for arrest, restraint and retrieval.
  • Sternal (Front) D-Ring: Compliant for restraint and retrieval.
  • Side D-Ring: Compliant for restraint and positioning.
  • Shoulder D-Ring: Compliant for restraint, rescue and positioning.

*A dorsal D-ring is the only permitted attachment for fall arrest applications.

(C)onnecting Devices

Your connecting device, as the name suggests, is the connecting element between the anchor and body harness. Connecting devices are equipped with different hook attachments such as carabiners, snap hooks, and rebar hooks. It is important to remember that any connectors used in a PFAS must have shock absorption to help reduce force exerted across the body in the event of a fall. The most common connector types are lanyards and SRLs (self-retracting lifelines).

So what exactly is the difference between a lanyard and SRL?

Lanyards are made of webbing or cable and rarely extend beyond 6'. The lanyard must have an internal or external shock absorption feature to use in fall arrest. A lanyard without a shock absorption component should be used in fall restraint only.

Self-Retracting Lifelines (SRLs) have an internal braking mechanism, where the lifeline itself will immediately retract into its housing unit in the event of a fall. In comparison, a lanyard will hang freely, providing slack. SRLs are also offered in a wider array of lengths.

It is important that you are aware of fall clearance and potential hazards when purchasing safety equipment. Your working conditions will determine the best gear for the task; when in doubt, always defer to ANSI standards and your site's dedicated Competent Person.