Fall Arrest vs Restraint When Working at Height

Published: 21st September 2010
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Restraint Guidance by LeadingEdgeSafety.co.uk

What is restraint?

Operating in restraint allows an operative the access and mobility necessary to reach the leading edge (possible fall hazard) and carry out their tasks whilst preventing them from probably falling.

Forms of Restraint

You can find 3 primary kinds of restraint equipment found on construction sites:

* Fixed length restraint - A lanyard of a specific length stopping access beyond the fall hazard

* Adjustable restraint - A line with mechanical adjustment allowing the operative to personally adjust their gear - for packages where edge exposure is not a constant distance from the anchorage.

* Running line restraint method - A horizontal lifeline utilized in conjunction with personal adjustable restraint - ensuring the anchorage remains directly behind the operative stopping a pendulum fall.

Restraint versus Fall Arrest

The most fundamental difference between the two techniques of working could be the fall potential. Fall arrest makes it possible for the operative to fall and then 'arrests' this fall. Restraint, when used correctly, prevents the fall occurring. Doing work in restraint substantially reduces the risk of falling and therefore all the issues related to fall hazards:

Height clearance implications - with restraint, height clearance isn't an issue as there is no fall to take care of. The problem with making use of fall arrest devices may be the clear height necessary to operate, e.g. a fall arrest lanyard clipped at foot level demands up to 6.75m to operate safely. When functioning in between floor zones this is clearly unsuitable.

If a fall is interrupted by hitting the lower surface in the course of the shock absorbing process, the force still left inside the system with probably fatal effects.

Unique consideration should also be given in which a lanyard is to be used in a scenario in which it could pass over an edge in the course of a fall, e.g. formwork element, slab edge. You will discover no legal requirements for lanyards to be tested passing over an edge; as they're designed to fall into free space.

As a result the majority of lanyards, particularly flat webbing, are not capable of withstanding the increased forces created by the acute angle as the lanyard passes over the edge.

Rescue provision and method statements

When utilizing fall arrest gear on site, the contractor has to supply a appropriate method statement detailing rescue provision. By doing work in fixed restraint, there isn't any fall to deal with, thus rescue provisions are not an issue. When utilizing adjustable and running line restraint systems, provision for rescue needs to be supplied, in the event of operator misuse.


One of the biggest issues in providing fall protection could be the provision of suitable, adequate anchorage in the appropriate location. When utilizing fixed restraint equipment the anchorage requirement can be as little as three times the weight of the user, usually 400kg because there isn't any possibility of falling. An example of this would be employing a fixed restraint inside the basket of a scissor lift.

If there is a 1% chance of a fall, then a fall arrest anchorage needs to be provided. Fall arrest anchorage points could be identified by a competent individual. When employing an adjustable restraint and a horizontal lifeline system the provision of appropriate fall protection temporary or permanent anchorage point is essential.

User comfort

Restraint greatly reduces the load (pull) applied to the operatives body compared to utilizing an inertia reel - fall arrest block

Work site projects and trades require workers to be trained to achieve a high standard of competence in order to work safely at height. In depth knowledge of the gear and safety concerns can not only improve an operator's confidence and efficiency but will also save lives and prevent serious injuries.
Leading Edge height safety training courses are specifically designed for anyone whose job needs them to work at height and involves employing the needed safety equipment required to do this.

For more details visit http://www.leadingedgesafety.co.uk

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