Course 614 Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment

Lifesaving Equipment

Fall Protection Systems

Safety harness saves the day.

If workers will be exposed to fall hazards that you can't eliminate, you'll need to prevent falls from occurring or ensure that if workers do fall, they aren't injured. A fall-protection system is designed to prevent or arrest falls.

Types of Fall-Protection Systems

There are seven general fall-protection systems:

Fall Protection ABCDs

  • Anchorage Connectors: Roof anchors are permanent or temporary anchor points used to perform new construction, repair, or maintenance.
  • Body Wear: Full body harness that connects the worker to an anchor. Harnesses distribute fall impact forces through the shoulders, thighs and pelvic region to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Connectors: Energy absorbing lanyards, fall limiters, self-retracting lanyards, rope grabs or retrieval systems that provide the connection from body wear to anchorage point.
  • Descent and Rescue: Having a program in place to deal with emergencies will reduce injury and increase chance of survival in the event of a fall.

1. What is a fall-protection system is designed to do?

a. Eliminate the chance of a fall
b. Control the position of the worker
c. Prevent or arrest falls
d. Limit the distance of a fall

Other Fall-Protection Methods

Nat Park Serv Photo
Evaluate the nature of the task to select the best fall protection strategy.

The following methods may also be appropriate for preventing falls:

  • Safety monitoring for roofing work: A method in which a person - rather than a mechanical system - warns roofers when they are in danger of falling. The monitor must be a competent person and is responsible for recognizing hazards and warning workers about them.
  • Catch platforms: Though not covered in OSHA standards, catch platforms are an acceptable method of protecting workers from falls.
  • Covers for holes: Rigid covers prevent workers from falling through temporary holes, openings, and skylights in walking/working surfaces. Covers are simple and effective when they are installed properly.
  • Fences and barricades: Use a fence or similar barricade to keep people away from wells, pits, and shafts.

Identify and Evaluate Fall Hazards

As we mentioned earlier, wherever possible, you need design your work so it eliminates fall hazards. In many situations, you won't be able to eliminate fall hazards. Make sure you identify hazards that you can't eliminate and evaluate each one. The evaluation will help you determine appropriate fall-protection systems for your work site. The first thing to consider is the fall distance from the walking-working surface to the next lower level. Once this has been determined, consider the following:

  • How many workers are exposed to the hazard?
  • The tasks and work areas associated with the hazard.
  • How workers will move - horizontally, vertically, or in both directions - to do their tasks.
  • The availability of secure anchorages. If they are not available, can they be easily installed near the hazard?
  • Check for other hazards near the work area, such as overhead power lines.
  • How workers will be promptly rescued if they are suspended in a personal fall-arrest system.

2. What is the first thing to consider when evaluating a task to determine which fall protection system is appropriate?

a. Availability of anchorages
b. How workers might be rescued after a fall
c. Other hazards that might exist in the area
d. Fall distance from the surface to the next lower level

Personal Fall-Arrest Systems (PFAS)

PFAS mil photo
Learning how to use PFAS starts with the harness.

A personal fall-arrest system consists of an anchorage, connectors, and a full-body harness that work together to stop a fall and to minimize the arrest force. Other parts of the system may include a lanyard, a deceleration device, and a lifeline.

  • Ensure that personal fall arrest systems will, when stopping a fall:
    • Limit maximum arresting force to 1,800 pounds.
    • Be rigged such that an employee can neither free fall more than 6 feet nor contact any lower level.
    • Bring an employee to a complete stop and limit maximum deceleration distance to 3 1/2 feet.
    • Have sufficient strength to withstand twice the potential impact energy of a worker free falling a distance of 6 feet, or the free fall distance permitted by the system, whichever is less.
  • Remove systems and components from service immediately if they have been subjected to fall impact, until inspected by a competent person and deemed undamaged and suitable for use.
  • Promptly rescue employees in the event of a fall, or assure that they are able to rescue themselves.
  • Inspect systems before each use for wear, damage, and other deterioration, and remove defective components from service.
  • Do not attach fall arrest systems to guardrail systems or hoists.
  • Rig fall arrest systems to allow movement of the worker only as far as the edge of the walking/working surface, when used at hoist areas.

Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the that explains the importance of fall arrest systems.

3. How far may a worker fall when using an appropriate personal fall arrest system (PFAS)?

a. Up to 3 1/2 feet
b. No more than 6 feet
c. Between 2 and 8 feet with a lifeline
d. Up to 10 feet if using a deceleration device

Body Harness

Body harnesses are designed to minimize stress forces on an employee's body in the event of a fall, while providing sufficient freedom of movement to allow work to be performed. Harnesses, and components must be used only for employee protection (as part of a personal fall arrest system) and not to hoist materials.

Keep the following in mind:

  • The harness must be made from synthetic fibers.
  • The harness must fit the user. It should be comfortable and easy to adjust.
  • According to ANSI/ASSE Z359.1, Safety Requirements for Personal Fall Arrest Systems, Subsystems, and Components, the harness must have an attachment point, usually a D-ring, in the center of the back at about shoulder level. A D-ring may also be used in the front of the harness. However, connection at the front D-ring is limited to systems that restrict free fall distance to 2 ft or less and limit the maximum fall arrest loads on the front D-ring to 900 lb of force or less. The D-ring should be large enough to easily accept a lanyard snap hook.
  • Chest straps should be easy to adjust and strong enough to withstand a fall without breaking.
  • Use only industrial full-body harnesses (not recreational climbing harnesses).
  • fallbodybelt
    Body belts are to be used only for positioning, travel restraint, or ladder safety systems.
  • The harness must be safe and reliable. It should meet ANSI and CSA standards and the manufacturer should have ISO 9001 certification, which shows the manufacturer meets international standards for product design, development, production, installation, and service.

Body Belts

As of January 1, 1998, body belts are not acceptable as part of a personal fall arrest system (PFAS), because they impose a danger of internal injuries when stopping a fall. However, body belts may be used for attaching to other components, such as a lanyard used with positioning systems, travel restraint systems, or ladder safety systems.

4. According to the ANSI/ASSE Z359.1 fall protection code, where must the attachment point, usually a D-ring, be located on a PFAS harness?

a. In the front of the harness at chest level
b. On the right side at belt level
c. In the center of the back at shoulder level
d. On the left side above the hip

The Anchorage

An anchorage is a secure point of attachment for lifelines, lanyards, or deceleration devices. An anchorage for a personal fall-arrest system must support at least 5,000 pounds or be designed and installed under the supervision of a qualified person as part of a complete personal fall protection system that maintains a safety factor of at least two.

Anchorage strength is critical, but is not the only factor to consider. Also important:

  • Anchorage connector: Unless an existing anchorage has been designed to accept a lanyard or lifeline, you will need to attach an anchorage connector - a device that provides a secure attachment point. Examples include tie-off adapters, hook anchors, beam connectors, and beam trolleys. Be sure that the connector is compatible with the lanyard or lifeline and appropriate for the work task.
  • Attachment point: The anchorage can be used only as the attachment point for a personal fall-arrest system; it can't be used to support or suspend platforms.
  • Location: The anchorage should be located directly above the worker, if possible, to reduce the chance of a swing fall.
  • Fall distance: Because a personal fall-arrest system does not prevent a fall, the anchorage must be high enough above a worker to ensure that the arrest system, and not the next lower level, stops the fall. Consider free-fall distance, lanyard length, shock-absorber elongation, and body-harness stretch in determining the height of an anchorage. Free-fall distance is the distance a worker falls before a personal fall-arrest system begins to stop the fall.
  • Connectors: An anchorage, a lanyard, and a body harness are not useful until they are linked together. Connectors do the linking; they make the anchorage, the lanyard, and the harness a complete system. Connectors include carabiners, snap hooks, and D-rings.

5. An anchorage for a personal fall-arrest system (PFAS) must support _____.

a. more than 2,000 pounds
b. the maximum intended load
c. at least 5,000 pounds
d. three times the weight of each worker


This is a
"Y" Lanyard with two connectors in common use today.

A lanyard is a specially designed flexible line that has a snap hook at each end. One snap hook connects to the body harness and the other connects to an anchorage or a lifeline. Lanyards must have a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds. They come in a variety of designs, including self-retracting types that make moving easier and shock-absorbing types that reduce fall-arrest forces. Don't combine lanyards to increase length or knot them to make them shorter.

Deceleration Devices

Deceleration devices protect workers from the impact of a fall and include shock-absorbing lanyards, self-retracting lifelines or lanyards, and rope grabs.

Shock-Absorbing Lanyard

Determining fall distance.

A shock absorber reduces the impact on a worker during fall arrest by extending up to 3.5 feet to absorb the arrest force. OSHA rules limit the arrest force to 1,800 pounds but a shock-absorbing lanyard can reduce the force even more - to about 900 pounds.

Because a shock-absorbing lanyard extends up to 3.5 feet, it's critical that the lanyard stops the worker before the next lower level. Allow about 20 vertical feet between the worker's anchorage point and the level below the working surface. Always estimate the total distance of a possible fall before using a shock-absorbing lanyard.

Example: Lanyard length (6 feet) + deceleration distance (3.5 feet) + worker's height (6 feet) + safety margin (3 feet) = 18.5 vertical feet from anchorage to lower level.

Never use a shock-absorbing lanyard if the shock absorber is even partially extended or if the lanyard has arrested a fall.

6. How far does a shock absorber extend to reduce the impact on a worker during a fall?

a. Between 2 and 6 feet
b. No more than 6 feet
c. Two feet
d. Up to 3.5 feet

Self-Retracting Lanyard/Lifeline

Illustration of "swing distance."

Self-retracting lanyards and lifelines offer more freedom to move than shock-absorbing lanyards. Each has a drum-wound line that unwinds and retracts as the worker moves. If the worker falls, the drum immediately locks, which reduces free-fall distance to about 2 feet - if the anchorage point is directly above the worker. Some self-retracting lanyards will reduce free-fall distance to less than one foot. Self-retracting lanyards are available in lengths up to 20 feet. Self-retracting lifelines, which offer more freedom, are available in lengths up to 250 feet.

  • Self-retracting lanyards and lifelines that limit free-fall distance to 2 feet or less must be able to hold at least 3,000 pounds with the lanyard (or lifeline) fully extended.
  • Self-retracting lanyards that don't limit free-fall distance to 2 feet must be able to hold at least 5,000 pounds with the lanyard (or lifeline) fully extended.

Swing distance. If you use a self-retracting lanyard or lifeline, work below the anchorage to avoid a swing fall. The farther you move away from the anchorage, the farther you will fall and the greater your risk of swinging back into a hard object. Swing falls are hazardous because you can hit an object or a lower level during the pendulum motion.

7. Why is it important to work directly under the anchorage when using a self-retracting lifeline?

a. To prevent stress on the harness
b. To prevent a swing fall
c. To comply with OSHA rules
d. To ensure the rope grab locks
Rope grab.

Rope Grab

A rope grab allows a worker to move up a vertical lifeline but automatically engages and locks on the lifeline if the worker falls. When using a rope grab, keep the following in mind:

  • The rope grab must be compatible with the lifeline.
  • The rope grab must be correctly attached to the lifeline (not upside down).
  • Keep the lanyard (between the rope grab and the body harness) as short as possible.
  • Keep the rope grab as high as possible on the lifeline.

8. Which of the following is TRUE about using a rope grab?

a. Keep the lanyard as short as possible
b. Attach the rope grab to the D-ring
c. Keep the rope grab at waist-level when climbing
d. Make sure the rope grab is upside down

Next Section


A lifeline is a cable or rope that connects to a body harness, lanyard, or deceleration device, and at least one anchorage. There are two types of lifelines. (Vertical and Horizontal)

Vertical lifeline: A vertical lifeline is attached to an overhead anchorage and must be connected directly to a worker's full-body harness, lanyard, retractable device, or rope grab; it must have a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds.

However, when a worker needs to move horizontally, a vertical lifeline can be hazardous because of the potential for a swing fall – the pendulum motion that results when the worker swings back under the anchor point. A swing fall increases a worker's risk of striking an object or a lower level during the pendulum motion.

To reduce impact forces, increase sag angle.

Horizontal lifeline: Unlike a vertical lifeline, the horizontal lifeline stretches between two anchorages. When you connect a lanyard or rope grab to the horizontal lifeline, you can move about freely, thus reducing the risk of a swing fall. However, horizontal lifelines are subject to much greater loads than vertical lifelines.

If they are not installed correctly, horizontal lifelines can fail at the anchorage points. For this reason, horizontal lifelines must be designed, installed, and used under the supervision of a qualified person.

Example: When the sag angle is 15 degrees, the force on the lifeline and anchorages subjected to a load is about 2:1. However, if you decrease the sag angle to 5 degrees, the force increases to about 6:1. To reduce loads on a horizontal lifeline, increase the sag angle or connect to the lifeline with a shock-absorbing lanyard.

9. When using a horizontal lifeline, to reduce impact forces, _____ the sag angle.

a. vary
b. limit
c. increase
d. decrease

Safe Practices for Personal Fall-Arrest Systems

  • Don't tie knots in rope lanyards and lifelines; knots can reduce strength by 50%.
  • Don't tie lifelines or lanyards directly to I-beams; the cutting action of beam edges can reduce the rope's strength by 70%.
  • Know how the sag angle of a horizontal lifeline can affect arrest forces on the anchorages. Remember that horizontal lifelines must be designed, installed, and used under the supervision of a qualified person.
  • Think about the potential for a swing fall whenever you connect a lifeline to a personal fall-arrest system.
  • Remember that a shock-absorbing lanyard will elongate before arresting a fall. The fall distance includes lanyard length (before the shock absorber extends), deceleration distance (shock-absorber extension), worker height, and a safety margin (allow 3 feet).

Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the that makes the case for tie-offs in residential construction.

10. Why is it an unsafe practice to tie knots in rope lanyards or lifelines?

a. It's actually okay to tie knots in lifelines
b. Knots are not professional-looking
c. Knots can reduce strength by 50%
d. The wrong knot can kink a lanyard

Check your Work

Click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.

Next Module
OSHAcademy Ultimate Guide Banner Ad