What comes to mind when you think of fall protection? Is it a harness, keeping a construction worker connected to a building? Or is it a device that alerts an emergency if a worker has fallen and is unconscious?
When asked this question, employers and employees alike think of a wide range of tools and ideas with the term “fall protection” including tactile solutions like a fall detection device to conceptual solutions such as safety training and protocols. It is an umbrella term for a broad spectrum of occupational safety that, according to the OSHA, prevents “employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated work stations or into holes in the floor and walls.”
Every year, thousands of workers in the US and beyond are injured from a fall at work. In 2019, nearly 250,000 American workers were injured from a fall that was serious enough that it required time off work. Of those, 880 people died in the work-related fall, resulting in immeasurable ramifications for the employee’s family and company.
Active Versus Passive Fall Protection
To prevent these incidents from occurring, employers should look at both active and passive fall protection, which play different but important roles in the safety of the employees.
Active fall protection prevents injury and accidents through the use of special equipment and/or technology as well as the participation of the worker. Active fall protection can include fall detection devices and fall restraint systems.
On the other hand, passive fall protection is a system that is non-dynamic, stationary, and does not move or adapt or change when in or out of use. These include measures that are usually static and installed in place, such as safety netting and guardrails, essentially preventing the worker from hitting the ground. As you read further, you will learn about active and passive fall protection options as well as the specific occupational safety needs and circumstances they help satisfy.