Guide to Personal Fall Arrest Systems

A Personal Fall Arrest System is comprised of three (3) key components – anchorage connector; body wear; and connecting device.

While a lot of focus has been given to anchorage connectors and body wear (full-body harnesses), when discussing fall protection, the connecting device (a shock-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lifeline) between these two components actually bears the greatest fall forces during a fall.

Anchorage/Anchorage Connector

Anchorage: Commonly referred to as a tie-off point (Ex: I-beam, rebar, scaffolding, lifeline, etc.)
Anchorage Connector: Used to join the connecting device to the anchorage (Ex: cross-arm strap, beam anchor, D-bolt, hook anchor, etc.)

  • Anchorages must be capable of supporting 5,000 pounds (22kN) of force per worker.
  • Must be high enough for a worker to avoid contact with a lower level should a fall occur.
  • The anchorage connector should be positioned to avoid a “swing fall.”

Body Wear
Body Wear: The personal protective equipment worn by the worker (Ex: full-body harness)

  • Only form of body wear acceptable for fall arrest is the full-body harness.
  • Should be selected based on work to be performed and the work environment.
  • Side and front D-rings are for positioning only.

Connecting Device
Connecting Device: The critical link which joins the body wear to the anchorage/anchorage connector (Ex: shock-absorbing lanyard, fall limiter, self-retracting lifeline, rope grab, etc.)

  • Potential fall distance must be calculated to determine type of connecting device to be used – typically, under 18-1/2 ft. (5.6m), always use a self-retracting lifeline/fall limiter; over 18-1/2 ft. (5.6m), use a shock-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lifeline/fall limiter.
  • Should also be selected based on work to be performed and the work environment.
  • Shock-absorbing lanyards can expand up to 3-1/2 ft. (1.1m) when arresting a fall; attach lanyards to the harness back D-ring only; never tie a knot in any web lanyard – it reduces the strength by 50%.