Active vs. Passive Fall Protection

Whether work is performed indoors or outdoors, gravity is a constant you must still contend with. There are several recommendations that will safeguard without compromising productivity.

Passive Fall Protection Systems

In consideration of OSHA’s Hierarchy of Fall Protection Controls, and given that the fall hazard cannot be engineered out, the best option is to utilize a passive fall protection system. Passive systems do not require special equipment or active participation from the worker. In this case, a passive system, such as catch platforms, could be installed around the perimeter of the work area.

The platforms should be of adequate width, and should include an exterior handrail to catch a worker. This type of system could also serve as an excellent work platform.

Active Fall Protection Systems


If perimeter platforms cannot be used, active systems can be installed, requiring the workers to don harnesses and connect to an overhead system. Active fall protection system options consist of fixed-point anchors, horizontal lifelines and conventional beam and trolley systems each attached to the existing overhead structure.

According to OSHA, fall protection systems must be “capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds (22kN) per employee attached” or be part of a complete system designed by a qualified person that maintains a safety factor of at least two. Thus, any active fall protection system should be designed by a qualified and experienced person and should include an analysis of the supporting structure.

Fixed Point Anchors (FPAs)


The easiest active system to integrate may be the installation of a series of FPAs over the work area. Each FPA would consist of a certified anchor point to the existing overhead structure from which a shock-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lifeline (SRL) lanyard is supported. Workers would work centrally under each FPA within an approximately 15-degree range. They would transition to adjacent FPAs as their work progressed, maintaining 100 percent connectivity. If a limited number of workers are making frequent transitions to adjacent FPAs, this system may hinder productivity. In addition, FPAs require significant structural anchoring. Therefore, a mobile anchorage point should be considered.

Mobile Anchorage Points

Horizontal lifelines (HLLs) and conventional beam and trolley monorail systems attached to the overhead structure offer protection while working uninterrupted. Either system can be designed for multiple workers. Both systems should be equipped with SRLs and be located centrally over the work area to avoid swing falls. Parallel systems should be considered for multiple workers.

There are simple engineered HLL systems that are available in a kit, but they are generally limited to single-span applications. There are more sophisticated HLLs that incorporate a pass-through feature whereby a proprietary shuttle can automatically pass through intermediate lifeline support points. As a result, the system can be multi-span and reduce HLL deflection and costs. HLLs should include a tension-indicating mechanism to properly tune the system for reliable performance. Also, HLLs may require an in-line shock absorber to reduce the forces to the supporting structure.

In general, HLLs are the economic alternative to the higher priced beam and trolley systems. However, some structures cannot easily support the high-end anchor forces that accompany HLLs, so beam and trolley systems can be advantageous while deflecting negligibly and providing the ultimate in smooth-running performance.

Finally, all workers exposed to falls should be trained by a competent person to recognize fall hazards and to be familiar with available control methods and equipment.

Active vs Passive Fall Protection

 Whether work is performed indoors or outdoors, gravity is a constant you must still contend with. There are several recommendations that will safeguard without compromising productivity.

Passive Fall Protection Systems

In consideration of OSHA’s Hierarchy of Fall Protection Controls, and given that the fall hazard cannot be engineered out, the best option is to utilize a passive fall protection system. Passive systems do not require special equipment or active participation from the worker. In this case, a passive system, such as catch platforms, could be installed around the perimeter of the work area.

The platforms should be of adequate width, and should include an exterior handrail to catch a worker. This type of system could also serve as an excellent work platform.

Active Fall Protection Systems

If perimeter platforms cannot be used, active systems can be installed, requiring the workers to don harnesses and connect to an overhead system. Active fall protection system options consist of fixed-point anchors, horizontal lifelines and conventional beam and trolley systems each attached to the existing overhead structure.

According to OSHA, fall protection systems must be “capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds (22kN) per employee attached” or be part of a complete system designed by a qualified person that maintains a safety factor of at least two. Thus, any active fall protection system should be designed by a qualified and experienced person and should include an analysis of the supporting structure.

Fixed Point Anchors (FPAs)

The easiest active system to integrate may be the installation of a series of FPAs over the work area. Each FPA would consist of a certified anchor point to the existing overhead structure from which a shock-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lifeline (SRL) lanyard is supported. Workers would work centrally under each FPA within an approximately 15-degree range. They would transition to adjacent FPAs as their work progressed, maintaining 100 percent connectivity. If a limited number of workers are making frequent transitions to adjacent FPAs, this system may hinder productivity. In addition, FPAs require significant structural anchoring. Therefore, a mobile anchorage point should be considered.

Mobile Anchorage Points

Horizontal lifelines (HLLs) and conventional beam and trolley monorail systems attached to the overhead structure offer protection while working uninterrupted. Either system can be designed for multiple workers. Both systems should be equipped with SRLs and be located centrally over the work area to avoid swing falls. Parallel systems should be considered for multiple workers.

There are simple engineered HLL systems that are available in a kit, but they are generally limited to single-span applications. There are more sophisticated HLLs that incorporate a pass-through feature whereby a proprietary shuttle can automatically pass through intermediate lifeline support points. As a result, the system can be multi-span and reduce HLL deflection and costs. HLLs should include a tension-indicating mechanism to properly tune the system for reliable performance. Also, HLLs may require an in-line shock absorber to reduce the forces to the supporting structure.

In general, HLLs are the economic alternative to the higher priced beam and trolley systems. However, some structures cannot easily support the high-end anchor forces that accompany HLLs, so beam and trolley systems can be advantageous while deflecting negligibly and providing the ultimate in smooth-running performance.

Finally, all workers exposed to falls should be trained by a competent person to recognize fall hazards and to be familiar with available control methods and equipment.

Active vs Passive Fall Protection

 Whether work is performed indoors or outdoors, gravity is a constant you must still contend with. There are several recommendations that will safeguard without compromising productivity.

Passive Fall Protection Systems

In consideration of OSHA’s Hierarchy of Fall Protection Controls, and given that the fall hazard cannot be engineered out, the best option is to utilize a passive fall protection system. Passive systems do not require special equipment or active participation from the worker. In this case, a passive system, such as catch platforms, could be installed around the perimeter of the work area.

The platforms should be of adequate width, and should include an exterior handrail to catch a worker. This type of system could also serve as an excellent work platform.

Active Fall Protection Systems

If perimeter platforms cannot be used, active systems can be installed, requiring the workers to don harnesses and connect to an overhead system. Active fall protection system options consist of fixed-point anchors, horizontal lifelines and conventional beam and trolley systems each attached to the existing overhead structure.

According to OSHA, fall protection systems must be “capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds (22kN) per employee attached” or be part of a complete system designed by a qualified person that maintains a safety factor of at least two. Thus, any active fall protection system should be designed by a qualified and experienced person and should include an analysis of the supporting structure.

Fixed Point Anchors (FPAs)

The easiest active system to integrate may be the installation of a series of FPAs over the work area. Each FPA would consist of a certified anchor point to the existing overhead structure from which a shock-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lifeline (SRL) lanyard is supported. Workers would work centrally under each FPA within an approximately 15-degree range. They would transition to adjacent FPAs as their work progressed, maintaining 100 percent connectivity. If a limited number of workers are making frequent transitions to adjacent FPAs, this system may hinder productivity. In addition, FPAs require significant structural anchoring. Therefore, a mobile anchorage point should be considered.

Mobile Anchorage Points

Horizontal lifelines (HLLs) and conventional beam and trolley monorail systems attached to the overhead structure offer protection while working uninterrupted. Either system can be designed for multiple workers. Both systems should be equipped with SRLs and be located centrally over the work area to avoid swing falls. Parallel systems should be considered for multiple workers.

There are simple engineered HLL systems that are available in a kit, but they are generally limited to single-span applications. There are more sophisticated HLLs that incorporate a pass-through feature whereby a proprietary shuttle can automatically pass through intermediate lifeline support points. As a result, the system can be multi-span and reduce HLL deflection and costs. HLLs should include a tension-indicating mechanism to properly tune the system for reliable performance. Also, HLLs may require an in-line shock absorber to reduce the forces to the supporting structure.

In general, HLLs are the economic alternative to the higher priced beam and trolley systems. However, some structures cannot easily support the high-end anchor forces that accompany HLLs, so beam and trolley systems can be advantageous while deflecting negligibly and providing the ultimate in smooth-running performance.

Finally, all workers exposed to falls should be trained by a competent person to recognize fall hazards and to be familiar with available control methods and equipment.