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The Difference Between Fall Arrest Systems And Fall Restraint Systems

October 17, 2022

According to a report by the HSE, 25% of employee deaths at work during 2020-2021 happened due to a fall. Despite The Work at Height Regulations 2005 having been in place for more than a decade, sadly falls remain the number one cause of deaths at work

The legislation states that employers have a responsibility to prevent death and injury caused by falling from a height. This includes ensuring any work at height is properly planned and is only carried out by qualified individuals. 

In addition, as much work as possible must be done from the ground, and all equipment used must be suitable and stable enough for the job. However, with an increasing amount of buildings and structures now classed as high rise such as wind turbines, motorway signs and mobile phone masts, avoiding heights altogether is not always an option. 

Currently, hoop structures or cages are a common sight on high buildings where ladders are in place. However, as our below video demonstrates hoop structures or cages can actually inflict further injury and potentially cause death. This is especially the case if the worker loses consciousness, and is not able to grab hold of the hoops. Instead, fall restraint and fall arrest systems should be explored and here is why. 

Common Reasons For Workplace Falls

  • Electric shock
  • Impaired vision
  • Lack of employee attention
  • Lack of safety training/procedures
  • Medical episodes
  • Poor weather conditions
  • Slippery surfaces 
  • Slow reflexes 
  • Tiredness
  • Unexpected events 
  • Unstable structures
  • Vertigo

Interactive learning platform O’Reilly, states that there are three basic causes of workplace accidents. These include chance occurrences, unsafe conditions, and employees’ unsafe acts.

While there may be measures as an employer you can put in place to reduce falls, the reality is that similar to any other workplace injury, it is not possible to fully eliminate every possible scenario from potentially occurring. 

For example, in the case of medical episodes, the employee may have no prior history of such symptoms, making it impossible to predict, even if your business carries out regular health screening. 

Instead, the focus should be on minimising the chances of injury if such an event were to occur, especially when all other possible safety risks have been eliminated as much as possible. 

Businesses can do so by implementing both fall restraint systems and fall arrest systems. Here’s what you need to know about both to improve the safety of your workplace. 

Fall Restraint Systems

FallRestraint from Metreel

Fall restraint systems are the first line of defence for anyone who works at a height. The technique includes physically anchoring the worker to a stable structure via a lanyard and harness.

Individuals who have experienced fall restraint systems describe them as being like a dog on a lead because quite simply, they are restricted from going near the hazard such as the edge of a building. That’s because, as the name suggests, they are ‘restrained’ from approaching danger. 

In the rare occurrence that a fall was still to occur, the individual would not fall as far or fast, significantly reducing the risk of injury. In most cases, the individual would be able to simply stand back up again. 

There are a plethora of benefits of using a fall restraint system, namely that it has low initial costs, the potential for injury is very low, the equipment requires minimal maintenance and the components are fully customisable. 

Fall Arrest Systems

Fall arrest systems are considered as a last resort, as the components are only designed to work once a fall is in place, rather than being able to prevent the fall from occurring. 

While it’s always ideal to eliminate the chances of a fall taking place, it’s also not always possible to create an anchor point to be able to do so. Most commonly, this is when working on top of movable structures such as within the rail industry. 

Instead, a harness is attached to an overhead system that allows the individual to be rescued or perform a self-rescue if they were to fall. The harness will also immediately tighten up to minimise the risk of a further fall or injury with a fall arrest system. 

The Bottom Line

Both fall restraint and fall arrest systems are often pitted against each other. The reality is while fall restraint is the preferred option as it involves stopping a fall before it takes place, it is not always feasible in all environments, especially where the flexibility of movement is required. 

Compared with not putting in any measures at all, the consequences of a fall are far less likely to result in injury or death when either fall restraint or fall arrest systems have been put in place, and the correct training and maintenance has been carried out. 

Fall Protection Systems UK

Metreel offers specialist fall protection systems spanning various pieces of equipment and usage types. We’re based in Ilkeston, Derbyshire covering the UK and beyond. 

If you would like to find out more about our fall protection systems, or if you’re interested in any other of the services we provide, please give us a call on 0115 932 7010, or drop us an email

Alternatively, check out the Metreel Brochure to discover our full range of products and services.