FAQ – Fall Arrest Systems

Q1. Why do people need fall-arrest protection?

  • People need fall-arrest equipment to keep them safe from injury, by preventing or minimising the effect of a fall. Fall-arrest systems are one of many possible ways of controlling the hazards posed by working at heights. There is an economic cost as well; WorkSafe estimates that falls cost $24 million per year.

Q2. Where do I need fall-arrest systems?

  • Regulation 21 of the (superseded) HSE Act is the source of the often-quoted “3 metre rule”. It is mistakenly believed that no controls are needed where a person faces a fall of less than three metres. Controls measures are actually required wherever there is a significant hazard posed by a fall, whatever the height. Fall-arrest systems are usually provided where rope access for building maintenance is required. However there are many other situations where controls like handrails are not practicable, for example fabrication of tall plant and machinery where a worker may have to stand on top the machine.
  • Mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPS) such as cherry pickers and forklift work platforms also require fall-arrest systems.

Q3. What is the difference between free fall-arrest, limited fall-arrest and total restraint system?

  • Each category describes the severity of the possible fall, and the equipment required for working in that situation. Free fall-arrest systems allow a fall of 600mm or more before arresting the fall. Limited fall-arrest systems arrest the fall before 600mm, reducing the loading on the system. Total restraint systems prevent any possibility of falling.

Q4. What kind of fall arrest systems are available?

  • There are several different kinds of fall-arrest system. Options range from a simple eyebolt or an existing structure to loop a strop around, to horizontal lines with inbuilt energy absorbers. Vertical fall-arrest systems may also be installed alongside ladders. Fall-arrest systems are commonly available as proprietary kitsets, but may be bespoke solutions designed by an engineer.

Q5. Can I use fall arrest systems for rope access and abseiling?

  • It depends on the type of system. Static line systems and some anchors may not be used as abseiling anchors. These systems have energy absorbing elements that may be triggered by abseiling loads. Other fall-arrest anchors may be used for both. If in doubt, look for a tag. All anchors should be tagged saying what it may be used for.

Q6. What are the consequences from not having fall-arrest systems?

  • Aside from the physical consequences of a fall, WorkSafe may also prosecute those employers or employees found not to be using appropriate controls.

Q7. Where can I find more information about fall-arrest systems?

  • As the designated regulator of the new Health and Safety at Work Act, WorkSafe New Zealand provides useful and practical guidance to employers and employees on working at heights, on their website.

If you have any other questions about fall-arrest systems don’t hesitate to give us a call.