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What Is Maximum Arresting Force?

Mar 19, 2016 10:33:35 AM

If you have spent time digging into literature on fall protection or plowed through OSHA standards, you’ve probably seen references to the term maximum arresting force, but what does this concept mean and why is it important?

Maximum arresting force (also known as max arresting force or MAF) is nothing more than the peak dynamic force exerted on the body during fall arrest. OSHA standard 1926.502(d)(16)(ii) states that the maximum arresting force for a worker in a body harness weighing up to 310 lbs shall not be exposed to a maximum arresting force in excess of 1,800 lbs (8 kN).

What’s important from a client perspective isn’t the ability to mathematically calculate max arresting force, but rather, to understand the variables that are taken into consideration when deriving a value that can be expressed in numerical form.  Our engineers would do something that looks like this:


Looks complicated, but in simplest terms, maximum arresting force is determined by following factors:

  • Worker Weight
  • Lanyard Length
  • Free Fall Distance
  • Ability of the fall arrest system to absorb the energy associated with a fall

From an engineering standpoint, our system design process is focused on a variety of considerations, including ease of use, the ability to successfully arrest a fall as quickly as possible, and to prevent worker injury.  This last point is the key takeaway to this post:  our goal is to minimize maximum arresting force to minimize the potential for injury.  So while the OSHA standard calls for MAF to not exceed 1,800 pounds for a worker of average size and build, lowering max arresting force substantially increases the safety factor of the system.  Assuming the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), DFP fall arrest systems limit max arresting force to 900 pounds.

When discussing fall protection requirements with a potential vendor, it is important to have a clear understanding of both the terminology and the applicable OSHA standards.  What’s more, you should understand the importance of meeting or exceeding OSHA standards in certain situations; limiting max arresting force is case in point.  To learn more about our comprehensive approach to fall protection, or for tips on selecting the right fall protection company, download our white paper or visit us online at for additional information.