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Safety Netting Fall Protection Systems

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If you spend time learning about our industry, you have probably read or heard about the ABC’s of fall restraint.  The ABC’s of fall restraint are simple and easy to remember:  anchor point, body harness, and a connecting device.  Fall protection systems based on the ABC’s are considered active restraint fall protection systems.

Active restraint fall protection is highly effective, but this methodology has limitations.  Active restraint fall protection systems require the worker to take specific steps to tie off and each component of the system, from the PPE to the anchor points, requires inspection, maintenance, and periodic recertification.  OSHA also requires that all workers are trained in the safe use of their fall protection equipment. Finally, there are some applications (e.g., construction applications) where active restraint fall protection is not a viable option.

Safety Net Fall ProtectionThe other main fall protection methodology is passive restraint.  Examples of passive restraint include guardrail and safety net systems.  The main benefit of passive restraint systems is simplicity of use.  There is no need to tie off, and the training, inspection, and re-certification steps associated with active restraint systems are minimized.

If you visit a construction site, you’ll likely notice different types of safety net systems.  In some instances, nets are positioned to catch falling debris before it can strike people, cars, and equipment beneath the work area.  In other cases, nets are used to catch personnel in the event of a fall.  Common construction applications for personnel safety nets include bridges, dams, and steel erection.  Fall protection safety nets are also widely used for offshore drilling platform applications.

Drilling Platform Fall Protection

Personnel safety nets are ideal for these types of applications because the active work areas continually changes and anchorage options are limited.  Although the worker is in a constant state of motion, the safety net is always positioned below the work area.  There is no need to stop and unclip and tie-off again when moving from one area to the next.  Remember, active restraint fall protection systems such as horizontal lifelines and rigid beam systems require fixed anchor points.  If your anchor points are in a constant state of flux or the work area does not have suitable structural elements to secure an anchor, a safety net may be your best option.  In most instances, the factor the availability of suitable anchoring structure is the factor that tips the balance in favor of a net.  This said, if an accident happens, the employee WILL fall farther with a safety net than an active restraint system.  This is a significant difference—with an engineered HLL or rigid beam style system, falls are typically arrested within 12”-24”.

Netting Systems Webbingfall protection company to make sure your net is strong enough to absorb the force of a person falling.  You’ll also want a net treated with ultra-violet absorbing dye because prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can significantly reduce the strength of the fibers used to construct the net.  You will also want your fall protection company to train your employees on safe installation and inspection of the safety net.  To increase the margin of safety, nets are typically installed as close under the work surface as practical with sufficient clearance to prevent a worker from coming into contact with surfaces below during a fall.

Passive restraint fall protection systems are often preferred due to their simplicity of function and ease of use, but you’ll still need to partner with a fall protection company to ensure you have selected the proper system for your application and that your employees are trained in its safe use.  Improper use of fall protection equipment is just as dangerous as working at heights without a system in place.  Play it safe—get the facts and implement a plan to keep your personnel safe.  Your employees—and their loved ones will thank you.

To learn more about this topic, download the National Safety Council’s Safety Net Fact Sheet  or contact the safety experts at Diversified Fall Protection for additional assistance.


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Did You Know?

All skylights are considered an opening and therefore must be protected from a fall exposure?