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The Difference Between Passive and Active Fall Protection Systems

Fall protection is mandatory for many industries with demanding labor, such as construction work. In fact, 46.1% of all fatal falls, slips, and trips in 2020 happened to people who work in construction. 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA), employers must ensure that all walking and working surfaces are safe and provide fall protection where required. Generally, employers are obliged to provide fall protection when workers work at heights of 6 or more feet. However, other factors can also weigh in, such as dangerous machinery on the lower level. 

Depending on the nature of the workplace and the work itself, there are two types of fall protection systems that can ensure employee safety - active and passive.

Passive Fall Protection Systems 

Passive protection entails static, unmovable equipment that is put in place to prevent or protect against a fall. Passive protection systems don’t require any training and typically don’t need any regular maintenance. 

This type of protection is sometimes installed as a second line of defense, in addition to active protection equipment. Platforms, aerial lifts, safety nets, barricades, handrails, and guardrails are the most common passive protection devices that ensure safety against falling.

Active Fall Protection Systems

Active Fall Protection Systems

Active fall protection systems, on the other hand, are more dynamic and require some collaboration on the part of the employee. They typically make use of harnesses, lifelines or lanyards, and anchor points to keep the worker secured in the event of a sudden fall. 

There are two active fall protection system types - fall restraint and fall arrest - and they differ mainly in the length of the lanyard or lifeline:

Fall Restraint 

Fall restraint protection systems use shorter lanyards that allow workers to move about only in designated areas, preventing them from reaching dangerous parts and edges that could lead to a fall. 

Fall Arrest

Fall arrest protection systems are basically designed to catch workers falling before they hit the ground. These give workers more freedom in movement and allow them to work in difficult-to-reach places. These devices use a full-body harness, a long lanyard, connectors, and anchorage. 

The Importance of Training 

Construction is not the only workplace that requires fall protection. Other job sites, such as those in roof repair, window washing, and cell tower tech repair, also call for fall protection.

These fall protection systems require special training to ensure proper use. Employers are obliged to: 

  • Provide their workers with all the information about possible injuries the equipment might cause;
  • Provide adequate training on how to work with the equipment, avoid tripping and falling hazards, and stay safe.


All fall protection equipment requires regular inspection, but active fall protection systems require special attention. They need to comply with OSHA standards and must be structurally sound at all times. 

Southeast Rigging: Ensure All-around Safety at Your Workplace

It doesn’t matter if you are a construction worker, a window cleaner, or a cell tower repair technician, if there’s the slightest possibility of an injury occurring in your workplace due to falling, you need a fall protection system. 

Our team of experts at Southeast Rigging Inc. can provide high-quality fall protection training services for you and your employees, as well as in-house or on-site sling inspections and application recommendations. Give us a call to learn more about our services or to request a consultation. Safety comes first at all times!

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