mr-strut-fall-protectionUnistrut Fall Protection Systems has been an industry leader in the installation of engineered Fall Protection Systems for over 20 years. We have built our reputation through our Unistrut Construction Division, whose name has been synonymous with quality installations in the metal framing industry for the past 60 years.

Unistrut Fall Protection’s staff of engineers will design the safest and most economical solution for even the most difficult applications.

Examples of capabilities include:

  • Moving a system from under an overhead crane with the press of a button
  • Enabling a user positioned one hundred feet in the air to switch from one-line to another for rigging installations
  • Roof top maintenance systems
  • Providing workers to access the tops of railcars and trucks.

No matter what the application, Unistrut Fall Protection has the resources and experience to provide an engineered solution.

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Why do you need fall protection?

The top three causes of death in the workplace in the U.S. last year were:

  1. Workplace violence
  2. Vehicle related accidents
  3. Falls —

Each year, falls consistently account for the greatest number of preventable fatalities in the construction industry, and are always a major concern in other industries. Unrestrained falls from heights of over 10’ kill or disable 4 out of 5 victims. Unrestrained falls from heights of 11’ or more kill 4 out of 5 victims.

What is fall protection?

  1. Equipment
  2. Planning
  3. Training
  4. A cultural change?

Fall protection is a series of steps taken to reasonably reduce or eliminate the risk of falling while in the workplace.

What are different types of fall protection?

Fall Protection

Any equipment or structure that prevents individuals from falling. Guardrails, Parapet walls, nets, barricades, warning lines and perimeter cables are all forms of Fall Protection. OSHA requires that fall protection equipment must be in place prior to the workers being exposed to a fall. (OSHA 1926.502)

Fall Restraint

Fall Restraint equipment prevents you from actually being able to fall.

OSHA Defines Fall Restraint as: “a fall protection system that prevents the user from falling any distance. The system is comprised of either a body belt or body harness, along with an anchorage, connectors and other necessary equipment. The other components typically include a lanyard, and may also include a lifeline and other devices.” (1926.751)

While body belts are still allowed to be used in Fall Restraint applications we do not recommend that they are implemented when full body harnesses are also used or in situations where they could be used improperly.

Fall Arrest

Fall Arrest equipment actually catches you if you fall. Harnesses, lanyards, self-retracting lifelines and vertical lifelines are all Fall Arrest equipment. Perimeter netting is also fall arrest equipment. OSHA requires that all fall protection equipment when stopping a fall “limit maximum arresting force on an employee to 1,800 pounds (8 kN) when used with a body harness; be rigged such that an employee can neither free fall more than 6 feet (1.8 m), nor contact any lower level; bring an employee to a complete stop and limit maximum deceleration distance an employee travels to 3.5 feet (1.07 m); and, have sufficient strength to withstand twice the potential impact energy of an employee free falling a distance of 6 feet (1.8 m), or the free fall distance permitted by the system, whichever is less. (OSHA 1926.502)

Employers have the GENERAL DUTY to provide a safe and healthy workplace.

The first question to ask when assessing a situation where there is an exposure to falls is “Does the work have to be done?” If the answer is “yes” then these are the options to consider before going straight to a Personal Fall Arrest System.

  1. Determine if any of the work (even a small portion) can be performed at ground level or if a crane can be used to lift assembled portions (e.g., sections of roofing) into place, eliminating or reducing the number of workers exposed to falling.
  2. Tether or restrain the worker so he or she cannot reach the edge thereby eliminating the fall hazard.
  3. Consider the use of aerial lifts or elevated platforms to provide better working surfaces rather than walking top plates or beams.
  4. Erect guardrail systemswarning lines, or control line systems to protect workers from falls off the edges of floors and roofs.
  5. Place covers over holes as soon as they are created if no work is being done at the hole.
  6. Use safety net systems.

If none of these options are feasible, then it is time to implement the use of a Personal Fall Arrest Systems.

Source: OSHA

  • 6’ – Maximum allowable free-fall distance.
    Fall protection equipment must be rigged so that it begins to stop a fall in 6’ or less.
  • 6’ – Height where fall protection is required.
    Workers exposed to a fall of greater than 6’ must use fall protection.
  • 310 lbs. – Maximum weight of fall protection users, man & tools
    OSHA limits the weight of fall protection users due to the 2:1 safety factor. Any employee weighing more than 310 lbs. must have anchorage points specifically designed and/ or certified to hold 10,000 lbs.
  • 5000 lbs. – Minimum anchorage point rating
    Anchor points used for attaching fall protection equipment must be certified by a Qualified Person.
  • 42” – Maximum elongation of shock absorbing lanyards
    Shock absorbing lanyards must bring an employee to a complete stop with in 42”.
  • 2:1 – Safety factor must be maintained for Engineered Systems
    All fall protection is based on this rule.
  • 3 Systems – Self retracting lifeline, Shock absorbing lanyard, Rope and Grab
    These are the only three components that you can attach to an anchorage and to your body harness for Fall Arrest applications.
  • 2 Anchorage Points – Either Fixed or moving
    Fixed anchorage points range from steel beams to engineered eye bolts. Moving anchorage points are generally horizontal lifelines and rigid rails.
  • 3000 lbs. – Minimum anchorage rating when using most SRL’s
    Since an SRL is designed to stop a fall immediately and limits the fall distance to 2’. The forces generated are much lower.

Source: OSHA

What are the most frequently cited serious violations of the fall protection provisions?

  1. Failure to protect workers from falls of 6 feet of more off unprotected sides or edges, e.g. floors and roofs. (1926.501(b)(1); (b)(10); and (b)(11))
  2. Failure to protect workers from falling into or through holes and openings in floors and walls. (1926.501(b)(4) and (b)(14))
  3. Failure to provide guardrails on runways and ramps where workers are exposed to falls of 6 feet or more to a lower level. (1926.501(b)(6))


  • Fall protection is required when working at or above 6′ per OSHA.
  • Effective January 1, 1998, body belts are not acceptable as part of a personal fall arrest system. The use of body belts for positioning and restraint is acceptable.
  • Personal fall arrest systems must be rigged in such a way that an employee can neither free fall more than 6′ nor contact a lower level. (OSHA)
  • Effective January 1, 1998 only locking type snaphooks shall be used.
  • Personal fall arrest systems must bring an employee to a complete stop and limit the maximum deceleration distance an employee travels to 42″.
  • Lanyards are to be secured… limiting the fall distance to 6′.
  • Personal fall arrest systems must limit the maximum arresting force on an employee to 1800 pounds.
  • Anchorage points must be capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds per person.
  • All fall protection equipment must be inspected twice annually in California. (CalOSHA)

Source: OSHA

Harness Inspection

…all Personal Fall Arrest Systems shall be inspected prior to each use, for damage, wear and other deterioration; and defective components shall be removed from service.

…each Personal Fall Arrest System shall be inspected not less than twice annually by a competent person in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. The date of each inspection shall be documented.

…personal fall arrest systems and components subjected to impact loading shall immediately be removed from service…”(OSHA)

  • Web straps and Rings: For harness inspections begin at one end, hold the body side of the harness toward you, grasping the material with your hands six to eight inches apart. Bend the strap in an inverted “U.” Watch for frayed edges, broken fibers, pulled stitches, cuts or chemical damage. Check D-rings and D-ring metal wear pads for distortion, cracks, breaks, and rough or sharp edges. The D-ring should pivot freely.
    • Attachments of buckles and D-rings should be given special attention. Note any unusual wear, frayed or cut fibers, or distortion of the buckles. Rivets should be tight and un-removable with fingers. Body side rivet base and outside rivets should be flat against the material. Bent rivets will fail under stress.
    • Inspect frayed or broken strands. Broken webbing strands generally appear as tufts on the webbing surface. Any broken, cut or burnt stitches will be readily seen.
  • Tongue Buckle: Buckle tongues should be free of distortion in shape and motion. They should overlap the buckle frame and move freely back and forth in their socket. Rollers should turn freely on the frame. Check for distortion or sharp edges.
  • Friction Buckle: Inspect the buckle for distortion. The outer bar or center bars must be straight. Pay special attention to corners and attachment points of the center bar.

Lanyard Inspection

When inspecting lanyards, begin at one end and work to the opposite end. Slowly rotate the lanyard so that the entire circumference is checked. Spliced ends require particular attention. Hardware should be examined under procedures detailed below.

  • Web Lanyard: While bending webbing over a piece of pipe, observe each side of the webbed lanyard. This will reveal any cuts or breaks. Due to the limited elasticity of the web lanyard, fall protection without the use of a shock absorber is not recommended.
  • Rope Lanyard: Rotation of the rope lanyard while inspecting from end to end will bring to light any fuzzy, worn, broken or cut fibers. Weakened areas from extreme loads will appear as a noticeable change in original diameter. The rope diameter should be uniform throughout, following a short break-in period. When a rope lanyard is used for fall protection, a shock-absorbing system should be included.


  • Snaps: Inspect closely for hook and eye distortion, cracks, corrosion, or pitted surfaces. The keeper or latch should seat into the nose without binding and should not be distorted or obstructed. The keeper spring should exert sufficient force to firmly close the keeper. Keeper rocks must provide the keeper from opening when the keeper closes.
  • Thimbles: The thimble (protective plastic sleeve) must be firmly seated in the eye of the splice, and the splice should have no loose or cut strands. The edges of the thimble should be free of sharp edges, distortion, or cracks.

Shock-Absorbing Packs

The outer portion of the shock-absorbing pack should be examined for burn holes and tears. Stitching on areas where the pack is sewn to the D-ring, belt or lanyard should be examined for loose strands, rips and deterioration.

Visual Indication of Damage to Webbing and Rope Lanyards

  • Heat: In excessive heat, nylon becomes brittle and has a shriveled brownish appearance. Fibers will break when flexed and should not be used above 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Chemical: Change in color usually appears as a brownish smear or smudge. Transverse cracks appear when belt is bent over tight. This causes a loss of elasticity in the belt.
  • Ultraviolet Rays: Do not store webbing and rope lanyards in direct sunlight, because ultraviolet rays can reduce the strength of some material.
  • Molten Metal or Flame: Webbing and rope strands may be fused together by molten metal or flame. Watch for hard, shiny spots or a hard and brittle feel. Webbing will not support combustion, nylon will.
  • Paint and Solvents: Paint will penetrate and dry, restricting movements of fibers. Drying agents and solvents in some paints will appear as chemical damage.

Cleaning of Equipment

Basic care for fall protection safety equipment will prolong and endure the life of the equipment and contribute toward the performance of its vital safety function. Proper storage and maintenance after use is as important as cleaning the equipment of dirt, corrosives or contaminants. The storage area should be clean, dry and free of exposure to fumes or corrosive elements. Wipe off all surface dirt with a sponge dampened in plain water. Squeeze the sponge dry. Dip the sponge in a mild solution of water and commercial soap or detergent. Work up a thick lather with a vigorous back and forth motion. Then wipe the belt dry with a clean cloth. Hang freely to dry but away from excessive heat.

Harness, belts and other equipment should be dried thoroughly without exposure to heat, steam or long periods of sunlight. Hang clean equipment in a warm, dry place out of the sun’s direct light. This will help retain the materials natural flexibility.


Unistrut International Corporation makes no representations or warranties about the suitability of the content discussed herein. This information is provided “as is” without any warranty of any kind, express or implied, and is for informational purposes only. Unistrut International Corporation assumes no liability or responsibility for the content herein or for any actions or inactions taken in connection with such content. Unistrut International Corporation shall not be held liable for any damage to property or injury to person as a result of the content herein. All applicable laws, rules, codes and regulations should be observed and followed.