The world of fall protection can be confusing. What is fall protection? What is the difference between fall arrest and fall restraint? What is the difference between active and passive fall protection? Read our Introduction to Fall Protection to learn these answers and more. If you have any questions about fall protection, visit the Contact Us webpage. We look forward to hearing from you!


Fall protection is a planned system used to protect workers from death or potential injury in the event that they lose their balance while performing a task at height.

Personal Fall Protection: A Historical Perspective

The use of personal fall protection can be traced back hundreds of years. In its earliest form, fall protection consisted of workers using ropes with knots tied around other workers’ waists. Riggers on large sailing ships would climb the ship’s masts and use ropes to protect themselves from a fall event. Early mining operations would use ropes as miners descended into mine shafts. Ropes were also commonly used during the construction of churches and radio towers. Old paintings and photographs are evidence of the role ropes played in the earliest forms of personal fall protection. Although the idea of protecting workers from fall events has been around for some time, regulated fall protection in the form we know it today is a recent evolution that has taken place over just the past 60 years.

Classifying Falls

For the purpose of statistics and record keeping, fall events are classified into one of the following three categories. Slips and trips, falls on stairs, and falls to a lower level.

Rigid Lifelines® designs optimized systems to protect workers from falls to a lower level.

Personal Fall Protection Approaches

The term fall protection is an umbrella term that encompasses two types of systems: systems that are designed to arrest a freefall and systems that are designed to restrain a worker from reaching a fall hazard.

Rigid Lifelines® engineers, manufactures, and distributes both fall arrest and fall restraint systems.

Passive and Active Fall Protection Systems

Fall protection systems can be passive or active. A passive system might be a railing or netting system and an active system requires the participation of a person in order for the system to be utilized properly. Active fall protection systems are commonly referred to as Personal Fall Protection Systems.

There are three common types of Personal Fall Protection Systems.

  1. Immovable Point Fall Protection—A personal fall protection system is fixed to a permanent point.
  2. Vertical Fall Protection—A personal fall protection system allows a worker to latch onto a vertical set-up.
  3. Horizontal Fall Protection—A personal fall protection system is designed as either flexible or inflexible and provides protection horizontally.

Rigid Lifelines® engineers and manufactures rigid horizontal fall protection systems.

The ABCD’s of PERSONAL Fall Protection

Personal Fall Protection Systems are made up of four key components.

Anchorage—the anchorage point is intended to resist forces generated during a fall arrest or fall restraint event.
Body Harness—a full-body harness is designed to contain the human torso and distribute fall arrest forces evenly across the body, including the thighs, pelvis, chest, and shoulders.
Connector—a connector can be an independent system component, like a carabiner, or an element of another system component, like a buckle or D-ring on a harness or lanyard.
Deceleration Device—a deceleration device absorbs energy and lessens the forces generated during a fall event, such as a self-retracting lanyard (SRL) or shock-absorbing lanyard (SAL).