Mitigating Risks At Construction Sites By Using Active and Passive Fall Protection

Construction-related incidents are one of the culprits of many recorded fatal injuries. According to the latest statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), work-related fatalities in the year 2019-2020 has shown that there are 111 workers in a year who suffer from fatal injuries at work.

As shown on records, there are an average of 28 workers suffering from site accidents, 20 being hit with a vehicle, and 18 were struck with a moving object. The statistics from HSE simply shows that the percentage of workers falling from height is still the major reason that makes working at a construction site a precarious livelihood.

But it does not mean that there are no ways that incidents can be avoided. One of the effective mitigation is to establish a stable fall protection system. There are various types of fall protection systems that can aid in protecting both the workers and the business owners.

Differentiating Active And Passive Fall Protection System

There are two types of fall protection system: one is the active fall protection system and two the passive fall protection system.

What sets them apart? Here’s a brief yet compounded explanation between the two systems.

Active Fall Protection System

From the word active, it means that there is required participation of working personnel to activate the usage of the fall protection system. This system is dynamic, adapts to the situation, and it is moving. The best form of an active fall protection system is the fall restraint and fall arrest system.

Fall restraint is the usage of personal protective equipment such as harness and fixed-length lanyard. This is to ensure that any working personnel is strapped all the while safely maintaining the workers’ centre of gravity keep in place.

Another form of the active fall protection system is the fall arrest system. This is a system that is designed to mitigate additional severe injury in the event of falling. A fall arrest system either uses a rip stitch lanyard or a safety net, which is designed to stop any personnel from free-falling and to avoid destructive impact and further incur severe injuries.

Passive Fall Protection System

The entire opposite of the active fall protection system, it is non-dynamic, stationary, and not moving. It is usually installed in a specific place to eliminate risks in hazardous areas such as working on rooftops and any other high areas. Unlike the active fall protection system, it does not require any participation of any working person to be utilized.

A passive fall protection system should be found installed in your workspace, especially in an environment where there are typical hazards such as skylights, open hatches, and other mechanical equipment that needs servicing.

The best example of passive fall protection systems are guardrails, safety gates, and netting. All these items are available on various construction and engineering suppliers like the Edge Fall Protection. You can source them online too. You can check and visit the company website here and see more fall protection systems and equipment they offer.


The Three W’s: When, Why, And What

There are questions regarding when a construction business needs a fall protection system. So let’s answer these three W’s to enlighten and solve the confusion.

When do you need a fall protection system?

According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), when a worker is working at a height greater than 4 feet (1.2m), there is already an identification of workers hazard. Therefore, there is a need to install a fall protection system. There are only two options, and that is to either eliminate the hazard or provide protection against it.

Why do you need a fall protection system?

Aside from its employers’ obligation to follow OHSA standard guidelines in ensuring a safe working environment, this is also to avoid any fines that concern legalities from regulatory bodies. Also, this will aid businesses to avoid expensive workers-compensation costs.

What fall protection system should you use?

As per OSHA, if the working environment allows one method of fall protection systems such as using guardrails and safety gates, then passive fall protection systems can be utilized. However, if the other fall protection system is not suitable, the use of personal fall protection may be required. Hence, the active fall protection system must be in place.


OSHA Strongly Urges Following Protocols

The regulatory body of OSHA cannot stress enough the importance of following the standard guidelines of implementing fall protection systems in construction sites. Various and numerous construction-related incidents should have been avoided if the guidelines are being followed.

OSHA enforced actions towards disregarding their guidelines as they did when an accident occurred wherein a 44-year old working on the plastering was killed from a fall due to lack of protection system.

According to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr David Michael, they will not tolerate such behaviour from an employer. When personnel are working at height without a protection system installed, they are vulnerable and defenceless. And that’s employer responsibility to ensure their workers are safe at work, at all times.

Another enforcement activity by OSHA when they have inspected one construction company that is lacking a fall protection system, which later resulted in a falling incident of one of their employers.

Due to the incident, OSHA penalized the said company with an amount of $56,828. OSHA Area Director Michelle Gonzalez emphasized that a fall protection system is not optional. It is mandated by the law to prevent workers injuries and fatalities.


Installation of the fall protection system is established to ensure workers safety, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted by any employer. As per OSHA, the law mandates the implementation of fall protection system installation. There are two methods of a fall protection system, and an employer can choose which works efficiently for them. Either way, the two methods can greatly aid in mitigating risks and ensure the safety of all working personnel.

Author Bio



Richard Perkins

With his educational background when it comes to construction and engineering, Richard has been actively writing blogs for the construction and building industry. He has been writing for more than five years, focusing on building constructions and engineering equipment innovations. While on the sides, he is practising his drawing skills and even pursues his interest in architecture. Richard grew up loving to look at miniature displays and get awe by its amazing details. With his early fondness, this is where his love for construction started. But aside from writing and drawings, Richard plays basketball during his free time.  This is his other way of recreation away from the papers and pencils.