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Fall Prevention Compared to Fall Protection

Roof Safety Rail Installation

Fall prevention and protection considerations are important in industry and construction because falls are among the most common causes of work injuries and fatalities.  How are fall protection and fall prevention similar?  How are they different?  Are they the same thing entirely?  We often use these phrases involving key words “protect” or “prevent” interchangeably.  Yet, according to a dictionary, protect means “to defend or guard; to keep safe from harm or injury” while prevent means “to keep from occurring; avert, hinder.”

What Does OSHA say?

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) says that to prevent workers from being injured due to falls in general industry, employers commit to

  • Using a railing and toe-board or a floor hole cover to guard floor holes into which workers could accidentally walk.
  • Providing a guard rail and toeboard surrounding elevated open sided platforms, floors or runways.
  • No matter the height, if it is possible for any worker to fall into or onto dangerous areas, employers erect guardrails and toeboards to prevent falls and injuries.
  • Providing other types of fall protection systems that may be necessary such as safety harness and line, safety nets, stair railings and hand rails.

What does OSHA say about protection?  OSHA mandates that employers have a responsibility to protect workers from exposure to serious injury or fatality while working at heights of four feet (general industry) and six feet (construction industry).  Furthermore, OSHA requires that should a worker do work over dangerous equipment or machinery, the employer has a duty to provide fall protection.

Consider OSHA’s Technical Manual Section V:  Chapter 4 dealing with Fall Protection in Construction providing information about fall hazards and methods of protection.  According to OSHA’s Chapter 4, fall protection includes fall prevention, fall arrest systems, and measurements for assessing fall hazards and controls.  Therefore, it is possible to think of fall protection as a global phrasing which includes fall prevention.

Let’s look at two main types of fall protection.

Fall Prevention

What does fall prevention include?  Fall prevention includes such things as

(1) Guardrail Systems:  Guardrail systems are passive fall protection systems used as a barrier to prevent workers from falling from a work edge to a lower level.  Use these systems on various work surfaces such as rooftops, mezzanines, catwalks, etc.  In addition, guardrails prevent workers from falling into holes or openings.

(2) Hole Covers:  Another type of passive fall protection system is a hole cover.  One type of hole cover is a skylight screen which provides a physical barrier to prevent workers or materials from falling through the skylight.

(3) Warning or Marking Systems:  A warning line system is also passive fall protection system.  A warning line system includes a chain (rope or wire) and supporting stanchions.  Place the system on a flat or low-sloped roof to serve as a warning that workers are approaching an unprotected edge.

(4)  Fall Restraint Systems:  A fall restraint system is a form of active fall prevention system used to prevent falls.  Fall restraint systems include using safety belts or full body harnesses which attach a worker to an anchor.  Attach a line to an anchor and to the harness or safety belt so that the worker cannot fall off an edge.

Consequently, fall prevention includes steps taken to hinder an accidental fall.  Employers need to eliminate or limit access to fall hazards and train workers.  Fall prevention is an important element in fall protection.

Fall Arrest Systems

Another type of fall protection is fall arrest systems.  Fall arrest systems protect a worker after a fall by stopping the fall before the worker hits the surface or hazard below.  One type of fall arrest system is a full body harness connected by lanyards or lifelines to a secure anchor.   Another type of fall arrest system is safety nets.


Finally, protecting workers from falls and preventing workers from falls go hand in hand.  Whether the preference is to use fall prevention or fall protection phrasing, the overall important aspect is worker safety with fewer injuries and fatalities due to falls.  We offer various fall protection products including guardrail systems, skylights, warning lines and more which can be found here.

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