The Three Main Control Measures in Fall Protection Planning (FPP)

When work at heights is required and the risk assessment indicates a medium to high risk it is necessary for a Fall Protection Plan (FPP) to be compiled. A scope of work must be detailed, an inspection of the site to be done and task specific risk assessments prepared. All of this should be completed and compiled by a competent person or competent people. Construction Regulation 10 deals with the legalities of the fall protection plan and should be referred to whenever a FPP is required.

fpp1When a fall protection plan is compiled there are many different factors to take into consideration and a risk assessment needs to be performed and accompany the fall protection plan. When deciding what control measures should be taken to eliminate/reduce the risk of falling.  There are three main categories of control measures in fall protection: Fall Prevention, Fall Restraint and Fall Arrest. Each of these control measure have their own PROS and CONS. There is some confusion when it comes to selecting which measure best suits the task at hand. Here we will look at each control measure and their pros and cons;

  1. FALL PREVENTION: this control measure is considered to be the best method in fall protection. This is due to the fact that it eliminates the fall hazard all together. As the name suggests this method has to do with preventing a fall from occurring. Although this method is not always the most practicable and won’t be applicable to all jobs it should be the FIRST METHOD The most common type of fall prevention is guardrails.
    • PROS: Least risk for a fall to occur, no specific training necessary, no equipment for each worker, annual maintenance and inspection.
    • CONS: costs more to setup.
  1. FALL RESTRAINT: the systems restrain the worker from reaching a fall risk area. This method requires having tie off points and lanyards that cannot reach the fall risk area.
    • PROS: better than fall arrest, lower upfront costs.
    • CONS: thorough training required, equipment needed for each worker, inspection and maintenance before each use, equipment must fit each worker properly – adding extra costs, requires setup time and there is still a potential fall risk.
  1. FALL ARREST: the final method that can be applied, but should only be considered if the other two methods are not reasonably practicable. This method involves the use of harnesses, lanyards, anchorage points and a shock absorber of some sort. Fall arrest systems deal with a falling worker/object and bringing them to a stop before they go splat. As with the other methods fall arrest has its own pros and cons.
    • PROS: Lower upfront costs initially.
    • CONS: Highest risk of potential injury, thorough training required, equipment required for each worker, inspection and maintenance before each use, equipment must fit each worker properly – adding extra costs, requires setup time.

These are the three basic control measures to be used when compiling a fall protection plan. There are times when there is only one available option, if you have a choice in which control measure is best you should always work down the list and never up. A fall prevention control measure such as a guardrail is always the safest option. In the OHS Act, section 8(2)(b) states an employer should eliminate or mitigate a risk before resorting to PPE.

Gareth Michell


Construction Regulations of 2014
Occupation Health and Safety Act No.85 of 1993