Personal Fall Arrest Systems

Personal Fall Arrest System Accidents

What is a Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS)?

Worker using a personal fall arrest systemA personal fall arrest system means a system used to arrest an employee in a fall from a walking-working surface. It consists of a body harness, anchorage, and connector. The means of connection may include a lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline, or a suitable combination of these.  29 CFR 1910.140(b).

This definition was established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and requires employers to ensure all PFAS comply with the established requirements. With falls on job sites being one of the leading causes of traumatic occupational death, these regulations are imperative to ensuring workers are protected.

Parts of a Personal Fall Arrest System

Anchors, Braces, and Tie-offs

There are two primary types of anchors: permanent and temporary. Each is used for the same purpose, but temporary anchors are used in locations where a worker does not go often. OSHA requirements regarding anchors include:

  • Anchorages used for attachment of personal fall arrest equipment shall be independent of any anchorage being used to support or suspend platforms. 29 CFR 1915.159(a)(8)
  • Anchorages shall be capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds per employee attached, or shall be designed, installed, and used as follows: 29 CFR 1915.159(a)(9)
  • as part of a complete personal fall arrest system that maintains a safety factor of at least two; and. 29 CFR 1915.159(a)(9)(i)
  • under the direction and supervision of a qualified person. 29 CFR 1915.159 (a)(9)(ii)

Lanyards and Body Harnesses

Body harnesses are meant to protect employees while working in a positioning, fall restraint, or fall arrest mode. They do so by evenly distributing the forces throughout the body and suspending workers upright after a fall. Lanyards and body harnesses provide safety and comfort when used correctly; however, they pose a great risk to workers when they are not properly utilized.


As described by the name, connectors are used to complete a PFAS. They must be used correctly to ensure worker safety on job sites. OSHA has set forth specific requirements pertaining to PFAS connectors:

  • Connectors shall be made of drop forged, pressed, or formed steel or shall be made of materials with equivalent strength. 29 CFR 1915.159(a)(1)
  • Connectors shall have a corrosion-resistant finish, and all surfaces and edges shall be smooth to prevent damage to the interfacing parts of the system. 29 CFR 1915.159(a)(2)

OSHA Regulations That Apply to Personal Fall Arrest Systems

OSHA has established a number of guidelines that apply to PFAS, including their performance and use System performance criteria. In addition to other requirements, the employer must ensure that personal fall arrest systems:

  • Limit the maximum arresting force on the employee to 1,800 pounds; 29 CFR 1910.140(d)(1)(i)
  • Bring the employee to a complete stop and limit the maximum deceleration distance the employee travels to 3.5 feet (1.1 m); 29 CFR 1910.140(d)(1)(ii)
  • Have sufficient strength to withstand twice the potential impact energy of the employee free falling a distance of 6 feet (1.8 m), or the free fall distance permitted by the system; 29 CFR 1910.140(d)(1)(iii)
  • Sustain the employee within the system/strap configuration without making contact with the employee’s neck and chin area. 29 CFR 1910.140(d)(1)(iv)
  • If the personal fall arrest system meets the criteria and protocols in appendix D of this subpart and is being used by an employee having a combined body and tool weight of fewer than 310 pounds (140 kg), the system is considered to be in compliance with the provisions of paragraphs (d)(1)(i) through (iii) of this section. If the system is used by an employee having a combined body and tool weight of 310 pounds (140kg) or more and the employer has appropriately modified the criteria and protocols in appendix D, then the system will be deemed to be in compliance with the requirements of paragraphs (d)(1)(i) through (iii). 29 CFR 1910.140(d)(1)(v)

System use criteria. The employer must ensure that:

  • On any horizontal lifeline that may become a vertical lifeline, the device used to connect to the horizontal lifeline is capable of locking in both directions on the lifeline. 29 CFR 1910.140(d)(2)(i)
  • Personal fall arrest systems are rigged in such a manner that the employee cannot free fall more than 6 feet (1.8 m) or contact a lower level. A free fall may be more than 6 feet (1.8 m) provided the employer can demonstrate the manufacturer designed the system to allow a free fall of more than 6 feet and tested the system to ensure a maximum arresting force of 1,800 pounds is not exceeded. 29 CFR 1910.140(d)(2)(ii)

Violation of the above standards can result in civil liability for negligence. Hiring an experienced fall protection attorney can help make understanding this process easier.

Call an Attorney that Understands Personal Fall Arrest Systems

Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., has been serving work injury victims in the greater Houston area since 1979. Our fall protection attorneys understand the complexity and severity of these accidents and are committed to helping victims seek the recovery they deserve. If you or a loved one has been injured in a personal fall arrest system accident, or any other workplace accident, call (713) 932-0777 today.