Personal Fall Restraint Systems

A fall restraint system prevents an employee from reaching a leading edge or open-sided walking working surface.



A fall restraint system is an active type of fall protection that is designed to secure a worker to an anchor using a lanyard short enough to prevent the worker's center of mass from reaching the fall hazard.  The system consists of an anchor, a body harness and a lanyard.  This type of fall protection method should only be used when passive fall prevention methods have been determined to be infeasible.  An example of a passive fall protection system is a guardrail.  Guardrails are considered to be the primary means of fall protection in both construction and general industry. 

The main purpose of a personal fall restraint system is to physically prevent a worker from reaching a fall hazard.  The contractor should first consider passive fall prevention methods, such as guardrails or other systems that will provide barriers on the actual walking surface.  If a risk of fall exposure still exists after the use of a passive system, an active system should be used.  Personal fall restraint systems use much of the same equipment as personal fall arrest systems such as anchorage points, lanyards, and body harnesses. However, unlike personal fall arrest systems which are designed to catch a person after a fall, personal fall restraint systems reduce the likelihood of a person taking a fall in the first place.  This can be done by having a fixed length lanyard, so the employee is not able to reach the edge of a roof, for example.

Worker using a fall restraint within a scissor lift. (Photo courtesy of ELCOSH)

General Requirements for Personal Fall Restraint Systems

Note: Equipment used in personal fall restraint systems are required to meet the following specifications.  It is important to verify that the manufacturer has designed, tested and approved the equipment to meet the following.  Always read the instructions and technical details which provide the capabilities and limitations of the equipment. 

  • Fall restraint systems must meet the same requirements of both the positioning and personal fall arrest systems.
  • Travel restraint systems are only permitted on a walking/working surface with a slope of between 0 and 18.4 degrees.


It must be determined if a personal fall restraint system is the most feasible protection from falls prior to implementing the system.

  • Can guardrails be used?
  • Can safety nets be used?

If these types of passive fall protection can be used then a personal fall restraint system may not be the most feasible type of protection from falls.

3 components to personal fall restraint system

An easy way to remember the 3 components to fall restraint systems is ABC.

  • Anchor
  • Body Support (Harness)
  • Connector (Lanyard)

Anchorage Points

  • The anchorage point must be independent of any anchorage being used to support or suspend platforms.
  • Anchorage points used for fall restraint must be capable of supporting 4 times the intended load.
  • When a personal fall restraint system is used at hoist areas, it must be rigged to allow the movement of the employee only as far as the edge of the walking/working surface.
  • Lanyards must be secured to a significant member of the structure or to securely rigged lines.


  • Rope and webbing used in manufacturing of lanyards shall be of virgin synthetic material and have the strength, aging, abrasion and heat resistance equal to or greater than polyamides.
  • If chain is used, it must be grade 80 alloy with a minimum nominal chain size of 9/32 inches. (7.1mm).
  • All chain fittings shall meet or exceed the breaking strength of the chain size selected.
  • Lanyards and harnesses used in positioning systems shall have a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 lbs. (22.2 kN).
  • The kernmantle rope lanyard is adjustable and was manufactured for workers that must transition around obstacles.
  • Wire rope lanyards provide heat resistance and are also highly abrasion resistant.
  • Rope lanyards are available in standard nylon or polyester, depending on the needs of the worker.
  • Web lanyards have an abrasion resistant design and are also economical and easy to clean.                          

Body Harness

  • Full body harnesses are recommended, but body belts are accepted when using this system.
  • Full-body harnesses shall meet the requirements on ANSI Z359.1-2007.
  • Unless prohibited by the manufacturer, the dorsal attachment element is suitable for rescue.  Any other attachment elements designated for rescue must be statically tested to 3,600 lbs. (16.0kN).
  • All buckles and adjusters must withstand a tensile force of 4,000 lbs. (17.8kN) while all D-rings, O-rings and oval rings must withstand a tensile force of 5,000 lbs. (22.2kN).
  • All snap hooks, carabineers and harnesses must meet the requirements specified in ANSI Z359.1-2007.
  • The Miller AirCore Harness is a lightweight full-body harness that utilizes breathable padding to reduce heat and to provide airflow, keeping the worker cool.  Stretchable webbing is utilized in this design to provide for increased comfort and flexibility
  • The Miller Revolution Construction Harness utilizes heavy-duty webbing that is very strong to provide for an increased service-life.  This harness, as well as all Miller premium harnesses, is rated to 400 lbs (181.4kg) capacity.

Rope Grabs

A rope grab can be used as a fall restraint device when traveling up a vertical lifeline rope.  This device acts by grabbing the rope that is securing the worker in place on the lifeline.  The rope grab attaches to the D-Clip and if a worker slips or jerks, the rope grab will lock the worker in place.  These devices can be manual or automatic and the specific device to be used should be consulted with a contractor to determine the best fit for the situation at hand. 

Miller by Honeywell offers a variety of approved rope grabs.  They offer a compact design made of stainless steel to provide for a corrosive-resistant finish.  These rope grabs are also lightweight and easy to use. 

Self-Retracting Lifeline

A self retracting lifeline can be used as a travel restraint system only if the distance when it is completely drawn out is shorter than the distance to the fall hazard. If the self retracting lifeline prevents the worker from physically reaching the fall hazard, it can be used as a viable alternative to shock-absorbing lanyards.  These devices eliminate the dangerous slack that can be present when using lanyards because they automatically extend or retract as the worker moves around.

Risks Addressed:

Working from heights such as near unprotected roof edges, roof and floor openings, scaffolds, ladders, structural steel, leading edges, and open shafts can expose workers to potential fall hazards when no passive fall protection is in place.  Falls from heights can result in severe injuries or death.  A personal fall restraint system is an active type of personal protective equipment for fall protection that is designed to reduce the likelihood of taking a fall.

How Risks are Reduced:

A fall restraint system reduces the risk of falling by physically preventing the employee from reaching a leading edge or open-sided walking/working surface.

The exposure to falling is controlled by tethering a restraint line from a fixed anchor point to the employee’s body harness.  To prevent the employee from reaching the open-sided edge, the restraint line is slightly shorter than the actual distance to the edge.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) published: ANSI Z359.3-2007 Standard Requirements for Positioning and Travel Restraint Systems.  This standard provides the minimum guidelines for system design and manufacturer testing requirements.  When properly used and applied, the safety requirements can help prevent worker injury and restrict an employee’s ability to reach a fall exposure.

Although OSHA’s fall protection standards do not reference or include specific requirements for fall restraint systems, OSHA has recognized fall restraint systems to be an effective method of preventing falls in their letters of interpretation. 

Effects on Productivity:

Employee productivity and performance may increase if a perception of feeling safe and protected exists.

When fall restraint systems are properly setup and used, employees have the ability to work within a delineated zone and work close to an edge or open-sided walking/working surface.

Additional Considerations:

Equipment Mixing and Mismatching

It is important to note that components of a system may not be interchangeable.  Components of a personal fall restraint system should not be interchanged unless the new component is fully evaluated and tested by a competent person or the equipment manufacturer.  When purchasing a fall restraint system, it is best to purchase a complete system from a reputable manufacturer or authorized dealer.

Equipment Inspection and Storage

Fall protection equipment should be inspected frequently and before each use to ensure damage has not occurred.  Corrosion, burrs, sharp edges, chemical damage, too much wear, discoloration, deformation, and cracks should be inspected for on any hardware used.  Software should be inspected for fraying, unsplicing, unlaying, kinking, knotting, roping, broken or pulled stitches, abrasion, chemical damage, or sections that are too old, too worm, or too dirty.  Any equipment found with excessive damage should be marked “Do Not Use” and removed from service.  Follow manufacturer’s instruction on inspection.

Fall protection equipment must be stored correctly and according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Equipment should be stored away from heat, light, dampness, oil, chemicals or other damaging conditions. 


Fullen, Mark, CSP and Savage, Kristen - West Virginia University

Hazards Addressed:


Cai Safety Systems
To obtain information, visit or contact 1-888-246-6999

Miller Fall Protection ShockFusion
To obtain information, visit ShockFusion and Body Harnesses (component) and Lanyards (component) and Rope Grabs (component) or contact 1-800-430-5490

Return on Investment

To calculate the return on investment (ROI) for your specific application, please visit our Return on Investment Calculator. While a specific ROI example has not been developed for this particular solution, the ROI Calculator provides a useful tool and guidance on how to generate your own on investment analysis.