There are a number of different types of fall protection equipment that can prevent injury and save the lives of workers. The type of equipment used depends on the work environment and the height of the potential fall. Some of the most common types of fall protection equipment are harnesses and structures such as railings or slide guards that physically prevent the fall of the worker.
The most commonly used piece of fall protection equipment is a harness. Regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an agency of the US federal government, require fall protection, such as a full body harness, when falls of six feet (1.8 meters) or greater are possible. Harnesses strap tightly onto a person and are connected to a safety line by way of a heavy-duty metal clasp. The other end of the safety line needs to be properly connected to a stable beam or steel wire so that the body harness will catch a worker who falls. OSHA does not permit partial body harnesses and body belts to be used as fall protection devices.
Scaffolding can be built around the edges of a building under construction as a type of fall protection equipment. This type of structure can be built from wood or metal and offers many different places for a worker to clip a safety harness onto. The scaffolding provides a strong support for workers to walk on when working around sections of a building that may not yet be structurally sound.
For a worker who is on a roof, a harness may not be particularly useful as a piece of fall protection equipment because there might not be anything for a worker to attach the harness to. In this case, a warning line system can be used to help prevent falls. These lines can be made out of wire, rope or chain that can withstand the pressure of a person falling. While constructing a roof, a slide guard can also be used to stop a worker from falling off the roof. This piece of equipment extends up from the roof at an angle so that it catches anything that slips down, including workers and equipment.
When working around holes, either in roofs or in the ground, a system of guard rails may be used to keep a worker from falling through. This type of fall protection equipment is constructed like a small fence, with rails about 20 inches (0.5 meter) and about 40 inches (1 meter) above the hole. OSHA requires holes to be blocked if they are large enough for a person or for a person's limb to fall through.