Fall Protection

A great deal of backstage work involves working at height, whether from ladders, lifts, catwalks, scaffolding, or other elevated surfaces. Fall protection is the backup system planned for a worker who could lose his or her balance at a height; its purpose is to eliminate or control potential injury.

Passive Fall Protection

Passive fall protection refers to systems which are non-dynamic, stationary, and do not move, change, or adapt while in use. Examples of passive fall protection include nets, handrails, and guard rails. These systems are designed for your protection, and should not be modified.

Active Fall Protection

Active fall protection refers to systems which are dynamic and require special equipment and worker participation to be effective. There are two types of active fall protection:

  • Fall Restraint uses fixed-length lanyards to prevent a worker’s center of gravity from overbalancing and entering into a fall situation.
  • Fall Arrest utilizes a system to absorb the energy of a fall and limit injury to a worker who has entered a fall situation. We use fall arrest in the IC Theatres.

Fall Arrest systems consist of four parts:

  • A – Anchorage. This is a fixed structure or structural adaptation to which the other components of a personal fall arrest system (PFAS) are attached.
  • B – Body Wear. This is a full body harness worn by the worker. A full body harness designed for PPE is different from a climbing or positioning harness, such as those worn by rock climbers. A full body harness encloses the wearer’s shoulders, chest, hips, and thighs and contains a point to attach a deceleration device (lanyard or self-retracting lifeline).
  • C – Connector. This is a subsystem component which attaches the harness to the anchorage. A lanyard is a commonly used example of a connector.
  • D – Deceleration Device. This is a subsystem component which dissipates the forces generated in a fall arrest event (i.e. a fall).

A few terms:

  • Lanyard: this is a length of webbing with an integrated shock absorber. Lanyards act as connectors between an anchorage and a worker’s full body harness. In a fall situation, a lanyard’s shock absorber deploys and slows the speed of the fall victim’s descent. Lanyards should ONLY be used in the Hoerner Theatre.
  • Self Retracting Lifeline: this is a deceleration device consisting of a length of steel cable wrapped around a drum under tension. When extracted or retracted at a slow rate, such as that of a worker’s normal working speed, the drum line extracts or retracts normally. The force created by a fall exceeds the drum’s locking mechanism capacity and the drum locks, arresting the fall.

Any student working in a situation where the danger of falling exists must be trained in the correct use of appropriate fall arrest PPE. The following are examples of situations which require the use of fall arrest PPE, but it may not cover every situation. If you are asked to perform a task and think that falling may be a risk, ask your supervisor for fall arrest PPE and it will be provided to you, along with appropriate training.

  • Operating followspots in the front-of-house catwalks in the Hoerner Theatre.
  • Operating followspots or working on the followspot platforms in the Clark Theatre.
  • Loading weight on the weight floor in the Hoerner Theatre.
  • Working on the scaffolding in the Clark Theatre.