Test your Knowledge in Preventing Worksite Freefall

By Jennifer Richards, Safety Matters

Sadly, falling from heights is one of the leading causes of serious injuries and deaths in the construction industry. 

However, with proper training, personal protective equipment and being always aware of their surroundings, workers can prevent falling from heights and avoid injuries.  Occasionally, while conducting inspections, we notice some workers wear a full body harness and the most common connection to the harness is a rope grab attached to a vertical lifeline, which is attached to an anchor point.  The challenge workers face is keeping the slack out of the lifeline.  Too much slack in the lifeline allows the worker freedom of movement but it also causes a potential serious safety hazard which can result in serious injury.  Labor & Industries allows a maximum of 6 feet “freefall” …

“Freefall distance” means the vertical displacement of the fall arrest attachment point on the employee’s body harness between onset of the fall and just before the system begins to apply force to arrest the fall. 

“Deceleration distance” means the additional vertical distance a falling employee travels, excluding lifeline elongation and free fall distance, before stopping, from the point at which the deceleration device begins to operate.


  • Freefall = 6 feet maximum
  • Deceleration Distance = 3.5 feet maximum
  • Lifeline elongation = 2 feet maximum
  • Total fall before stopping = 11.5 feet
  • Portion of body landing below attachment point approximately 5 feet.
  • Total clearance below required to avoid contacting lower level may be as great as 16.5 feet or more!

Employers are required to evaluate the fall hazards and based on their evaluations, provide the proper PFAS (Personal Fall Arrest System) to keep workers safe.  However, it is the workers responsibility to use the PFAS properly, pay attention to the slack in their lifelines and minimize the risk of falling and if they do, unfortunately fall, ensure their freefall does not exceed 6 feet.  Proper training is great but applying the principles learned is key to worker safety and requires personal accountability.  At the end of the day, going home to our loved ones is what matters.

Safety Matters…because YOU MATTER!


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