The Essentials of Fall Protection

Aircraft mechanics work at varied heights above ground level. A fall from such heights, without fall protection or prevention equipment, can mean death or otherwise serious injuries.

Yet another option is a fall arrest system. When using a fall arrest system, protective equipment is put into place in order to stop a fall that is already in progress. This entails attaching the harness worn to a retracting lifeline or shock-absorbing lanyard, attached to a secure anchor. Just how the style of protection varies for each task, so does the type of lanyard used within the system. 

Lanyards and anchors

Each lanyard has its own specific use or purpose. Shock-absorbing lanyards, like those used in fall arrest systems, are typically made of synthetic webbing that absorbs much of the impact during a fall. This prevents the concentration of impact on the system wearer’s chest or torso. To reduce the chances of triggering a fall, a self-retracting lifeline may be used. The cord lengthens and shortens with movements to reduce the chance of the cord tripping the worker.

With a job that spans over a larger area, like an aircraft wing, a horizontal lifeline may be the best option. A horizontal lifeline features a cable running between two anchorage points. Its length can be directly determined by the space that needs to be covered. All lanyards are connected to an anchorage point. Some complain that the installation of anchor systems is too time consuming and also that they could potentially cause damage to the aircraft exterior. Manufacturers have addressed these concerns with the vacuum anchor.

A vacuum anchor offers quick installation, is non-threatening to the aircraft exterior, and still provides quality protection. A typically lightweight and portable solution, vacuum anchors are easy to install. A gauge on the unit will show when the vacuum process is complete and the anchor is ready to use. A secondary anchor can be used to cover an expansive area, and is suitable for use inside and out. Additionally, they can be mounted both vertically and horizontally, adding to their convenience. With numerous system options, there are still some challenges.

System challenges

The biggest challenge that maintenance professionals face is finding a fall protection system that will work for their individual hangar or task. Manufacturers are aware of this and are finding ways to work with equipment users to provide exactly what they are looking for in a system.

“We have worked with mechanics to determine what they need and what is an easy solution for them,” states Thomas. In his research they have found that mechanics are looking for “something that is comfortable to wear, very easy to use. They are going to look for something that is very comfortable because it is basically a piece of clothing for them in a way. If it’s not comfortable they are not going to use it. And also something just very easy to use, something that doesn’t require a lot of setup, doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.”

In addition to working with mechanics to develop new products, many companies provide onsite training and systems setup.

From there it is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that workers know how to use the system and consistently do so, and with the variety of equipment and setups available, there is no reason not to.

For more information on fall protection systems and components visit Capital Safety at or Fall-Arrest at To review OSHA requirements for fall protection visit their website at

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