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Fall Protection Glossary

Use the following glossary for a general understanding of common terms in fall protection. While easy to understand and helpful, don't use this glossary in place of ANSI and OSHA definitions. Find further reference at the end of the glossary.

  1. Activation Distance - The vertical distance from the point of a fall until a fall arrester, such as an SRL, applies braking or stopping force. Activation distance is a component of arrest distance.
  2. Anchorage - A secure connecting or terminating point of a fall protection or rescue system. An anchorage must be able to support a fall protection or anchorage system's impact force.
  3. ANSI – American National Standards Institute, a non-profit organization that develops and supervises standards for products, services, and procedures across the United States.
  4. Arrest Distance - The required vertical distance needed to arrest a fall. The total includes deceleration and activation distances.
  5. ASSP – American Society of Safety Professionals, a US organization consisting of occupational safety and health professionals. ASSP manages development of the Z359 standard.
  6. Certificate of Compliance – A document that states a product meets an applicable standard. A third-party ISO 17065-accredited organization must issue the certificate.
  7. Competent Person – An employer-designated person trained to identify, evaluate, and address hazardous conditions on worksites.
  8. Deceleration Distance – The distance during the fall when a falling subject is decelerating due to an energy absorber. Deceleration distance is a component of arrest distance.
  9. Declaration of Conformity – A manufacturer document that states a product conforms to an applicable standard.
  10. Energy Absorber – An object that buffers a user from fall arrest forces.
  11. Fall Arrest – An action that stops a free fall.
  12. Fall Protection – A system or equipment that prevents or mitigates the effect of a fall.
  13. Free Fall – The period of a fall before a system or equipment begins to arrest the fall.
  14. Leading Edge – A working or walking surface with an unprotected edge that presents a fall hazard.
  15. Qualified Person – An accredited professional in fall protection and rescue who can design, assess, or specify fall protection and rescue systems.
  16. SRD – Self-Retracting Device, a device with a drum-wound line that locks when a user falls. An SRD dispenses and retracts its line during an attached user's normal movement. The onset of a fall causes the device to lock the drum and arrest the fall. The term is often interchanged in the field with Self-Retracting Lifeline (SRL) and Personal Fall Limiter (PFL). Nicknames include “yoyo” and “backpack.”
  17. SRL – Self-Retracting Lifeline, a mechanical fall arrestor with a locking mechanism and energy absorber to arrests a fall and limits forces on the user. The term is often interchangeable with Self-Retracting Device (SRD) and Personal Fall Limiter (PFL).
  18. Swing Fall – A type of fall that occurs when someone falls from a point horizontal to a fixed anchorage. A person will move in a pendulum-like motion after the initial vertical fall.

For official OSHA and ANSI fall protection definitions, see OSHA 1910.140 (General Industry), OSHA 1926.502 (Construction), and ANSI/ASSP Z359. ANSI and OSHA definitions may include more or less information than those above. The above definitions only seek to make fall protection language more accessible to workers of all levels.

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