Introduction

How often, before any of us start work using a Fall Arrest System, do we pause to actually figure out how far we would fall before the System stops us? When was the last time any of us actually calculated our clearance?

The following are possible reasons why we may not be evaluating our clearance:

• Required Clearance can be complex to assess. It requires knowledge about how the equipment and systems perform, spatial reasoning and some mathematical calculation. While a Fall Protection course can teach about the equipment, our students may not have the inherent skills. When exams include clearance calculation, these are the questions most frequently answered incorrectly. Nonetheless, students pass because they get enough of the other questions right, and leave the course with certificates testifying they understand Fall Protection well enough to be safe.

• When we use Fall Arrest Systems at significant heights, it is "frighteningly" obvious that we have more than enough clearance, no matter what type of Fall Arrest System we are using. We focus on having the right equipment, system and anchorage. There is truly no safety reason why we must accurately know the Required Clearance, so we may get in the habit of NOT considering it.

• As we get closer to the ground, where knowing our clearances becomes important, we also feel much more comfortable. What we are doing may be exactly the same as what we trusted at greater heights. We may be complacent when we notice that no one else around us seems concerned about clearance. Perhaps we are unwilling to admit that we cannot remember how to figure it out and simply trust that "if they feel safe then I should feel safe". This is known as a "herd" mentality, when everyone assumes that someone else, who knows more than us, would speak up if there were a problem.

In summary…. most people neglect clearance because they probably don't understand it well enough. It is in our nature to trust something we don't understand when we do not have the capacity to prove it.

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