Fall Protection Equipment – When to Replace a Full Body Safety Harness?


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) plays an important part in fall protection. The functionality of a fall protection system often depends on the type of PPE is used: PPE for a fall arrest system stops workers from hitting a lower structural part or ground level. On the other hand, fall restraint PPE prevents workers from getting in an area where fall hazard exists by restricting the freedom of movement.

Full body safety harness

The PPE that is most commonly used for fall protection solutions is the full body safety harness. No matter what system is used, the worker will always have to wear a proper safety harness to be securely attached to an anchor point by means of a lanyard.

Safety harnesses come in many shapes and forms. Basic harnesses for those who occasionally works at height and more comfortable premium harnesses for workers who work at height for entire days in a row. Also, specialist harnesses exist for workers that work with rope access (harnesses with a D-ring for abseiling) or ironworkers that often weld and come into contact with hot molten metals (heat resistant welding-harness).

The use of body belts or positioning belts
Body belts aren’t allowed to be used in a fall arrest system! They may be used in a fall restraint system, but we advise to use a full body safety harness instead. Some restraint systems require manual adjusting of the lanyard and a fall could occur when a miscalculation is made. Arresting a fall with a body belt will result in internal injuries, as the impact forces will concentrate around the lower abdomen of the user.

When to replace a safety harness?

Example of activated fall indicator

Just like all fall protection PPE, a safety harness must be checked for damages and deformation that might compromise the safety of the harness, before each use. At some point, a harness needs to be replaced, but what causes damages and what to do with a harness that is or may be damaged?

After a fall is arrested

If a harness has been subjected to impact forces after a fall, OSHA and EN regulations state that the harness has to be withdrawn from use immediately. According to the regulations, a competent person has to check the harness after a fall and confirm in writing if the safety harness is in good condition and ready to be used again.

A safety harness has several indicators that it has arrested a fall, such as fabric that is only exposed when impact forces have stretched the harness. Also, attachment points or D-rings can be deformed. Despite these visual indicators that a harness is not safe to use, workers sometimes ignore the warning signs or don’t report a fall, resulting in the harness being used by the next worker.

Therefore, manufacturers often recommend to destroy harness that have arrested a fall to prevent misjudgment and unauthorized re-use of the safety harness.

Other factors that affect the harness’ strength

Arresting a fall is an obvious cause of possible damage to a safety harness, but there are less visible and less noticeable factors that affect a harness’ fabric over time. For example, prolonged exposure to dust, sunlight, moisture and salty coastal environments all speed up the wear and tear of a safety harness.

That’s why workers need to check the safety harness’ fabrics, attachment points and other elements for possible damages and deformations before each use. If there exists any doubt of the safety of the harness, it needs to be taken out of service immediately. Only after a competent person has checked the harness and confirms in written that it’s safe to use, it can be used again.

Rusty D-ring

Damaged webbing

Unreadable Label

Annual inspection of PPE

All PPE needs to be checked annually by a competent person. This competent person is trained and certified in checking, maintaining and approving fall protection PPE products.

XSPlatforms Certified Partners offer maintenance and inspection service contracts for fall protection systems and PPE. Regular inspections and maintenance is necessary to stay compliant to the regulations and, more important, guarantee the safety of those who work at height every day!

Harness Inspection Form

To support workers who need to check their safety harness, we have created a harness inspection form to go through and thoroughly check the safety of the harness they will be using. Download the inspection form and hang it on a visible location, so workers can check their harness in a few simple steps.

4 Comments. Leave new

  • This is the first time that I have seen that the competent person has to be certified. OSHA defines a competent person as: One who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions that are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees and who has authorisation to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.

  • Certainly, a competent person doesn’t have to be certified by a manufacturer.
    However, the company that gives all responsability to an employee to be dedicated to PPE inspections will have to certify or justify internal and externally this person is totally competent for those works.

  • Larry Rozolsky, BA, CSM, AIS; Construction Safety Consultant
    29 March 2018 14:09

    As an OSHA 10/30 Trainer and the U.S. Corps of Engineers/NAVFAC EM 385-1-1, Level 6 Site Safety & Health Officer, it is my responsibility to initially inspect every piece of safety equipment that comes on my site. I strongly suggest to all crews it is their personal responsibility for their own safety to inspect their equipment daily and turn in any that are defected. Also not mentioned, do not use “magic marker” to place your name or company name on any webbing. It has been known to weaken the webbing. Read the ALERTs to safety problems with the full body harness or any other safety equipment and I keep a binder indexed to the individual types of ALERTS.


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