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?
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If a harness has been subjected to impact forces after a fall, OSHA and EN regulations state that the harness has to be withdrawn from use immediately.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.
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.