Capital Safety is a world-leading designer and manufacturer of height safety, confined space, fall protection and industrial rescue equipment.
As a specialist in personal protection equipment (PPE), Capital Safety explains that wearing a full body harness while working at height is one part of height safety; the other part is to ensure the harnesses are worn correctly and adjusted properly to suit the requirements of the user in addition to conducting periodical inspections of the equipment.
Once it’s been established that there is a requirement to work at height, the right work method and fall protection equipment needs to be developed for the job at hand.
A full body harness is one of the most critical elements of PPE. Making sure that workers wear the harnesses when working at height is not enough according to Capital Safety.
Often, harnesses can be extremely uncomfortable if they are not worn correctly or adjusted properly, and this can put the fall arrest effectiveness at risk for the user.
Additionally, proper inspections should identify harnesses that can no longer be used due to wear and tear.
Evolution of Body Harnesses
From the early body belts that offered no impact or shock protection from impact forces to the body, to modern-day industry-specific full body harnesses, this fall protection equipment has travelled a long way.
Accidents led to the development of the first height safety full body harness, designed initially with the objective of better distributing fall arrest forces and minimising the chance of the worker falling out of the system.
This evolved into triangular and X-fit style harnesses that were easier to don as they fell in place by simply grasping the dorsal D-ring.
2001 saw the development of the first comfort harness with features such as soft edging and padding as well as five points of adjustment, a ‘stand-up’ dorsal D ring and quick connect buckles to aid donning and achieve a good fit.
Today’s fall protection harnesses have evolved to include features designed for specific industries. As long as the harness is comfortable and does not restrict a worker’s movement, he will choose to wear it in order to protect his safety.
The right fit
A proper fit is key to the effectiveness of fall protection harnesses. Only a properly fitted harness will ensure the right distribution of fall arrest forces to the appropriate regions of the body.
Uneven distribution of forces throughout the body caused by ill-fitting harnesses can exert dangerous pressure on certain areas and lead to hazardous situations.
As a general rule, if the user is able to just make a fist in between his body and one of the harness straps when wearing the harness, then it is a snug and proper fit.
Top 5 Most Important Fall Protection Full Body Harness Features
Comfort is as important as safety features and standards certifications for full body harnesses. Safety components are useless if the harness is not worn correctly.
Comfort is important since harnesses may need to be worn continuous for up to 12 hours each day.
Some of the essentials include soft webbing and edging to avoid chafing the skin, anti-absorbent and water-repellant webbing to keep the worker cool and dry in moist environments as well as padding around the shoulder straps and leg areas.
Good wearer comfort can only come from proper fits facilitated by ample adjustability.
- Multiple points of adjustment will ensure the worker can properly fit the harness to his own body
- Adjustment points should be maintained and secure. Modern harnesses are available with torso adjusters and quick-connect buckles that lock without loosening even when worn for extended periods
Quick-connect buckles and stand-up dorsal D-rings are two key features to look for to maximise ease of donning and use.
It’s also easier to put on harnesses that maintain their shape so they don’t get tangled.
Good quality harnesses will stand up to tough conditions, making the investment in premium harnesses worthwhile.
Durability features include pads over high-wear areas such as shoulder straps to reduce wear in addition to rigid belt loops, corrosion-resistant hardware and abrasion-resistant webbing.
Today’s harnesses are designed to suit different work situations, which makes it very important to select the right harness that complements the task in hand. There are several customised features available on the market such as areas to attach a tool pouch, suspension trauma straps and seat slings.
Height Safety Harness fitting and inspection
In addition to ensuring the right harness selection and fit, it’s vital that the equipment is properly inspected before each use.
All full body harnesses must go through a periodical inspection program developed by a competent and trained person. Each separate inspection should incorporate 5 distinct elements:
All hardware including keepers, grommets, buckles, back pad and D-rings should be checked to make sure there are no sharp edges, cracks, corrosion or worn parts. Buckles need to work freely and any hardware coated in PVC must not be damaged in any way in order to maintain non-conductivity.
Any proper markings such as ratings and certification marks should be in place.
Straps and belts need to be free of any signs of wear and tear, fraying, abrasion or ripped stitches in addition to mould, stains or discolouration. The harness must be removed from service if any of these signs are detected.
All required labels need to be present and legible.
Each system component or subsystem should be inspected according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
The maintenance and inspection results should be recorded clearly on a record card or history sheet, including dates and details of all previous inspections and also the date first used.
Capital Safety has developed instructional posters on properly donning and inspecting body harnesses along with inspection as well as maintenance guidelines and checklists. These tools are available at no cost from the company’s website.
While it is important to make full body harnesses safe, employers and workers need to keep up with improvements in the fall protection industry to ensure the best possible customisation for harness users.