According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, falls accounted for 39.2% of occupational deaths in the construction industry. These deaths would have been prevented with the use of fall protection harness. Most falls occur from overhead platforms, into holes on floors, and elevated work stations.
OSHA requires employers to set up fall protection measures for elevations of four feet and above in various work settings. These are four feet in the general industry, and five feet in shipyards. The requirement for the construction sector is six feet and eight feet in the longshoring industry.
When working over dangerous machinery and equipment, employers must provide fall protection measures. This is regardless of the fall distance. The primary focus here is on fall protection harness.
As such, read along for a guide on choosing the best harness for your working situation.
What is a Fall Protection Harness?
A fall protection harness is a shielding gear used in the fall-protection industry. Despite being a very basic work gear, it’s also one of the most under-considered. Any worker working in a fall restraint, fall arrest, or work positioning situation must have it.
Unfortunately, both employers and employees are not well informed about harnesses. They don’t know how well the harness they use is suited for their type of work. Part of the reason is that fall protection harnesses have evolved over time.
The new developments have made working in heights safer. Users can select the best fall protection harness based on the aspects that cater to their working environment. Choosing the best fit can be a bit of a challenge if you don’t know what to consider.
Types of Harnesses
Being clear about the kind of harnesses available is essential. Differentiating between the types ensures that you get the most suitable model for your type of work.
1. Positioning Harnesses
They serve to provide freedom of movement for the user. Harnesses allow the worker to assume a sitting-back position while they work with both hands. They are used where Personal Fall Arrest System is not required where work is taking place.
Positioning harnesses come with positioning devices like rebar chair assembly. They allow the user to complete their tasks from a fixed position.
2. Retrieval Harnesses
This type of harness is used in confined-space scenarios. In such situations, the working space may be raised or lowered. Retrieval harness makes it easy to rescue a worker more efficiently by distributing lifting forces more evenly.
OSHA requires that a rescue plan is put in place before work in such environments begins.
3. Suspension Harnesses
These come with built-in seat support for the user. They leave the hands free to accomplish their tasks. Suspension harnesses are common among painters, window washers, drilling crews, and tower maintenance.
Workers can accomplish their job duties with ease even in dangerous places, with minimized risk of falling.
How to Choose the Right Option
Whatever the type of harness you need, there are crucial factors to consider. If you need expert guidance in choosing the best harness, follow these 12 easy steps.
1. The Webbing Pattern
The webbing is such a crucial factor to consider because it determines the durability of the harness. It should be strong enough to endure exposure to environmental factors and rough exposure. It also must be able to withstand the body weight of the user.
Specialty applications like electrical maintenance require harnesses made from fire resistant material. Other characteristics of great webbing are liquid and paint-resistance, and arc flash protection.
Some manufacturers also incorporate an ergonomic approach in the design. This entails making stretchable webbing for greater freedom of movement. Comfort is also something you need to get from your harness.
2. Check the Padding
Some of the straps of your fall protection harness will come into contact with sensitive body parts. Having cushioned shoulder, hips, and leg straps will help keep the pressure at a minimum. Well-padded straps will help the user work longer, with a lot for comfort.
In case of a fall, the padded straps absorb shock and distribute your weight. Paddings can either be built-in or removable depending on your preferences.
3. Are the Straps Adjustable?
A harness needs to be adjustable whether you wear it for long or short hours. For a better fit, your harness should have adjusting points. The legs, waist, torso, and chest are some of the areas that need some adjusting.
In looking at how adjustable the straps are, check the buckles. Modern harnesses come with quick-connect buckles that resemble a seatbelt clip. Modern buckles provide quick and easy adjustment options.
They are a better alternative to the traditional pass-through buckles that dominated the industry for long.
4. What is the Style of the Leg Straps
Modern fall protection harnesses feature different leg fasteners. You can choose from among pass-through buckle, tongue buckle, and quick-connect buckle.
5. Pelvic Support
A good fall protection harness should provide support for your pelvic area. A sub-pelvic strap should also be comfortable and secure. Positioning it properly goes a long way in distributing forces in case of a fall.
6. Quality of Stitching
The quality of stitching determines the durability of your harness. It’s recommendable to go for a harness with a double box stitching. This is a type that provides maximum strength to hold your weight.
It also enhances durability since the sewn-in quality is a factor you can trust.
6. Consider the Weight the Harness Will Support
One thing to think about is the kind of climbing the user will do using the harness. Rigorous and prolonged climbing requires special considerations. Some manufacturers now incorporate removable padding and seats for harnesses that carry more weight.
The seats are a priority for weight support, more than comfort provision. Besides, aluminum hardware is sometimes used in the parts that carry the most weight.
7. What are the Safety Accessories of the Harness?
Any product that is related to safety must come with safety accessories. In the case of a fall protective harness, you might have to pay more for enhanced security features. One of the features you can look for is the impact indicator.
It’s located on the dorsal D-ring of the harness. Its purpose is to alert the user when the harness is not safe for use for whatever reason. Impact indicator does not replace the need for inspection.
You should treat it as a warning sign that the harness may need a replacement. Pay heed to the tell-tale signs as opposed to waiting for an accident to happen.
8. Presence of Lanyard Keepers
A good fall protection harness comes with lanyard keepers. These refer to straps that provide for the proper storage of your harness. They provide a place for you to safely put away your harness when it’s not in use.
Lanyard keepers prevent entanglement of the webbing for enhanced safety.
9. Does it Have Trauma Straps?
Sometimes when you’re suspended on an elevated platform, you might need to stand with both feet. Trauma straps are hooked together to allow you to increase your support while standing on your feet. They are very crucial in relieving leg trauma.
10. Breathable Linings
If you work long hours suspended on a harness, you need to keep moisture away. Breathable linings keep you dry and comfortable whether it’s hot or cold. The breathable material protects you from contracting heat-related illnesses.
11. Go for a Durable Fall Protection Harness
Buying a harness is a financial investment you make. You hence must get value for your money, in that it should give you excellent service for a long time. You don’t want to keep buying new protection gear every so often.
Regardless of the working environment you’re in, your harness should be strong enough to handle that environment. Some examples of highly durable harnesses are those made from Kevlar or enhanced with Polyurethane.
If you work in elevated working conditions, you need a fall protection harness. It goes a long way in guaranteeing your safety and reducing the impact in case of a fall. Choosing a good harness is influenced by the type of work you do.
From among the three types of harnesses available, you need to choose wisely. One model may not offer you the kind of protection you need in the type of work you do. Besides the type, you also need to consider the comfort, durability, and safety accessories of the harness.
Your weight is also a crucial factor to consider in buying a harness. You want to be sure that the harness won’t give in to your weight and cause a fall. The padding of the harness helps to reduce the impact of the fall.
The knees, shoulders, hands, and waist suffer the most impact in a fall. Go for a padded harness on these straps so that your weight will be well distributed. Additional safety accessories may increase the price of your harness.
You better pay more but have the guarantee that you’ll be safe as you work.