How To Put On A Fall Protection Harness The Right Way
In the construction industry, working at heights is a standard part of the job. But with increased height also comes an increased risk of falling.
Consequently, falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, taking the lives of more than 401 construction workers in 2019. Personal fall arrest systems—safety harnesses, self-retracting lanyards, and connectors—are a way of protecting workers from serious injury and death by falls.
Fall arrest systems aren’t foolproof, however. Faulty or misused fall protection harnesses can be just as dangerous as having no fall protection at all. Knowing what to look for when inspecting a fall arrest system, and how to properly strap on a harness, can save your life. Here are steps for inspecting and putting on personal fall arrest harnesses so that you stay safe while working at heights.
How to Inspect a Harness Before Using It
Before each use, you should personally check the safety harness. Check your harness for stitching that is broken, burned, or pulled, as well as stitching or rivets where hardware is attached. Also, check the webbing, belt ends, buckles, and side and back D-rings very carefully. Spending a few minutes performing the following steps could save your life:
- Pick up the harness by its back D-ring.
- Gently shake the harness to let the straps fall into place.
- Make sure the buckles are unfastened.
- Look for any damage, such as worn, frayed or missing threads, cracked webbing, or foreign material on the fall harness.
- Check the metal strap fasteners and side and back d-rings to make sure they aren’t cracked or deformed.
- If your fall harness uses grommets, make sure they are firmly attached and are not deformed or otherwise damaged.
- Make sure tongue buckles are firmly attached and not bent.
How to Put on a Fall Arrest Harness
It seems like an easy procedure but putting on a harness correctly can mean the difference between life and death. Knowing how to put a fall arrest harness on correctly is vital.
Check The Harness
As listed above, the first step is to look for wear and tear on your safety harness. Ensure that all of the webbings are in good shape and that none of the hardware is broken, cracked, or bent. It's easier to do this without your harness on.
Next, grab the back D-ring of your harness (dorsal D-ring). Make sure it’s not a side D-ring. Once you've found it, give your harness a good shake, so all your straps hang down. This will help you get your harness untangled, and you'll start to see how it looks. Unbuckle any of your buckles that are already fastened.
Straps For The Shoulders
Find the shoulder straps and slide your foot into them like you would a pair of pants or suspenders. Make sure there are no twists in the webbing. When worn right, the straps should lie flat, while still allowing full range of motion.
Then, grab the straps hanging between your legs. Pull each strap between your legs and hook it to the next one. Make sure that the webbing on the leg straps is not tangled. You'll need to tighten your leg straps and tuck the extra webbing into the leg strap holders. You want these out of the way while you work while still allowing full range of motion.
Move on to the chest buckle once you're done with the leg straps. You have to buckle it and pull it tight. No more, no less. Just hook it up and move on to the next step.
Waist Buckle (If Applicable)
If your harness has a buckle at the waist make sure to tuck in any extra waist straps and webbing, like you did with the leg straps, so they don't get in the way of your work while still allowing for a full range of motion.
Look over your harness now that you're wearing it and the buckles are connected and locked. Make sure that all of the straps are in the right place. The harness should fit snugly but not too tightly. You don't want it to make it hard for you to move. But if your harness is too loose, you could get seriously injured or even die if you fall.
Checking Lifelines and Other Fall Protection Equipment
Most of the time, equipment breaks down because it hasn't been checked or maintained properly. OSHA recommends that lifelines be checked regularly (at least once a year) by a “Competent Person” who is not the user of the system. Checking is required at other times, too—such as after a fall incident occurs.
Self-Retracting Lifelines (SRLs)
Self-Retracting Lifelines (SRLs) need a little more attention during an inspection than other fall protection equipment because many of their parts can't be seen. Inside the housing are the springs, brake pawls, pressure plates, and the cable or web assembly. Make sure all labels and markings are still there and easy to read and look for signs that the housing, lifeline, or connectors have been damaged.
It is highly recommended by OSHA that a Competent Person do a fall protection system inspection at the start of every workday.
Horizontal lifelines are often subject to greater loads than the impact load from an attached component, and so might be more prone to breakdown. Thus, horizontal lifeline systems need to be checked and fixed regularly, too, and inspected before each use.
- Check every screw and bolt.
- Check to see if the metal parts are getting worn down.
- Ropes should be checked for broken wires, thread, and any other damage that is easy to see.
- Check each sleeve and connector for damage and make sure it was put together correctly.
- If the system's impact detection shows that the lifeline fell, take it out of service right away.
Each employee must have a separate lifeline when the lifeline is vertical. These, too, should be inspected by a Competent Person on a regular basis. Checks of vertical lifeline equipment should include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The vertical lifeline, the ladder structure, and the body harness were all checked.
- Ensuring that labels and markings are there and can be read
- Check any brackets, cables, cable guides, and screws.
- Inspection of the safety sleeve
Inspections Of Rigid Lifelines
Fall arrest systems that use rigid rails should be checked annually. In addition, the system must be locked out and checked immediately after a fall, just like vertical and horizontal lifelines. The trolley, welds, bolt connections, and any signs of impact are checked.
Proper use of protective equipment and regular inspection can have a big impact on safety. You should always follow the instructions for your harness and make sure it is properly inspected and maintained. This will ensure that you are using it correctly, not only for your own safety but to ensure that you are doing everything you can to keep your employees safe too.
The Best Performance Starts with Safety Training
OSHA requires employers to train employees on the proper use of fall protection equipment. Go over these tips regularly with your employees and consider taking safety management a step further by partnering with HSI. We provide tools for engaging your employees in training and making safety top-of-mind at your company.