How To Make Sure Your Harness Is Safe

What OSHA Says... Fall Protection
In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 751 construction workers died on the job. 35% of those fatalities resulted from falls. In 2014, fall protection was the most cited standard by OSHA. (Source: To help in the fight against those numbers, we are drawing your attention to an important piece of life-saving fall protection equipment: The Harness.

When outfitting your people with harnesses, you’ll need to consider three things: Function, Features and Fit. The function and features are determined by considering your application: tower climbing, construction, wind energy, arc flash and welding are just a few examples of harnesses that are designed for specific industries.

Begin with how many confined space rings you’ll need. At a minimum, you’re picking a “Back-D” (for fall arrest) but you can expand that to include “Side-D” (for work positioning only) or “Front-D” (for fall arrest, work positioning, rescue, and ladder climbing). D-Rings come in uncoated steel, aluminum (standard), PVC coated steel and aluminum (more common for Arc applications).

Moving to the padding, this is an optional feature that makes the harness more comfortable to wear. Padding can be applied in various locations such as: back/hip, shoulder/back/hip or shoulder/back/leg. If your workers wear them every day for hours on end, look for lighter, breathable lining (it’s worth the investment). Next, draw your attention to the webbing. Available in Polyester, Nomex/Kevlar, or Nylon, your choice depends on the application.

If your team is working in arc flash for example, they will need a material other than the standard polyester like Nomex/Kevlar. For buckles used to secure the legs, waist and chest, select those based on budget and/or preference: Tongue Buckle (similar to your everyday belt), Pass-Thru/Mating (least expensive) or Quick Connect (easiest to use, can be released with one hand).

Other features in the marketplace include: Trauma Straps (reduces trauma from a high fall by strapping the leg), Lanyard Keepers (Secures the hooks of lanyards to avoid tripping) and Seat Slings (provides comfort, typically in tower-climbing scenarios).

Fit is crucial and best achieved by following these steps:
1. Have your workers grab the harness by the Back-D and shake (the harness, not their body).
2. Release all buckles and slip the harness on so the D-Ring is in the middle of the back between the shoulder blades.
3. Connect the waist strap so it’s tight but not binding.
4. Pull the left leg strap between the left leg. Connect it to the opposite end of the leg strap. Repeat these steps on the right leg. These straps should be tight enough for only two fingers to fit between the legs and the straps.
5. Connect the chest strap so the buckle is in the middle of the chest. Tighten strap until taut.

Prior to use each day, the user is required to inspect their personal full body harness. When checking the Webbing: Bend webbing in a “U” shape to look for frayed edges, broken fibers, pulled stitches, cuts, burns and chemical damage. There should be no extra holes in the webbing or sharp edges that might snag it, causing it to fray.

For the D-Ring: Inspect the D-Ring for distortion, cracks, rough or sharp edges and ensure it moves freely.

Buckles: Look for any unusual wear to make sure there are no frays, cuts or broken stitches where the buckles attach to the webbing. The tongue buckles or grommets of the harness should not be distorted or broken.

Fall indicators: If the harness has its fall indicator out, inspect the harness for signs of activation as it may have encountered a fall. If any of these concerns show up, take it out of service ASAP.

(For a free harness inspection guide, visit the “Downloads” section of under “Resources”.)

However, all of this knowledge is for naught if the equipment is not being cared for properly. Maintain the cleanliness of the harness by using lukewarm water with dish soap. Be sure to rinse the harness completely of the soap before allowing it to dry.

DO. NOT. STORE. IT. WET. Store the dry harness in a cool, dry, dark area away from chemicals, corrosives, high humidity, sharp objects, and UV light/radiation.

(PRO TIP: Hang it by the D-Ring when not in use to help the harness keep its shape.)

Always ask yourself when selecting fall protection, or any PPE really, “What are we doing with it? What features does it need to have? Does it fit the teammate using it? How do we keep it in good shape?”

Knowing the answers to these questions help ensure the right equipment is available and worn to keep your workers safe while getting the job done.

– Jay Wilkin, Safety Specialist

Contact information:
Phone: 630-878-0363
Work Phone: 630-406-9666 ext. 109