Updated fall arrest harness information

We have revamped our Fall Arrest Harness area, it now includes a section for frequently asked questions on harnesses:

Harnesses FAQ

When should I replace my harness?

A harness is no longer considered safe and should not be used when:

  • If you do not have an individual serial number. Without a serial number you are unable to trace the harness or verify if the harness has been inspected and therefore cannot be sure if it will be safe.
  • If you cannot find a manufacturing date. If you do not have a manufacturing date, there is no way to confirm if the harness is within its working life.
  • If you cannot find an inspection date recorded within the last 12 months. HSE guidelines recommend an inspection by a professional service every 6 months but PPE regulations require a minimum of 12 monthly inspections which should be recorded on the harness itself.
  • If the D ring, plastic back plate, fasteners, web tidies, adjusters or connectors do not look right (check the 'Hardware inspection' question for details).
  • If the webbing does not look right (check the 'Webbing inspection' question for details).

'Hardware' inspection: how do I check the D ring, plastic back plate, fasteners, web tidies, adjusters or connectors?

When checking any of the 'hardware' (this means the D ring, plastic back plate, fasteners, web tidies, adjusters or connectors) any of the following will mean the harness should be removed from service and inspected by a professional or destroyed:

  • Distortion. Is any of the hardware buckled, twisted or generally malformed, this would be a good indicator that the harness should not be used again.
  • General damage / wear and tear. If you can see any kind of damage to the hardware (however minor), you should remove the harness from service until a professional can confirm the extent of the damage
  • Cracking, dents or nicks. Are there any cracks, dents, nicks or stress lines in the hardware? If so, destroy the harness immediately. A harness needs only a single point of failure to cause an injury or fail in the event of a fall.
  • Fatigue / rust.The general guideline is if you rub the rust between thumb and forefinger and are left with a residue, this exceeds 15% and should be removed from service.
  • Discolouration. Discolouration could be an indication of damage; the harness should be inspected by a professional before being used again.
  • Burrs. A burr on hardware could indicate a problem with the casting or an underlying issue. Remove the harness from service and do not re-issue it until it has been inspected and verified by a professional.

Webbing inspection: How do I check the harness webbing?

When checking the harness webbing, if any of the following issues are found the harness needs to be removed from service to be checked by a professional or destroyed.

  • UV damage. Ultra violet damage can be caused when the webbing is exposed to lengthy storage in direct sunlight which can weaken the webbing. A good indicator of UV damage is colour fading and the best way to check is to compare to a new harness.
  • Chemical damage. Staining is a good indicator of chemical damage and can be confirmed if the webbing underneath is brittle or hardened. Chemicals that are harmful to harness webbing include: ACETALDEHYDE, ACETIC ANHYDRIDE, ACRYLIC EMULSIONS (>140degs C), AMMONIA SOLUTION (>30% conc, >140degs C), AQUA REGIA, BUTYL ACETATE, CARBON TETRACHLORIDE, CHLOROACETIC ACID (>140degs C), FLUOSILLIC ACID, FORMIC ACID, HYDRAULIC OILS (Petroleum), HYDRBROMIC ACID, MRTHYL ALCAHOL, PERCHLORIC ACID, PICKLING BATHS (Sulphuric/Nitric), POTASSIUM HYDROXIDE, SODIUM HYDROXIDE, TOLUENE, XYLENE, ACETIC ACID, ACETONE, AMYL ACETATE, AMYL CHLORIDE, BENZENE, BUTYRIC ACID, CAUSTIC SODA (conc>140, CHLROBENZINE ETHYLALCAHOL, FORMALDEHYDE, HEXANE, HYDRAULIC OILS (Synthetic), HYDROFLUOSILLIC ACID, NITRIC ACID, PHOTOGRAPHIC SOLUTIONS, PLATING SOLUTIONS, SODA ASH, SULPHURIC ACID and TURPENTINE.
  • Cuts, frays or burns. Check the condition of the webbing by running your fingers down each strap and making sure it is free from damage. If you find any. remove the harness from service.
  • General condition. Once you have finished the specific inspections, confirm that all the straps hang correctly, that there is no obvious damage, that all the stitching is present and that you feel comfortable using the item. If at any point you don't, then seek a replacement. Remember: all failed equipment should be destroyed so it cannot be put back into service.

How do I inspect my fall arrest harness?

Inspecting your fall arrest harness may seem a tiresome activity but should be an essential part of your routine. Break up the inspection into these steps.

1. Check the label

- Confirm that the label has an individual serial number

- Confirm that the label has a valid inspection date and that there were no reported problems

- Confirm the manufacturing date is present and that the harness does not exceed its working life*

2. Hardware check

Check condition of rear D Ring for:

- Distortion

- Fatigue / rust

- Cracking

- Burrs

- Nicks

- Excessive wear

Check plastic back plate, fasteners, web tidies, adjusters and connectors for:

- Excessive wear

- Cracks

- Damage

- Discolouration

3. Software check

- Hold the harness up by the shoulder straps and ensure that the webbing hangs evenly

- Connect buckles and ensure harness is not distorted and hangs correctly

- Check webbing for signs of UV damage

- Check webbing for signs of chemical damage (staining is a good indication of chemical damage and can be identified if the harness appears brittle or hardened)

- Check the condition of the webbing by running through thumb and forefinger

In all cases software, must be free from: -

- Cuts

- Fraying

- Excessive abrasion

If you encounter any problems or you are unsure that your harness fits to the standard defined above, replace it.

It is worth noting that proper care and cleaning of a fall arrest harness is just as important as the inspection itself.

Care:

- Store in a clean, dry place away from direct sunlight

- Do not use a drying room to dry webbing products

- Do not stand on a harness when donning/removing

- Do not use marker pen or solvents

- Clean using non biological detergent at a low temperature

Cleaning:

- Before an inspection, make sure that the equipment is clean.

- Wash in warm soapy water with a sponge and hang to dry naturally.

- Never expose to heat and never use a drying room.

*please note: working life defined by a valid and registered first issue certificate, if not available working life is set by your manufacturing date; five year working life is a guideline and harness working life is subject to individual manufacturer specifications

How do I fit my harness?

Fitting a fall arrest harness may look complicated but once you are familiar with the process it couldn't be simpler Before you begin, your first priority is to inspect the harness. Remember your primary responsibility is your own safety: don't leave it to someone else! If you are unsure of anything, DO NOT USE IT. Falling from height is the biggest killer in the workplace, don't become a statisic!

Step 1. Hold your harness by the D ring and shake out any kinks, ensuring the straps are not tangled or twisted.

Step 2. Hold the harness up by the shoulder straps and ensure leg straps hang free.

Step 3. Pass your arms through shoulder straps.

Step 4. Connect the chest buckle.

Step 5. Adjust the rear D so that it is between the shoulder blades and within the users reach. A rear D that is too high or too low will cause the body to take an undesirable position during a fall arrest situation.

Step 6. Pull the harness down at the back so the sub pelvic strap sits under the buttocks. DO NOT twist or cross the straps.

Step 7. Connect the leg buckles and adjust all webbing so that the harness fits comfortably without restricting free movement or pinching.

Lastly, consider the environment you are working in: are there any other risks to consider? If so, make sure you are using the CORRECT personal protection equipment for the situation. For example, wearing a hi-vis Jacket may ensure your colleagues can see you, but if it hasn't been adapted to fit around a fall arrest harness you are putting yourself in danger. If you are not sure, please ask.


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