Are all safety harnesses the same or are there important differences to keep in mind?

By Todd Wells | Published: June 9, 2021

Let's start off with the simple answer: not all safety harnesses are created equal.

There are harnesses designed for specific applications and jobs. It is important to know and understand which type of harness is required for your workers to ensure their safety.

Here are some basic guidelines for knowing what type of safety harness you will require.


In the US, the harnesses you use must meet ANSI Z359.11-2014 requirements while in Canada, the CSA Z259.10-12 Full Body Harness Standard applies. Always buy your safety harnesses from a reputable brand and supplier to ensure they are compliant.

Material and Features

Polyester and nylon are the most common materials which make up safety harnesses. Kevlar, Dyneema, and Nomex are also popular.

Quality and durability can vary by manufacturer. Some brands and styles can feature comfortable padding, tool loops, and trauma straps – all things to consider when purchasing a safety harness.

D-rings can be made of either steel or aluminum. Steel is both the cheaper and the heavier choice.

Number of D-rings

The number of D-rings and their location will determine what your harness can be used for.

There are three main ways to connect your harness:

  • Quick connect buckle
  • Tongue buckle
  • Pass through buckle


There are several accessories that can take your harness to the next level. Trauma straps that attach t

o the harness can prevent suspension trauma in the event of a fall and lengthy suspension. Radio and phone holsters, cushion padding, and lanyard holders are other features that can make your harness more comfortable and useful.

Types of Harnesses

  • General fall arrest harnesses have a D-ring on the back that is included on all harnesses. These are used for general fall protection and are not suitable for confined spaces, rescue/retrieval, work positioning, descent control, or suspension.
  • Ladder climbing harnesses have a D-ring on the front of the harness, which allows the user to connect to an installed ladder climbing system.
  • Work position harnesses have D-rings at the hips and allow users hands-free operation. They work with positioning lanyards or pole straps to hold you in position at a specific location.
  • Descent control harnesses have frontal attachment points for descent control devices.
  • Confined space entry and retrieval harnesses have an attachment point on each shoulder for upright retrieval from confined spaces.
  • Suspension and rigging harnesses are used for rope access, rescue, tower, arborist, and rigging applications and have attachment points on front, back, and sides.
  • Specialty material harnesses are often used for arc flash protection or protection while welding/grinding. These harnesses are usually made of Kevlar or Nomex. Hardware may have special coatings and other options are usually available depending upon the application.

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Written by Todd Wells

Todd Wells

Todd Wells is a safety professional who works to turn complex projects into successes, implementing effective safety initiatives and consistently achieving measurable positive results on his projects.

Todd is currently a Surface Safety Coordinator with Hatch and understands that world-class safety is about establishing a culture that manages risks and workplace behaviors that cost money.

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