Your fall protection harness is a lifesaver – literally. But how effective it is depends heavily on how well it's used. Workers who fail to properly don their harnesses are at increased risk for serious injury or death.
By training workers to properly inspect, put on, and adjust their fall protection harness, you can be confident that these lifesaving devices are in tip-top shape and your employees are protected while working at heights.
Fall Harness Inspection
Harness inspection is one of the most important steps to ensuring safety at heights. Workers are only protected if the harness is in good condition, so it’s critical to check everything. Pay special attention to these areas:
- Check the surface of the webbing for any damage, including frayed edges, broken fibers, pulled stitches, cuts, or chemical damage
- Inspect the buckle for loose, distorted, or broken grommets and elongated holes
- Watch for distortion or sharp edges on the buckle and make sure the bars are straight
- Look over all hardware (snaps, D-rings, etc.) for signs of cracks, dents, bends, rust, deformation, and other defects
- Inspect the safety strap inch by inch, watching for cuts, frayed areas, or corrosion damage
Donning and Adjusting the Harness
Orient the harness by holding the back the D-ring and letting the harness hang, giving it a little shake so that everything falls into place. Make sure there are no twisted straps and place the shoulder straps on your shoulders. Since it’s difficult to see your back, it’s a good idea to have someone else check the straps and confirm that they are lying flat.
One at a time, connect the leg straps to the buckles on each hip and pull to tighten. Loose straps aren’t effective in the event of a fall, so they need to be snug against your body (but not too snug – you don’t want to prevent circulation). You should be able to fit an open hand between your leg and the strap, but nothing more. Connect the chest strap mid-chest and tighten to keep the shoulder straps taut.
Once your harness is on, it’s important to adjust it to fit comfortably. Here are some key points to remember:
- Back D-ring should be in between the shoulder blades
- Shoulder straps should be the same length and pulled taut
- Harness should feel snug but you should allow normal movement (e.g. squatting down, reaching up, bending over)
Employers play a large role in ensuring worker safety at heights. Here’s how you can help keep your workers safe and remain in compliance with OSHA fall protection standards.
- Know when fall protection and/or arrest systems are required, and provide equipment accordingly
- Train workers to recognize fall hazards and mitigate their risks
- Provide comprehensive worker training on how to properly inspect, wear, and adjust fall harnesses
- Conduct regular inspections of all equipment, servicing or replacing items as required
What Can Employees Do?
It’s essential that workers take an active role in their own safety. This means:
- Attending all training sessions and participating fully
- Asking questions that arise about safety procedures
- Conducting fall harness inspections before every use and bringing concerns to the attention of management
- Exercising the right to refuse unsafe work (see How to Refuse Unsafe Work to learn more)
While a fall protection harness is important, it will be almost useless if it isn’t used in the right way. Keeping your workers safe means ensuring they know how to properly inspect, put on, and adjust their harness before each use. Regular training can help reinforce safety procedures, and creating an atmosphere where workers feel comfortable asking questions or noting concerns ensures that no one takes a needless risk.