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Body Harnesses: Will It Catch You if You Fall?

If a body harness fails when a municipal worker is experiencing a fall, the end result could be catastrophic. A full body harness is a key component of keeping a worker safe, but even if an employee is wearing a harness, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will save his or her life.

Harness inspections by a competent person, proper storage, and maintenance of a full body harness play important roles in helping keep workers safe if a fall occurs. Employees are required to visually inspect their body harnesses before each use to ensure they are in good condition. In addition, each body harness is required to undergo a thorough and documented inspection by a “competent person” annually.

OSHA defines a competent person as “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”

There are a variety of components to pay special attention to when inspecting harnesses. First, look at the hardware to make sure it’s not damaged, distorted, cracked, or corroded. The hardware includes, but is not limited to: D-rings, buckles, keepers, and back pads. Next, take a look at the webbing to make sure it is not cut, burned, torn, frayed, discolored, or otherwise compromised. Lastly, it is very important to make sure the stitching is not damaged or cut and all of the labels are securely in place and legible.

Proper storage and maintenance of body harnesses is also critical to help keep them in good condition.

Follow the tips below to help ensure that your equipment will remain ready for use.

Storage and Maintenance Tips

  • Never store a body harness in the bottom of a toolbox, on the ground, or outdoors exposed to the elements (i.e., sun, rain, snow, etc.)
  • Hang equipment in a cool, dry location in a manner that retains its shape
  • Always follow manufacturer recommendations for inspections
  • Clean with a mild, nonabrasive soap and hang to dry
  • Never force dry or use strong detergents in cleaning
  • Never store equipment near excessive heat, chemicals, moisture, or sunlight
  • Never store in an area with exposures to fumes or corrosive elements
  • Avoid dirt or other types of build-up on equipment
  • Never use this equipment for any purpose other than personal fall arrest
  • Once exposed to a fall, remove equipment from service immediately

Having a body harness work correctly when it is needed is critical when it comes to keeping municipal employees safe. We recommend that all body harnesses are visually inspected before each use and annually by a competent person.