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Harness safety inspections

A ‘quick look’ inspection is not sufficient for the user’s safety because any small imperfection can lead to a malfunction.

March 24, 2021
By James Wong

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How many of you perform a thorough checklist examination of your fall protection harness and how often? I’ve seen several scenarios when it comes to workers using and doing harness checks. Some workers purchase their own. There are standard roof kits available that are pretty reasonably priced but personalizing can get pricy depending on what you’re looking for. Some workers depend on the company to provide the harness, which can mean you get what’s available. 

Harnesses can survive the trauma of a fall or run over without being visually apparent, another reason to do detailed checks. If you suspect or have been told that your harness has experienced a trauma you can remove it from service due to “loss of faith”. It’s critical to perform a thorough inspection. A ‘quick look’ inspection is not sufficient for the user’s safety because any small imperfection can lead to a malfunction. Those working at heights well know it’s not the time to discover a problem once you’re up there. With that in mind let’s go over the requirements for inspection. 

The checklist is broken down into material sections, let’s go through it.

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Webbing and straps: Common webbing fabrics include nylon and polyester. Materials used for hazardous conditions like welding and arc flash exposure contain fire retardants and some type grounding material. These straps secure every single part of the harness as well as your body. Any visual or odorous variations, even the smallest can cause a malfunction.

D-Rings, buckles, adjusters and snap hooks: This hardware secures the functionality of your harness. Check for damage that distorts or defaces as well as any marks on any part of the ware. Make sure springs aren’t sticking or jamming.

Stitching: The condition of the stitching on any part of the harness should always be in flawless condition to support you in a fall and for fall restraint. There should be front and backstitching, both in perfect condition without frays and missing or loose stitches. 

Lanyards and lifelines: The CSA standards for personal energy absorbers and lanyards were effective February 1, 2020. The most important updates are in the instructions for use. The updated standard includes new information on the selection, use and lifespan of fall protection gear, especially energy-absorbing lanyards and horizontal lifelines. Manufacturers are now required to include a table, chart or graphic in equipment manuals illustrating the use of energy absorbers based on the user’s weight and free-fall distance; this illustration will specify the complete range of weights and distances permitted for the device. Along with all the checks mentioned in this article ensure there is CSA information and check spring tensions for retention and indicator activation.

Labels and markings: Labels and markings are records of the harness CSA testing to meet standards for safety and/or performance. Ensure the labels are securely held in place, that you can read the CSA markings and labels, and the manufacturer’s in service date is present; the date the harness was made available for use which also date stamps how old the harness is.

Harness capacity over 310 pounds is available however not CSA Rated.

Suspension trauma is also known as harness hang syndrome. It occurs when the body is held upright without any movement. “If the person is strapped into a harness or tied to an upright object” it will eventually cause fainting. The harness straps will stop the blood in the back leg veins and block blood from going to the heart. This will eventually diminish oxygen to the brain which is what causes the fainting. It is critical to have a rescue plan for suspension trauma; it can be fatal in 10 minutes and cause death in 15 to 40 minutes.

Working at heights without being properly trained and being comfortable doing so, can lead to serious injury and even death. It is critical for workers to report their work refusal to their supervisor and contact their local OHS authority to report any reprisals due to work refusal.

Be Safe. Be Well.•


James Wong is an OHS chief for the construction industry.


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