A Guide to Safety Harnesses

Safety Harnesses

Safety harnesses save lives. When you break it down to the simplest fact, it becomes obvious why they are so important. As it turns out, there is a lot more to know about safety harnesses than meets the eye.

That is where a comprehensive guide becomes helpful. When all is said and done, you can learn all that there is to know about safety harnesses, what they’re comprised of, when to wear one, and so much more.

The Components of a Safety Harness

What is a safety harness made of? We’re not talking about the individual fabrics, but rather the components that come together to create the right harness. There are three components to be aware of: the straps, attachments, and any additional features.

Safety Harnesses

Straps. The straps work to distribute the force of a fall across the waist, pelvis, thighs, shoulders, and chest of the person wearing it. Nylon and polyester are typically the materials, but you may even find some made of Nomex, Kevlar, and Dyneema.

Attachments. D-ring attachments, made of steel or aluminum, are generally fine for each situation. They are used in more than 90% of personal fall protection harnesses for that reason.

Features. Depending on the kind of harness and work you intend to use it for, you may also find harnesses with padded belts, reflective material, additional D-ring support, belly belt buckles, and even seat support.

When to Wear a Safety Harness

If you ever have doubts about when to wear a safety harness, there are actually guidelines in place. OSHA dictates that a safety harness should be used in any situation where work is required over four feet from the ground. That includes a full body harness.

OSHA also has specifications based on industry. Referred to as trigger heights, OSHA requires a body harness to be used for each of these professions:

  • General industries (like roofing): 4 ft.
  • Shipyards: 5 ft.
  • Construction: 6 ft.
  • Long-shoring: 8 ft.
  • Scaffolding: 10 ft.

Know the Types

Safety harnesses were not created equally. As it turns out, there are several types. Each of them has a different intended use, which makes them more effective in that specific situation. Fall arrest harnesses are the most common type and are used for situations where a fall of over 6 feet can happen.

Ascending/descending gear is used for when a worker needs to be able to move up and down to accommodate the work surface. Climbing harnesses involve ladders and other surfaces where a climb is required.

Rescue and confined space harnesses provide a more upright position, which is ideal for maneuvering tighter spaces, including rescue efforts. Finally, there are harnesses for positioning work, which eliminates the need to lunge or over-extend, one of the primary causes of falls.

Standard Harnesses

For the most part, standard safety harnesses are fine to use for fall protection. They have been designed to meet a wide range of requirements and standards. They also don’t require a specific type of material aside from what is deemed necessary to guard against most potential falls.

Your average safety harness will have all of the aforementioned components. Things like dorsal D-rings, which sit between the shoulder blades and straps (thighs, back, chest, and shoulders) are most common.

It is important to note that standard safety harnesses generally don’t have a belt that can be worn around the waist, so those have to be considered. Most standard safety harnesses have a maximum arresting force of somewhere around 1,800 lbs. Take the time to do the necessary calculations to ensure that the equipment chosen will do the job safely.