Personal fall protection systems such as harnesses can be a lifesaver for those who continually or occasionally work at heights. However, if it isn’t in good shape, you could be putting your life in a risky situation. It is important to inspect your fall protection gear prior to every use.
Always follow the recommendations of the manufacturer of your gear for inspections and maintenance requirements. Here are some things to look for:
- Begin by holding the harness up by the D-ring. Bend the straps in an inverted “U.” Watch for frayed edges, broken fibers, pulled stitches, cuts or chemical damage. Check D-rings and D-ring metal wear pads for distortion, cracks, breaks, and rough or sharp edges. The D-ring bar should be at a 90-degree angle with the long axis of the belt and should pivot freely.
- Attachments of buckles and D-rings should be given special attention. Note any unusual wear, frayed or cut fibers, or distortion of the buckles. Rivets should be tight and unmovable with fingers. Body side rivet base and outside rivets should be flat against the material. Bent rivets will fail under stress.
- Inspect frayed or broken strands. Broken webbing strands generally appear as tufts on the webbing surface. Any broken, cut or burnt stitches will be readily seen.
- Tongue Buckle: Buckle tongues should be free of distortion in shape and motion. They should overlap the buckle frame and move freely back and forth in their socket. Rollers should turn freely on the frame. Check for distortion or sharp edges.
- Friction Buckle: Inspect the buckle for distortion. The outer bar or center bars must be straight. Pay special attention to corners and attachment points of the center bar.
- On another note… if the manufacturer’s tag is missing you should take the harness out of service. You’re opening yourself up to a world of troubles when you don’t have a way to track the harness, and you have no idea when it was built. (Some companies, like Miller, have a strict 5-year replacement policy.) Make sure to check out your harness!
When inspecting lanyards, begin at one end and work to the opposite end. Slowly rotate the lanyard so that the entire circumference is checked. Spliced ends require particular attention.
- Snap hooks: Inspect closely for hook and eye distortion, cracks, corrosion, or pitted surfaces.
- The keeper, or latch, should seat into the nose without binding and should not be distorted or obstructed. The keeper spring should exert sufficient force to firmly close the keeper. Keeper rocks must provide the keeper from opening when the keeper closes. Closing/locking mechanism should move freely without sticking or jamming.
- While bending webbing over a piece of pipe, observe each side of the webbed lanyard. This will reveal any cuts or breaks.
- The outer portion of the shock-absorbing pack should be examined for burn holes and tears.
Stitching on areas where the pack is sewn to the D-ring, belt or lanyard should be examined for loose strands, rips, and deterioration.
Be sure this inspection is a part of your daily safety checks prior to wearing your harness and make sure you have a competent person as part of your Safety Program inspect all the harnesses your company uses at least on a yearly basis. I’d recommend that your competent person inspect the harnesses and document the inspection on a quarterly basis.
Checklists are available to establish a legal record of the inspection as well as placing an inspection tag on the harness.
Most manufacturers make them available to their customers free of charge or you can download excellent body harness checklists here: http://tomkatsafety.com/resources/inspection-forms/