Falls are the no. 1 cause of work-related deaths in construction, representing 39.2% of construction deaths in the USA in 2017 according to OSHA.
However, we understand working at height can’t be avoided sometimes. Therefore, selecting the right fall protection equipment is necessary to save the lives of many construction workers.
A safety harness is an important part of fall protection equipment. Selecting the right harness for working at height will be one of the best decisions you will ever make and will also help you save the lives of many construction workers.
So let’s get started:
In this article, we are going to talk about the various safety harnesses and their functions in practical life.
Types of Safety Harness
Harnesses are usually classified by functions, like fall arrest, ladder climbing, rescue, restraint and work positioning. Some feature one function or two and some can even perform all of them.
In order to work properly, the fall protection systems like fall arrest and work positioning have to connect the right attachment points of a harness.
For example, a work-positioning lanyard has to connect the work-positioning points or side D-rings of a harness.
When you are in the market for a safety harness for working at height, you have to understand different attachment points which are the unsung hero on a safety harness. Without them, your personal protective equipment is just a useless item.
2-Point Harness, 3-Point or More?
As mentioned, the attachment points on a harness are to attach to different systems for functions like fall arrest, work positioning, evacuation, and ladder climbing.
In the event of a fall, a full-body harness with attachment points equally distributes the forces of the fall throughout the whole body. This, in turn, protects vulnerable body parts like the groin, abdomen, and neck against serious injuries.
Connecting to the wrong points does not only fail to perform the activities but also costs the life of a construction worker.
Single-Point Safety Harness
The dorsal D-ring on a single-point harness is located on the back between the worker’s shoulder blades. It can be attached to a safety rope or automatic fall prevention device for fall arrest. In Fall Arrest, an “arrest” occurs after a person freefalls through space. The fall arrest system stops a worker’s fall that has already happened and reduces the fall-generated forces on the user.
It is also commonly used for fall restraint. In a Fall Restraint System, however, the worker is restrained from reaching a fall hazard so a fall will not occur. The fall restraint lanyard acts as a leash, preventing the worker from reaching the leading edge.
The single-point harness is suitable for horizontal uses and the work in which length adjustments of the rope are not required. This can be an ideal harness for working on the roof when the workspace is obstacle-free, e.g. burning roofing shingles.
2-Point Safety Harness
The 2 attachment points of a 2-point harness are on the back (Dorsal D-ring) and chest (Frontal D-ring). Having more D-rings comes with the responsibility of knowing under what circumstances they can and cannot be used.
Both attachment points are permitted for fall arrest. The frontal D-ring is commonly used for fall arrest on fixed ladder climbing systems* to prevent the user from falling further. In the Recuse or confined space use, they can be the applicable D-ring connections. Please read carefully the manufacturer’s user manual before use.
Some 2-Point Harnesses on the market are incorporated with extra features to enhance product functionality e.g. with Hi-Vis Gilet, and with Life Jacket.
*When it comes to climbing uses, it can be easily confused with Work Positioning. But, they are not the same. More will be discussed next.
3-Point Safety Harness
This type of full-body harness features one rear fall arrest point and two side work positioning attachment points. We also call it a fall arrest and work positioning harness.
In a work-positioning system, a positioning lanyard is used to connect the side D-rings of the harness to the anchor like a rebar tower to support a user. He/she is held securely in place at an elevated height and can perform delicate tasks with both hands while maintaining stability.
You are ascending a ladder and may want to stop and work mid-span to do some work, this is the situation you need a work positioning harness.
A work positioning system should not be the sole means of protection while working at height. Work positioning equipment must be combined with an appropriate backup Fall Arrest system while working at height.
Go back to the last section, the frontal D-ring used for fall arrest on fixed ladder climbing systems seems similar to a work-positioning form but it is not designed to secure you on the ladder for hand-free tasks.
4-Point and 5-Point Safety Harness
A 4-point harness features the connection points at the dorsal and sternum for attaching to a fall arrest system, and one on each side for work-positioning. A 5-point harness enables you, if you fall, to be in a position ready for rescue. The forces are distributed evenly on the dorsal, sternum, one on each side and abdomen to prevent serious injury.
Safety Harness Inspection
Now, when you are able to choose the right harness for working at height. The next important thing is harness inspection!
According to OSHA and ANSI, your safety gear should be inspected before each use and every 6 months by a competent person. A full-body harness exposed to a fall arrest should be removed from service and replaced.
“OSHA 1926.502(d)(21): Personal fall arrest systems shall be inspected prior to each use for wear, damage and other deterioration, and defective components shall be removed from service.”
“ANSI A10.32-2012: All fall protection equipment shall be inspected at least every six months after initial service by a competent person.”
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