Construction workers find themselves doing complex work at great heights more often than those who aren’t in the industry might expect, sometimes suspended hundreds of feet in the air for hours. Considering the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, and six feet in the construction industry, it comes as no surprise that safety harnesses are some of the most commonly used tools on a job site.

A reliable safety harness is a fundamental piece of equipment that can make all the difference between a secure job site and potential risks, but even experts end up asking just how to choose a safety harness. This comprehensive guide will walk you through essential considerations and tips for selecting the optimal safety harness for your project.

How to Choose a Safety Harness: image with construction men and text

How to Choose a Safety Harness: What is a Safety Harness

A safety harness is a piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to protect workers from the risk of falls, and reduce the severity of injuries in the event of one happening. It is a wearable device that consists of straps, buckles, and attachment points strategically positioned to secure the wearer to an anchor point. Safety harnesses are a fundamental element of fall protection systems and are used in various industries, including construction, where working at great heights is par for the course. 

Key components of a safety harness typically include shoulder straps, leg straps, a waist belt, and one or more attachment points. These attachment points serve as connection points for lanyards, SRLs, and positioning devices. The harness distributes the force generated during a fall across the strongest parts of the body, reducing the risk of injury.

How to Choose a Safety Harness: Types of Safety Harness

Safety harnesses come in different configurations based on the job’s specific needs. Before you can choose a safety harness, you need to know what kinds are available. 

Rescue Harnesses

Rescue harnesses are designed with additional attachment points and features to facilitate the rescue of a fallen worker. They include components such as built-in rescue 

These harnesses are essential for sites where a prompt response to a fall is crucial.

Tower Climbing Harnesses

Tower climbing harnesses are specialized for workers ascending telecommunication or utility towers. They typically feature front and rear D-rings for attachment points, along with added comfort and support to accommodate the unique challenges of tower climbing. These harnesses prioritize flexibility and ease of movement when climbing upwards. 

Full-Body Harnesses

Full-body harnesses cover the entire body, providing comprehensive fall protection. They include shoulder straps, leg straps, a waist belt, and multiple attachment points. Full-body harnesses are versatile and suitable for a range of construction tasks, making them a common choice for general fall protection.

Suspension Harnesses

Suspension harnesses are designed for tasks that involve prolonged periods of suspension, such as window washing or painting. They include additional padding and support in key areas to enhance comfort during extended periods of hanging. These harnesses prioritize user comfort and reduce the risk of discomfort or injury during suspension.

Compliance with safety regulations and standards is crucial when selecting and using safety harnesses to ensure the highest level of protection for workers at elevated work locations.

How to Choose a Safety Harness

By understanding your work environment, checking compliance, considering fall protection needs, prioritizing fit and comfort, and evaluating additional features, you can better understand how to choose a safety harness. 

Understand Your Work Environment

Before choosing a safety harness, take stock of the specific conditions of your work environment. Consider factors such as:

  • What type of tasks will be performed 
  • Potential fall hazards
  • Whether you’ll be working indoors or outdoors

Different environments may require harnesses with specific features or certifications, making it important to understand what you will need when determining how to choose a safety harness. 

Check Compliance and Standards

Ensure that the safety harness complies with industry standards and regulations. Depending on your location and industry requirements, look for certifications such as ANSI (American National Standards Institute) or OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) approval.

Fit and Comfort

A proper fit is among the most important components when considering how to choose a safety harness. Ensure that the harness is adjustable and provides a secure yet comfortable fit. Features like padded shoulder straps, leg straps, and back support contribute to overall comfort during extended use.

Weight Capacity

Consider the weight capacity of the safety harness to ensure it can support both the worker and any additional equipment they may be carrying. Exceeding the weight limit can compromise the effectiveness of the harness—and the safety of the staff.

Attachment Points and Configuration

Assess the number and location of attachment points on the safety harness. Different tasks may require various configurations, such as dorsal, sternal, or side attachment points. Choose a harness with the appropriate attachment points for your specific job requirements.

Ease of Use and Inspection

Opt for a safety harness that is easy to put on and take off, promoting proper usage by workers. Additionally, choose a harness with easily accessible attachment points for lanyards and other fall protection equipment. Regular inspections should be straightforward so you never question the integrity of the harness.

Durability and Material

Consider the durability of the safety harness, especially if it will be subjected to harsh conditions or frequent use. Quality materials like nylon or polyester webbing with reinforced stitching contribute to the longevity and reliability of the harness.

Additional Features

Some safety harnesses come with additional features, such as built-in tool pouches, reflective strips for increased visibility, or moisture-wicking materials for comfort. Evaluate these extras based on your specific needs and preferences when considering how to choose a safety harness. 

Final Word: How to Choose a Safety Harness

Answering the question of how to use a safety harness is a critical step in ensuring the safety of workers at heights—as is regular training on proper usage and maintenance of those harnesses. When used properly, safety harnesses create a culture of safety and well-being in the workplace.

As the trailblazer in scaffolding sales, rentals, and safety services, Associated Scaffolding consistently prioritizes safety. Our commitment to delivering quality remains unwavering, whether we are supplying materials or providing comprehensive training and education. 

Should you require scaffolding assistance, whether it’s an entire platform system, a safety harness, or safety training, Associated Scaffolding has you covered. Contact us today to learn more!

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