How to Properly Store and Care for Fall Protection Equipment
All workers wear fall protection in the hopes that it will never have to be used. However, should a fall occur, it is critical that the equipment function.
For this reason, fall protection equipment must be inspected before each use. Improper storage and care for fall protection equipment will increase the likelihood that the next piece of equipment that your team picks up is dangerously damaged.
Too often, workers take off their harness at the end of a shift and toss it in the back of a work van, locker, or gang box. Worse yet, I have seen harnesses and lanyards left lying around a jobsite, exposed to the elements: rain, heat, freezing temperatures, and direct sunlight. All of this can potentially result in deadly damage. To properly care for your equipment, it is important to keep your harness and lanyard in a clean, cool, dry place.
If you own your own harness and lanyard, here are a few storage tips:
- The harness should be hung, so it doesn’t get crushed, bent, or torn by other objects in the storage area. Sharp tools can slice the nylon and chemicals could cause the material to degrade.
- Ensure that your storage area is not in direct sunlight or exposed to a heat source . The heat and UV rays can compromise the materials that make up your harness and lanyard. This also applies to other PPE, such as hardhats, as well. Extensive exposure to ultraviolet light can cause materials to break down and fail when they are needed most.
- Store them somewhere where nobody else can get them . Somebody may pick them up and use them when you are not around and who knows what damage they may cause. At the very least, they’ll readjust your harness to fit them and, if you’re not diligent, you may end up putting on an improperly adjusted harness on your next shift. You can practically guarantee that somebody borrowing a harness and lanyard off the ground isn’t going to clean it before returning it – if they return it. Speaking of cleaning…
Your equipment should be cleaned on a regular basis. This helps to ensure that there is no substance on the harness and lanyard that could degrade the materials. It also ensures that you can properly see all parts of the equipment so you can do a thorough inspection.
You need to be careful when cleaning the equipment. Soaking the harness or lanyard, for instance, can cause potential damage to the fibers as they relax and re-tighten. Using bleach, chlorine or abrasives can also cause damage. To properly clean your equipment, follow these steps:
- Use a damp sponge (warm water only) to wipe away any residue on your straps and buckles.
- Then, use soap and water to work up a lather on the straps. The soap should be nothing more than dish soap or laundry detergent. Do not use anything containing chlorine, bleach, or abrasives.
- Rinse the lather from the straps using a sponge with clean water. Remember, you are not SOAKING the harness or lanyard. That can cause damage.
- Finally, wipe the equipment and hang it to dry. If you don’t hang it, you could be left with creases or other structural problems.
While cleaning your equipment may seem tedious or a waste of a precious few minutes, it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll be happy you spent the time should you ever need the equipment to save your life. In the end, your fall protection equipment is your best friend. Treat it like that and it will be there when you need it most.