Putting Your Life In Your Own Hands: Inspecting Your Harness
Who is responsible for your safety? Is it the safety manager? Is it your supervisor? Is it the owner of the company for which you work? Sure, each of these people plays a part in building a framework that allows you to perform your job in a safe working environment, but in the end, the only person truly responsible for your safety is you. For instance, OSHA requires that a Competent Person periodically performs inspections on your fall protection equipment, but who knows what happens to that equipment between those inspections?
One person. You. Think about it, are you going to trust your life to an inspection that was done a month ago? Two months ago? More? No, of course not. You are going to do what you’re supposed to do and inspect your equipment prior to every use, right?
(Please tell me you answered “yes”).
So, you need to inspect your harness. What is it, exactly, that you’re looking for?
First, get your harness untangled and in a good position to ensure you aren’t missing parts. I like to grab it by the back D-ring and dangle it in front of me so I can get a quick visual. Then, check the entire length of webbing. You are looking for any cuts, tears or other damage. The material should still be flexible. Look for fraying, stretching, burns, melting, and, of course, missing straps. Discoloration can be an issue, depending on why it’s discolored. Stretching or uneven thickness of the webbing could be an indication the harness has been involved in a fall.
Look for any pulled stitches or spots where the stitches are damaged or missing in any way. Discoloration or hard/shiny spots that could indicate heat damage are a problem, just as they are with the webbing itself.
Hardware includes all of the metal buckles and grommets, as well as the plastic loops that keep the ends of the webbing in place. Check the plastic for cracks, tears, or any deformities. Check the metal for bending, cracking, or signs of rust and corrosion. Make sure the tongue in the buckle lines up and overlaps the frame. Look at the grommets. Often when one is used more than the others, you’ll begin to see wear (like when you overuse one hole in your belt). This is a weak spot. Ensure all buckles work properly.
Your harness must have the proper tags in place. This label must be legible and contain identification data about the harness (model number, manufacturer, etc.). More important to you, the label should legibly state the limitations and safety warnings related to the use of the harness. If this label is missing or illegible, remove the harness from service.
This inspection does not need to take a long time, but make sure you’ve given yourself enough time to check the harness thoroughly. Don’t forget, in the event of an emergency – no matter how unlikely you think that emergency might be – you are depending on this piece of equipment to save your life. Treat it well and it should treat you well in return, should you ever need it.