Which Safety Harness Should I Buy? [Buyers Guide]
We often talk about harnesses in a very general sense, as if there was only one brand and one type to choose from, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. While each of the safety harnesses you should be selecting should perform as well as the next, based on the fact that they should all be complying with the testing standards set forth by ANSI (the American National Standards Institute), they could have a wide range of different features. Knowing why these special features exist will help you select the proper harness for your workers while allowing you to make the best economical decision.
Comfort and Ease of Use
Let’s be honest. You could spend a good deal of money on a fall protection harness just because it’s more comfortable or easier to use than another. Is that a bad thing? Investing in employee comfort isn’t just a nice thing to do, it increases the likelihood that your employee will not only wear the harness but wear it properly. An improperly worn harness can be just as useless as no harness at all. Ease of use also increases the likelihood that the harness is worn properly and minimizes the time needed for workers to don them.
Padding, different types of buckles, and other features, while not always necessary, can definitely improve the user’s experience. Still, they can also come with some pitfalls. For example, padding that covers the harness straps might make the straps more tolerable to wear but they could also potentially hide defects or damage making the harnesses more difficult to inspect.
Employee comfort is not something to dismiss offhandedly, but it isn’t necessarily something that should dictate your purchases in all situations. Comfort may be a greater consideration for companies whose workers are wearing harnesses all day every day than for companies whose workers only don them on occasion for short periods of time. Be careful though not to confuse comfort and necessity. Cold weather harnesses may include extra layers that seem like a comfort issue but actually help protect the worker without having to put on bulky layers of clothing beneath the harness for warmth that could affect its performance. It also prevents layering clothing over the harness which could affect the performance of the lanyard. Before deciding one way or another get a good idea of why and how your workforce uses their harnesses.
Browse Simplified Safety’s complete list of premium safety harnesses to get a better idea on which features to look for when choosing a comfortable harness suitable for all-day use.
Beware: harnesses are NOT “One Size Fits All.”
Yes, harnesses can be adjusted to some extent, but not to a size big enough or small enough to encompass all body types. While this may sound like common sense, I’ve seen many companies tell workers to grab a harness out of the gang box and get to work. What size harnesses were in the gang box was never a consideration. The worker adjusted as best he or she could and did what they were told. They went to work – albeit completely unprotected. Harnesses should be snug but not tight. Chest straps should be able to sit across the chest (not the stomach unless you want to shoot out of the harness head-first in a fall event), D-rings should sit comfortably between the shoulder blades, and you should be able to slide a flat hand between your leg strap and your leg, but not a fist. If you cannot adjust the harness accordingly, the harness you are attempting to wear is the incorrect size.
Type of Work
Different harnesses exist for different types of work and they exist for a reason. The material the harness is made of, the location of connection points, or other features are designed specifically for the type of work the user will be performing. For instance, a worker that is welding, burning, torch-cutting, or performing other types of hot work is producing slag that could land on the straps of your harness and compromise its integrity. For this type of work harnesses made of Kevlar or other similar flame-retardant materials are available. Arc flash harnesses also exist that may be made of similar material and do not have buckles or connectors made of conductive material.
Other harnesses have additional attachment points for positioning. Your standard full-body harness isn’t going to do much good for an ironworker tying rebar for a pour-in-place wall if he needs to position himself or herself for work. One with front-facing D-rings, however, will allow the ironworker to properly connect and position himself or herself to do the job. Linemen’s harnesses will have a cradle seat that allows for the user to be suspended for longer periods of time without experiencing suspension trauma. High-visibility harnesses exist for work around roadways or in other locations that necessitate being able to be readily seen.
Once again, knowing exactly how and why your workforce will be wearing harnesses will allow you to select the proper equipment. Just because your workers are exposed to a fall does not mean that the fall is the only hazard they need to worry about.
Here is a list of other specialty safety harnesses that you need to know about:
Construction Safety Harness - These harnesses are designed to carry additional weight on a padded belt and have more D-rings so that you can position yourself while working.
Welding Safety Harness - A standard safety harness is not built to resist the arc and heat of a welding torch. These special harnesses are flame retardant and non-conductive.
High Visibility Safety Harness - The name says it all for this harness. Available in short or long sleeve, high visibility harnesses are used when working near traffic or other locations where high visibility is required.
Cross Over Safety Harness - These harnesses have a D-ring in the front. This safety harness is used when ascending and descending while attached to a ladder. These harnesses are also popular with the ladies.
While the differences between some fall safety harnesses could be as insignificant as brand or color, some differences are extremely significant. Ensure that your employees have the right equipment to not only do the job but to properly protect themselves in the event of a fall or other incident. Then train them so that they understand why a particular harness has been selected for them and how they should wear it properly. A piece of equipment, no matter how carefully selected, is only as good as the way in which it is used.