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How to Inspect a Harness for Safety

Colburn Law

A safety harness is a form of protective gear designed to protect employees from injury or damage when working at heights. It functions by securing the wearer to a lifeline or anchor point, distributing the force of a fall across more durable areas of the body and preventing them from hitting the ground. However, like all pieces of equipment, harnesses require regular maintenance and inspections to avoid potentially dangerous accidents.

The effectiveness of a safety harness hinges on its condition and proper use. It is important to inspect these harnesses regularly to ensure they are free of defects and remain fully functional.

Ensuring safety in the workplace should be a top priority, especially in environments where physical risks are prevalent. Safety harnesses are a crucial piece of equipment in these high-risk industries, helping break workers’ falls and prevent potentially fatal accidents.

However, these harnesses can fail unexpectedly—which emphasizes the importance of regular inspections. Knowing how to properly inspect a harness can mean the difference between a safe workday and a serious injury.

The Importance of Fall Protection in the Workplace

A harness is an essential piece of equipment used in many industries to prevent falls and ensure the safety of workers operating at heights. When used correctly, this piece of personal protective equipment distributes the force of a fall across the body and prevents the worker from hitting the ground.

In environments such as construction sites, warehouses, and other industrial settings, harnesses can help keep workers secure and able to perform their duties without the risk of a debilitating or fatal fall. However, when this equipment is worn, broken, or damaged in any way, dangerous consequences can occur.

What to Look for When Inspecting a Harness for Safety

Before using a safety harness, it’s crucial to conduct a thorough inspection to ensure that all components are in good condition and operating correctly. Workers should carefully examine the following:

  • Webbing: Examine the harness’s webbing for any signs of wear, tear, or damage. Look for cuts, burns, fraying, or any form of deterioration that could compromise the harness’s integrity.
  • Stitching and Rivets: Pay close attention to the stitching, especially around attachment points. Broken, burned, or pulled stitching can significantly weaken the harness. Also, inspect rivets and attachment points for any signs of damage or wear.
  • Buckles and D-Rings: Check all buckles and D-Rings for damage, deformation, or corrosion. Ensure they function correctly and do not show signs of excessive wear.
  • Labels and Markings: Ensure all labels and markings are intact and legible. These often contain crucial information about the harness, such as manufacturer details and inspection dates.

Certain types of harnesses require a more detailed inspection. For example, self-retracting lifelines are composed of many internal components. As a result, it is important to check for any visible damage to the housing and ensure the lifeline and connectors are in good condition.

Perform Proper Inspections at Regular Intervals

In workplaces where employees rely on safety harnesses, thorough inspections are necessary. Companies should schedule these inspections at regular intervals and make sure that each harness is in good working condition. 

Before every use, inspect the safety harness thoroughly. Check each part—the webbing, D-rings, buckles, and straps—for wear, tears, or damage. If you notice anything wrong with the harness do not use it; even minor defects can significantly compromise safety. Ensure the last inspection date, which should be marked on the harness, is current and that it passed its last check.

Make Sure That the Harness Can Be Worn Correctly

Beyond the condition of the harness itself, ensuring that it is properly worn is just as critical. An improperly worn harness offers little protection. When inspecting a harness for safety, make sure to assess how it fits on your body.

The harness should fit in a way that is snug but not restrictive, with all buckles securely fastened to avoid slipping. Pay special attention to the placement of the D-ring and ensure straps are untangled and correctly positioned.

Make Sure That Each Harness Is Adjusted for Fit

A harness that is too loose or too tight can be just as dangerous as no harness at all. If your harness does not fit, it is important to adjust it as soon as possible and stop using it for the time being.

Adjustments should ensure a snug fit across both the top and bottom sections of the harness. You should also make sure that the harness can accommodate your weight and the weight of any tools or equipment that you may bring along.

Check for Signs of Overuse and Retire Aging Harnesses

A harness that exhibits signs of overuse or has surpassed its service life—typically around five years—should be retired, even if the device looks fine on the surface. This is because materials degrade over time, potentially compromising the harness’s ability to perform effectively during a fall.

Regularly reviewing the harness’s service history and inspection dates can help determine its condition and whether it is time for a replacement. Always decommission harnesses that are too old; this could mean the difference between a normal day on the job and one that ends in a tragic accident.

What Happens If You Use A Harness That Isn't Safe?

What Happens If You Use a Harness That Isn’t Safe?

Using a compromised harness can lead to disastrous consequences. In the event of a fall, a faulty harness may fail to adequately protect the wearer, resulting in severe injuries or even fatalities. Common injuries include broken bones, spinal injuries, and head trauma, which can have long-lasting impacts on the victim’s health and quality of life.

In Washington, workers who suffer injuries due to inadequate safety equipment, like a faulty harness, are entitled to pursue workers’ compensation claims. This system is designed to provide financial support and cover medical expenses for injured workers. However, navigating the workers’ compensation system can be challenging, especially if you are recovering from a recent injury.

In these situations, a lawyer who specializes in workers’ compensation claims can help protect your rights and advocate for the full benefits you are entitled to under the law. After your fall, contact a Seattle personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options and next steps.