Regardless of your profession, working at height can pose some major risks if proper precautions are not taken. A recent government study found that a staggering 51% of fatal workplace injuries in the construction industry occurred as a result of falls from a height in 2021/22. Proper fall protection is often the only thing between you and serious injury or even death. To ensure the complete safety of yourself and your team, it is essential to choose the right body harnesses and ensure that thorough training on how to use them is carried out.
Understanding how various types of body harnesses work, as well as how they will protect you in the event of a fall, empowers you to make the right decisions when it comes to fall protection gear. Not only will this equipment prevent accidents, it will also ensure that your business is complying with all of the necessary work from height regulations and create a better working environment for everyone involved. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about safety harnesses.
The Importance of Safety Body Harnesses
The most obvious benefit of safety harnesses is their ability to prohibit falls. Safety harnesses are designed for the express purpose of protecting people that work from heights. Construction workers, powerline technicians, window washers and oil rig workers are just a few of the occupations that utilise full body harness equipment for safety. On top of their commercial uses, you will also see body harnesses being implemented in recreational activities such as rock climbing and bungee jumping.
A safety body harness is a part of a larger fall protection system. You can remember the different components with the ABC acronym - anchorage, body harness, connecting device. The connecting device (or lifeline) attached the harness to the anchorage. Together, these pieces of equipment can suspend the wearer in the air when a fall occurs. Without anything to catch them, if a worker at height accidentally slips or trips they can find themselves in serious trouble.
Increased Safety Awareness
Purchasing safety harnesses is the first step towards improving your workers’ awareness of how to practise safety procedures when working at height, as well as the consequences if these procedures are disregarded. Body harnesses are relatively easy to use, so long as proper training is carried out on how to properly wear, inspect and maintain them. Routine safety equipment training is absolutely essential to any workplace that values employee wellbeing, and ensures compliance to industry rules and regulations. It is also important that a rescue plan is implemented so that employees know exactly what to do in the event of a co-worker having an accident. All of these conversations can be facilitated by the simple acquisition of safety harnesses.
Peace of Mind
Imagine having to work 10ft off the ground as a roofer or a window washer, knowing that one wrong move could lead to a serious fall. Regardless of how many years of experience they have, working at height can still be a daunting experience for many due to the multitude of risks associated. When worn properly, safety harnesses can give workers at height the assurance they need to carry out their job successfully without fear. The knowledge that there is a system in place to catch them if they fall will increase productivity, and the job will be completed more efficiently as a result. Additionally, on the ground, it also gives employers peace of mind to know that their employees are out of harm’s way.
Types of Safety Harnesses
There are a number of different harness types - each with their own functions. Below are some of the most common types and how they are best used.
Work Positioning Belt
Work positioning belts prevent falls through means of restriction. They tend to be used in conjunction with restraint lanyards, which together create a strong fall protection system. This system prevents the wearer from even reaching the point of a potential fall through either tension or suspension. They can be worn around the waist only, or to fit around the waist and legs - giving your arms full freedom of movement.
Full Body Harness
As the name suggests, full body harnesses cover your shoulders, chest, waist and legs to provide full body support. As a result, they offer foolproof protection against falls - your weight is distributed evenly throughout the harness and there is no risk of slipping out. There are also several types of full body harness available.
1 Point Harness
1 point harnesses simply have one attachment point. Attachment points are the part of the harness that is connected to an anchor point, which secures the user to the structure upon which they are working. 1 point harnesses generally use a dorsal attachment, which is located at the back of the harness.
2 Point Harness
Naturally, 2 point harnesses have two attachment points on them instead of one. Featuring a dorsal and sternal attachment (located at the front of the harness) - usually in the form of a D-ring or webbing loops - they are designed to offer more security than a 1 point harness. Unlike 1 point harnesses, they allow for the option to be connected to a vertical lifeline or controlled ascent/ descent systems, offering an extra level of fall protection.
Additional Attachment Points
Other full body harnesses are available with extra attachment points (such as 4 or 5 point harnesses), which are located on the hips and abdomen. These tend to be used when maximum protection is required, often for jobs where workers are suspended for long periods of time, require rope access and/ or require work positioning.
Choosing the Right Type of Body Harness
By now you should be able to understand why it is so important to choose the right harness for your specific needs. Fall protection equipment is not one size fits all and should not be treated as such. With these considerations in mind, you can use the following steps to source the perfect harnesses for you and your team.
The first step is to evaluate the specific safety needs of your industry. Read through the body harness types above and determine what level of protection is required. Though it may seem convenient to cut corners and just buy a standard harness, the decision could cost someone’s life. Prioritise safety by acquiring the right tools to carry out your work securely.
Full body harnesses come in a variety of styles, such as Y, W and H straps. Some may also include seat support, tool belts and a variety of D-ring options. You will want to choose a configuration that is easy to put on and comfortable to wear for long durations. If your employees are reluctant to wear the safety equipment you’ve chosen because it’s complicated or ill-fitting, they might opt to not wear it when they should be. The configuration you choose should be efficient and practical for everyday use.
3. Size & Fit
Most body harnesses are available in universal sizing, meaning that they have been manufactured to fit the average person. For workers that don’t fit this size, you will need to make arrangements to find straps with adjustment capabilities.
4. Additional Features
Alongside all of the functional features, you also have to determine how much you are willing to pay for the overall quality and comfort of your fall protection equipment. As a general rule, the more you pay for safety harnesses, the higher quality they will be. You will have a choice of nicer materials and extended durability, which in turn works out as a better long-term investment. The Hybrid Airtech Full Body Harness from Lifting and Safety Gear, for instance, includes reinforced padding on the waist and legs to provide comfort and support for longer.
Whilst some of these elements aren’t completely necessary, they are an upfront investment that pays off in the long run. Higher quality materials will mean that you won’t have to repurchase fall protection as quickly, and those little extras will only work to increase the safety and comfort of your employees.
5. Industry Compliance
Fall protection manufacturers are legally obligated to meet certain standards for their systems. If the gear you chose fails to meet these standards, there is a high chance that it won’t protect your workers properly. When choosing your harnesses, make sure to look for their compliance (you can often find these on the product page) and any reviews. This means that you can be rest assured that the equipment performs well in the field. Always use your discretion - if you’re concerned about the standard of the equipment you’re looking at, there’s probably a good reason for it - and prioritise safety in your decision process from the beginning.
Looking for Reliable Fall Arrest Equipment in Barry?
It is essential to choose a fall protection company that you can rely on, which is why Lifting & Safety Gear Ltd should be your one-stop shop. Based in Barry, we are a safety gear and lifting equipment supplier with a reputation for excellence, providing quality products to both domestic and commercial clients. All of our equipment is approved by the relevant Government body, and we are capable of delivering across the UK. For more information, get in touch.