Personal fall protection systems, such as harnesses, can be a lifesaver for those who continually or occasionally work at heights. However, if your harness isn’t in good shape, you could be putting your life in a risky situation. It is important to inspect your fall protection gear prior to every use. ANSI and OSHA do not reference a maximum service life for synthetic fiber products, therefore inspection before use is extremely critical to ensure your harness is proper, usable condition. ANSI and OSHA standards require that the user remove the equipment from service if it has been subject to the forces of arresting a fall. It states that “fall protection equipment shall be removed from service upon evidence of defects, damage or deterioration; once it has been subjected to impact loading; or upon expiration of the manufacturer’s specified service life, whichever comes first.”
Prior to use, each worker must inspect the fall arrest equipment they will use for defects or damage. The first step in the inspection process should always be to check the inspection tag if an annual inspection was completed less than 12 months prior to the current date. If not, the unit needs to be marked when the inspection is completed. Harness Inspection includes the following:
All labels must be present and fully legible with the last annual inspection less than 12 months prior to the current date documented on the inspection tag.
If any stitches are pulled or broken, the harness must be removed from service. Closely inspect “critical stitching” which will be in a color that contrasts with the webbing.
Inspect for cuts, tears, stretching of fibers, fraying, raveling of edges, excessive wear or abrasion, chemical damage, burns, UV degradation, and weld splatter. Hold hands six to eight inches apart and flex webbing into a “U” shape to reveal frayed or broken fiber. The presence of hardened or discolored spots on the webbing indicates chemical or excessive heat exposure.
Inspect all metal components including “O-rings”, “D-Rings” leg grommets, chest strap connecting hardware, and adjustment components. Look for cracks, heat damage, distortion, corrosion, and excessive wear.