Published 5 Aug 2021
What is a Safety Harness Inspection?
A safety harness inspection is ideally conducted every time a harness is going to be used by a worker who will be working at heights. Also known as a fall protection harness inspection, safety harness inspection helps keep workers safe as it involves checking if the labeling, webbing, stitching, D-rings, lanyards, and snap hook-ends of a harness are in good condition.
A safety harness equipment inspection checklist is used by workers at heights to ensure that a safety harness is in good condition before use and reduce the risk of falling. Begin by capturing the identification and intended usage of the harness or lanyard you are inspecting. Next, carefully inspect each part of the harness and its connections (snap hooks, lanyard and tie-off adaptors/ anchorages). Make sure to check the label of each component to identify the type of harness, model, manufacturing details, limitations and warnings. Finally, complete the inspection by rating the overall condition of the harness and whether it can be used or should be removed from service.
In this article, we will talk about:
- the importance of using safety harness inspection checklists;
- safety harness inspection types and schedules;
- who should inspect safety harnesses?
- laws and standards for safety harness inspection requirements;
- the top 5 safety harness inspection checkpoints safety officers often miss;
- safety harness inspection app to have more time focusing on tasks at hand; and
- pre-made digital safety harness inspection templates you can use for free.
A safety harness inspection checklist is used before commencing daily tasks to ensure the integrity of safety harnesses and reduce the risk of falling. Occupational health and safety regulators around the world such as OSHA, HSE, and SafeWork require regular inspection and proper maintenance or storage of fall protection equipment.
In the construction industry, falling from heights often results in major injuries and fatalities which translate to a variety of cons for the worker, the worker’s family, and their employer. A crippling injury can severely affect the quality of life for workers and their family in the long term, and the employer can suffer from significant financial loss especially if they are found to be non-compliant with safety harness standards.
Here are the different safety harness inspection types and recommended inspection schedules to ensure that workers only use safe and compliant safety harnesses:
Pre-use inspections are especially important and they should never be skipped since they provide potential safety harness users with the most updated information on the lanyard’s condition. Before approving a harness for use, inspectors should visually inspect the entirety of the lanyard under good lighting conditions, while also running a hand from one end to another to feel for any cuts, thinning, and other signs of damage that could be dangerous for workers.
Scheduled inspections are fewer and farther between since they are much more comprehensive and time-consuming compared to pre-use inspections which typically only take a few minutes to complete. At the very least, scheduled inspections should be done for each safety harness in the inventory every six months. If resources allow, it once every three months would be more optimal, especially if the safety harnesses are being used in rough conditions where damage to the lanyard and other components are more likely.
This type of inspection occurs in between detailed inspections and on top of pre-use checks. Interim inspections should be done when safety harness risks are identified before the next detailed inspection, and when working conditions change to involve physical or chemical elements that have the potential to degrade the tensile strength of safety harnesses.
Whether it’s a pre-use, scheduled, or interim type of safety harness inspection, safety harnesses should be inspected only by competent persons or rescuers who can verify that the harnesses are safe for use.
Work at Height Regulations 2005
This regulation mandates that all safety harnesses exposed to strenuous physical, chemical, and weather elements at work be subject to regular and ad hoc inspections in order to ensure that they are safe for use.
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
This law requires employers to cover the costs of PPE maintenance and repairs for all workers required to use them. This also puts responsibility on employers to ensure that workers are wearing the appropriate PPEs for any work being performed.
This year, a lead rigger died in a 60-feet fall while setting up a Coachella stage in California, and eyewitnesses claimed that the 49-year old man was not using a safety harness when he fell. Even experienced workers make the mistake of not only donning personal fall protection equipment, but also inspecting it before use. When inspecting a full-body safety harness, workers at heights should keep an eye out for the following often-missed checkpoints:
When a safety harness has been used to arrest a fall, it should be immediately removed from service. Impact indicators, or fall arrest load indicators, on a safety harness reveal that it has gotten enough force for it to be discarded. They are usually popped stitches on the backstrap, loose D-rings with an exposed alert color, or plastic rings designed to break.
As the strongest support area during periods of suspension, checking for any sub-pelvic strap damage is critical for fall protection. The sub-pelvic strap passes under the buttocks without passing through the crotch, and it is designed to transfer forces applied during fall arrest or post-fall suspension to the sub-pelvic part of the body.
One of the factors that influence the effectiveness of a full-body harness is its exposure to ultraviolet rays. Visually identifying UV-degradation can be difficult, but there may be flaking on the surface of the safety harness and discoloration, if dyed. Other signs of chemical damage such as burn marks and fibers with a glazed appearance also weaken webbing strength.
The amount of dirt generated by the work area determines how contaminated a safety harness can be, resulting in excessive internal or external abrasion. Grit, sand, or debris underneath the dorsal D-ring can cause serious problems workers at heights normally cannot see. Make sure to properly clean and store the safety harness, lanyard, and other parts of the personal fall arrest system to easily maintain equipment integrity.
In a news report, a 51-year old construction worker fell to his death after not securing his safety harness to the lifeline. Workers at heights should develop the habit of applying their training when inspecting and using their safety harness and lanyard. Remember to inspect your fall protection gear without gloves on to accurately detect more than 1-mm cuts and localized abrasion on the webbing.
When working at heights, it is crucial to focus on the environment and your own task rather than unnecessary equipment such as clipboards. Donald Kempf, Owner of Sunshine Crane Repairs, previously carried a notepad and pen while he ran through several preventive maintenance checklists, scrawling notes and taking photos with his camera.
With iAuditor, Donald not only digitized his checklists, but he expanded it from a page to 14 comprehensive pages with photos. He says, “It saves a heap of time on site and then when I am at home, the task is already done; no more sitting at the computer writing out reports.”
Leverage on the features of iAuditor, the world’s most powerful inspection checklist app:
Featured Safety Harness Inspection Checklists
A harness and lanyard inspection checklist aims to check the condition of safety harnesses and lanyards. First, capture the manufacturer details of the harness and lanyard being inspected, then take photos of all labels and tags. Perform visual and tactile equipment inspection and record any damage and defects found including cuts, fraying, excessive wear, D-ring damage etc. Make sure to take photo evidence of any defects found.
A fall protection site safety inspection report details safety measures before, during, and after work shifts when working at heights. Start with a description of the work, take appropriate photos, and list down names of personnel performing the task. Next, identify the safety measures in place including permits, proper training, safety routes, vicinities and equipment. Then, the safety officer should check the harness if it is properly connected and used. Afterwhich, identify the changes that need to be implemented and finally, summarize the inspection by providing recommendations of equipment to be replaced or removed from service. This checklist should be used in conjunction with other safety harness inspection checklists.