What is a Safety Harness?

A safety harness, or construction harness, is a form of personal protective equipment designed to protect a person from injury while working at heights or at an elevated platform. The harness is an attachment between a person and a stationary anchor point, and is usually fabricated from rope, cable or webbing and locking hardware. Designed to prevent the wearer from moving outside of a safe range or area.

When should a Safety Harness be used?

The Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, section 12.07, states that a fall protection system must be in place when working 6 feet above the ground. It is still important to know the provincial legislation you are also subject to, as it can vary from the Nationwide legislation set out by the Government of Canada.

What Harness do I need?

Harnesses are put into five classes, and each class has a specific function and safety application. A harness can have a single function or can be used in many situations, based on what straps and anchor points are secured to it.

Class A
Class A harnesses are used for general fall arrest situations and have a large D ring anchor point on your back. These are the most common harnesses for the construction and manufacturing industries.

Class L
Class L harnesses are known as ladder harnesses, these will give you the ability to attach to a climbing structures verticle safety systems. Some industries that use this type of harness are wind turbine workers, telephone pole climbers, or arborists.

Class P
Class P harnesses are known as positioning harnesses and are made with two D ring anchors near your hips, which let you use both of your hands while working at heights. 

Class E
Class E harnesses are used for emergency evacuation and put two D ring anchors on your shoulders so you can be raised or lowered while remaining upright.

Class D
Class D harnesses are made for situations where you will need to be raised or lowered vertically. This class of harness you will have two D ring anchors on your shoulders, and can sometimes have added padding under you to provide a place to sit while being raised or lowered.

Do Safety Harnesses Expire?

The average harness manufacturer has a shelf life of five years from the first date of use, but it is always specified that regular quality checks and inspections are necessary to maintain a working harness. There are a number of things that need to be checked on a harness before donning it that makes it safe or unsafe to use. Each manufacturer has the right to set its own expiry dates, and you should fully understand the requirements of each harness you wear.

What should I be looking at specifically when checking a harness?

Check for wear and deterioration. Take a look at the webbing and straps of the harness, looking for loose threads, pulled rivets, burns, cuts, or any other obvious signs of overuse. A harness that is not fully intact has a much higher chance of failing in a dangerous situation. Any wear and tear on a harness should be thoroughly inspected by a professional, and should not be considered safe to use on a job site.

Check the fittings and safety stitching. The metal fittings on a harness are the direct contacts to your fall restraint device and should be checked for cracks, colour distortion, and dents. There are also a number of spots on each type of harness where safety stitching has been sewn in, these spots are designed to break free and clearly let you know when a fall has occurred. Any harness where the safety stitching has been broken should not be put into use and should be discarded immediately.

Below is a list of the main items on each harness you should check during inspection before each use.
+ Stitching and Webbing
+ Buckles and Belt Ends
+ D-Rings
+ Rivets and Grommets
+ Tongue Buckles
+ Friction Adjusters
+ Leather and Padding

Published: October 30, 2019
Last Modified: July 12, 2022