Working at height requires that the number one priority is the safety of the worker, and for this purpose the safety harnesses: are personal protection elements (or PPE) that allow the operator to work safely and comfortably, whether it is when repairing a traffic light on public roads or changing a signal lamp on a cell phone tower.
There are different models of safety harnesses —depending on the work to which they will be subjected— and each manufacturer offers different configurations for each model. In this article we will see these models and a small orientation guide to choose them correctly.
Safety harnesses for every job
A little history
The harness as an anti-fall element it was born at the end of the 19th century in Holland, and its invention is attributed to the mountaineer Jeanne Immink; But it was not until the early 1970s, when the Occupational Health Safety Administration (OSHA) began to regulate work at height, that the use of fall arrest devices became mandatory in the workplace.
At that time the maximum protection was simply a leather belt with steel eyebolts, which prevented the fall but not the injuries caused by the sudden stop in the air. It was only in 1998, with the prohibition of the use of these primitive devices, that the true evolution of the safety harnesses, up to the current models, based on the harness for military use in the mid-20th century.
Classification according to the protection offered
OSHA defines three degrees of protection for safety harnesses:
- class 1: are those body belts designed only to position the worker in a certain place and prevent his fall, but do not offer protection against falls of more than one meter.
- class 2: they are chest harnesses that prevent falls in slippery places, but they are not designed to protect the operator against vertical free falls. They are used to lift it from tanks or underground installations.
- class 3: full body harnesses, which protect against the most severe free falls.
In Argentina, the Argentine Institute for Rationalization of Materials (IRAM) standardizes personal fall arrest systems through IRAM 3605 and 3622-1 standards.
As we can see, only safety harnesses Class 3 are indicated for work at height where there is a risk of free fall.
Safety harness components
the body of the harness It is made up of the safety strips (made of a polyester compound for greater safety and resistance) on which the D-rings are located (the rings where the connectors, or cables, that link the harness with the anchor points are hooked ).
They also have adjustment points, which allow you to adapt the harness to the body of each worker. Additionally, at the junction points, where the harness will receive the greatest stress in the event of a fall, the fittings are found. Finally, at the points where the harness will hold the operator’s body with more pressure, there are the pads.
D-rings are made of steel or aluminum and are properly tested and designed to withstand a minimum stress of 22.2kN.
Within the Class 3 classification given by OSHA, there are dozens of models, each one adapted to a different work scenario: there are dirt-proof, reflective, with protection against electric shocks, with rings to hang anti-fall tools, etc.
are those safety harnesses designed for general purposes. They mostly consist of three D-rings for attaching the connectors to the anchorage, leg loops, adjustment points, pads, and hardware. They can optionally have a fourth chest D ring for greater security, although it is not mandatory.
For dirty environments
To carry out work where it will be unavoidable to dirty work clothes (in environments with oils, tars, dust, paints and others) the safety harnesses coated with a waterproof protective material, which prevents direct contact of the substances with the hardware or the polyester, thus protecting it from corrosion damage, which would represent a safety risk.
These harness They must be cleaned and checked after each job, to rule out that the protective material has been damaged, allowing dirt to come into contact with the body.
For electrical work at height
Called dielectric safety harnesses and they have a protective material that insulates the hardware and D-rings to prevent them from becoming energized when working near electrical fields (such as wiring poles), thus protecting the worker from electrical shock.
They are generally manufactured with vinyl covers that completely cover all the metallic elements, thus guaranteeing their correct insulation.
For work on public roads
Are safety harnesses with the addition of reflective material, which allows for high visibility even in night or foggy conditions. Therefore, they are especially suitable for work on public roads, such as maintenance of lights and traffic lights on streets and highways.
The strips are made of a burn-proof synthetic fiber material; resist spark spatter up to 370°C.
Before executing any work at heights, you must make sure you have the safety harness suitable.