What is The Lifespan of a Safety Harness?
The usual life of a safety harness is believed to be that of five years, but it can also differ according to its make, model, and how it is used.
That said, crucial fall protection equipment such as a safety harness should be used properly and maintained in a good condition.
Users must also remain vigilant about the usability of a safety harness after prolonged usage and keep a tab on its expiry. But how long is it safe to use a safety harness can differ due to various factors?
Let’s take a look!
Who Determines Whether the Safety Harness Is Still Good To Be Used?
There are no clearly defined inspection and maintenance criteria that determine how long a safety harness is good to be used. Neither OSHA nor ANSI have released any codes that can define this period. A professional and trained practitioner or a trainer is in the best position to determine the life expectancy of a safety harness.
Why There Is No Mandated Expiration Date for A Safety Harness?
There are certain issues pertaining to these fall protection harnesses that make it difficult to determine their precise service life.
To start with, it can give the user a false sense of security. Most harnesses will expire according to the way they are used, and even if there is still time for their expiry date to arrive, it can become unsafe for use if it is handled incorrectly or carelessly. So, having an expiry date mentioned for a harness when workplace conditions affecting its state is the primary cause of wear and tear, can potentially put the user in trouble.
Also, defining an expiry date may make the user skip trials and ignore inspection rules thinking that the harness is well within the expiry date and can assume its safe functioning.
Factors That Adversely Affect the Fall Protection Equipment
All personal protective equipment must be cared for properly, and one must follow inspection rules to increase its functioning ability and life span.
- If the safety harness is snagged on protruding objects regularly, it can cause a tear to its fabric or stitches. This can make it go weak in certain sections resulting in snapping or breaking during tension
- If the harness is coated with paint or other chemicals, it can weaken the synthetic materials that are used in its webbing construction. If you have coated the harness with any such material, you must remove it instantly while following the guidelines provided by the manufacturer
- Excessive exposure to UV rays or sunlight can weaken synthetic materials. When it is not being used, it should be kept in a cool place, away from the sunlight.
- The metal components in the protection equipment like D-rings and buckles can go weak if they are exposed to caustics and acids. You should clean the harness using prescribed methods it if comes in contact with such components.
- Storing it in unfavorable conditions can also amount to long-lasting damage.
- If the fall protection gear is subject to fall arrest, it should not be used any further.
Relevant factors such as these should be taken into careful consideration in addition to the manufacturer’s guidelines, based on which the fall protection harness should either be discarded or replaced immediately.
Routine Inspection Is the Only Safe Way of Determining Its Life Expectancy
The best and the only way to determine whether a harness is still good to use is through a competent person’s inspection and thorough checks on a regular basis. This not only includes a formal inspection by trained personnel but also by the wearer every time before use.
A trained inspector is aware of all the factors that amount to a safety harness being good for usage. These routine check-ups should be maintained in a logbook with all the required details. While these special inspections are important, it is also necessary to do the pre-usage inspection by the user so that any last-minute lapses can be avoided.
ANSI has charted out a time duration for such periodic inspection and recommends that they should be done within the interval of every six months. If a harness is not formally inspected within six months, it should be tagged as unsafe or unusable.
Five Steps to Follow for A Thorough Harness Inspection:
Here are some maintenance criteria outlined for you, which when undertaken by a competent person can help enhance the guardian fall protection of the safety harness.
Inspecting All the Webs and Stitches
This involves a complete check-up of things like excessive wear, cuts, pulled or broken threads, fraying, abrasions, missing straps, burns, UV damage, and exposure to heat and chemicals. Take one end of the webbing in your hand, and hold it eight inches apart and pull. This will highlight any defects that might not be visible when the webbing is not stretched.
Inspecting All the Metal or Plastic Components
All harness buckles must work smoothly, engaging and disengaging completely and freely in a swift action. Make sure that all buckles, including the quick connect buckle, are working properly. Make sure there are no deformations, cracks, corrosion, deep, pitting, nicks and cuts, sharp edges, exposure to chemicals, etc on any of the buckles. Missing parts or the ones that are not functioning properly – both metal and plastic parts – should be immediately removed.
All Load Indicators Must be Inspected
Load indicators are part of the harness that fold over and are stitched together. Something like ribbed stitching is an indicator that the harness has been subjected to a fall is no longer safe for usage. The harness should be immediately removed and tagged unsafe for usage.
Complete Inspection Documentation
Documentation is a testimony to the inspection performed and is important for the inspection to be deemed formally complete. An updated log sheet should be maintained for every inspection so that it can be referred to whenever needed.
The Life Expectancy of the DBI Sala Harness
The safety policy of DBI Sala products is based on the condition of the items and not the age. Their items can be used until damage, wear, or any other characteristic that can hamper the safety is pointed out during an inspection. The inspections should be carried out in accordance with the user instruction manual as well as other information provided by DBI/SALA.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Safety Harness Life Expectancy
How long is it safe to use a safety harness?
There is no clearly defined set of guidelines that can determine a perfect period for which this fall arrest equipment is good to use. The only way to determine its safety is by inspecting it thoroughly at regular intervals. Firstly, the inspection should be done by the user before the use and, secondly, a trained and expert inspector should check the harness every six months to ensure there are no signs of damage, and wear and tear in its plastic and metal parts.
What all factors should be checked when inspecting a safety harness?
Several factors must be taken into account when inspecting a safety harness. From its plastic and metals parts, stitching, webbing, load indicators, etc are a must. It should also be checked that there are no signs of corrosion, acid or paint effect, or other general wear and tear during unregulated usage and storage.