Safety harness

What is a safety harness?

safety harness is an item which, when fitted to the user's body, completes the connection of the user to the set of components making up the anchorage system.

All safety harnesses are regulated by standard EN 361.

What is a safety harness used for?

safety harness is generally used as a fall arrest device, however account should be taken of the fact that it can also be used for suspension and positioning work. Let's explain:

Types of safety harnesses

Fall arrest harness

What does it do?

The Fall arrest harness is exclusively designed to protect the user against a potential fall.

Fall arrest harness Attachment Points

According to the provisions of standard EN 361, the attachment points provided to arrest the fall are solely the dorsal and sternal attachment points. These points must be indicated with an A on the attachment hardware itself.

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Should the attachment comprise two clasps, to be mated together, then these shall be marked with ½ A on each one.

Fall arrest harness Attachment Points

Verticality, The Intended Effect

In the workplace, the components connecting the attachment points with the harness are static, such as ropes, cables, etc. and do not absorb the impact of the fall.

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To avoid this impact, energy absorbers and retractable fall arresters have been created. As an additional safety measure, the aim should be for the fall arrest to put the user in as vertical a posture as possible. In this way it is possible to ensure that the fall arrest forces are distributed over the body, for minimal impact. and to allow it to better withstand such forces.

Consequences of incorrect use: Backward falls

Due to the stationary elements involved in work at heights, the incorrect use of the harness may lead to serious injuries.

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This is the case of the ventral attachment point, a point which is used as a fall arrester in sports harnesses. However the use of this attachment point for this purpose in occupational settings may entail serious injuries, such as the one shown in the diagram.

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Harnesses that cannot be used for Fall Arrest

There are harnesses available on the market that, although legal, do not comply with the fall arrest function. Such harnesses conform to the positioning and restraint functions discussed later on.

How to correctly fit a Fall arrest harness

Suspension harness: Work positioning and Restraint attachment points

What do they do?

As far as standards and regulations are concerned, there is no express terminological reference for “suspension work”.

EN 361 and the EN 813 both call it “work positioning”, stating that it occurs when it "prevents a free fall while enabling the user to work at height under tension or in suspension”.

Although regulated in another standard, the EN 358, work positioning attachments are also considered to be those that are located on the sides of the harness belt and are intended to restrain the fall.

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EN 813, which specifically regulates sit harnesses, establishes that:

  • The expression "work positioning" and "restraint" through a low attachment point are the terms given to suspension attachment points.
  • These low attachment points should not be used for fall arrest.

In practice, suspension work is when a worker is suspended by a rope. Vertical work, for example, corresponds to this type of work. A Fall arrest harness must be worn and it should also provide for the possibility of the above mentioned fall.

The Ventral Attachment point: specific for suspension work

The attachment point used in climbing as a fall arrester cannot be used for this purpose in occupational settings. As far as occupational risk prevention is concerned, this attachment point is designed to withstand static loads.

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It is, moreover, regulated in two standards:

  •  EN 361 covers the attachment points to secure the harness, in the ventral position and also on the sides of the waist belt.
  • EN 813 also sets out the specifications for the sit harness, which is specific for use in prolonged suspension work, where the worker is consciously seated on this equipment.

Moreover, this standard requires that the harness be reinforced at various points to ensure that it is as ergonomic as possible and causes no long-term physical damage. As those continually performing suspension work, know only too well, the use of a seat is absolutely necessary.

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Side Attachment Points and Fall Restraint

Although these attachment points come within what the EN 361 standard defines as “work positioning attachment points”, the approach is different than for suspension work.

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For this reason, these are regulated in a different standard, the EN 358, which defined fall restraint.

According to the provisions in the introduction to this standard, in contrast to work positioning in which the aim is to maintain the user in a position at his/her point of work in complete safety, the work restraint aims to "prevent the user from reaching a zone where the risk of falling from height exists".

Likewise, EN 358 establishes the possibility of creating waist belts specifically designed for this purpose. Yet clearly identified as not intended for the above-mentioned fall arrest purpose.

Arnes de posicionamiento, sistema de retención. Elytra

Waist harnesses

What do they do?

Waist harness is not a fall arrester harness. It should therefore not be used for work with a risk of different level falls.

Waist harnesses are used in the following circumstances:

Waist harnesses for Tree Trimming at height

According to our tree pruning friends, the Waist harness can be used for trimming trees.

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The reasoning used to support their case is that:
  •  They have no certified attachment point for their work.
  •  They are working with a Fall Factor of 0.
Although we understand their reasoning, we're not entirely convinced, given the fact that:
  •  Falls can also occur during tree pruning operations and, therefore, Fall arrest harnesses should be worn.
  •  There are many other circumstances in which the work also has a fall factor of 0, yet the use of Fall arrest harnesses is not questioned.

Waist harnesses for Emergencies

Work requiring urgent intervention in order to evacuate a person in serious risk, also use belts of this type.

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This is more understandable. The use of a double rope, one for suspension and the other as a fall arrester, requires a great deal of time and a lot of preparation.

And this is what fireman, policemen etc. do not have during their emergency rescue work. For this reason, although there is still a high risk of falling and a Fall arrest harness ought to be used, it is logical to use the Waist harness due to the requirement for rapid intervention.

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The Body Belt

The sole use for body safety belts is for restraint, as indicated in EN 358.

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They are not fall arrester harnesses, and cannot even be used for suspension work. They can only be used for positioning with attachment hardware.

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