Fall harnesses are an essential piece of safety equipment. They have saved countless construction workers’ lives since their invention. Just like every piece of equipment, though, your harness wears out with use, and becomes less safe. If your employer is lax about inspecting the harnesses, they could miss some obvious signs that it is time to replace or upgrade the harness for your safety.
The danger of an overused harness
Much like car seats and other equipment with straps, fall harnesses can develop micro-tears in the fabric of the straps. This means that it could be weakening even if there is no visible hole or tear.
Every time your harness snags on something, gets stretched or exposed to caustic chemicals or paint, the fibers that hold it together can begin to wear out in ways that aren’t immediately visible to the eye. Even exposure to the natural UV rays from the sun can deteriorate the synthetic fibers in the harness.
What this means is that a harness that is in use for years and years without replacement might seem totally safe on visual inspection. But when you suddenly take a fall – when you need that harness the most – it might fail, with sometimes deadly consequences.
Steps a prudent employer should take
There aren’t any OSHA or ANSI rules about exactly how long a fall harness can stay in use before an employer needs to replace them. The reason for this is because there’s no set lifespan that would apply equally to all harnesses. How long they can safely function depends on how many hours a day they’re used, and under what conditions.
If your employer is taking your safety seriously, they will be meticulous in their inspection of the harnesses. You should never be the only one inspecting the harness for safety. Instead, the employer should designate an expert who inspects each harness individually, and keeps a log that catalogs each individual harness and its condition.
The inspector should be looking for loose webbing, tiny tears and other signs of wear in the straps. If they are being careful in their inspection, they should catch any dangerous signs long before they become a problem, and let your employer know that it’s time to replace the harness.
Unfortunately, not every employer is as careful as they should be with their harnesses, and every year good workers are hurt as a result. If you or someone you know has suffered an injury because a harness failed, it’s a good idea to consult an experienced personal injury team, like the attorneys at Arye, Lustig & Sassower, P.C.. We have secured more than a billion dollars for injured workers and other accidents in New York, and we know how to pursue every possible source of benefits and compensation.