How To Know When To Replace Your Harness.
Have you ever asked yourself the question: How do I know when it’s time to replace my harness? Such organizations as OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) and ANSI (American National Standard Institute), don’t have any rules or guidelines for the shelf life of a particular harness or lanyard. Instead, they rely on the manufacturer to make these decisions.
ANSI / OSHA
ANSI does state that “Equipment shall be inspected by the user before each use and, additionally, by a Competent Person other than the user at intervals of no more than a year.” ANSI Z359.1-1992(R1999) section 6.1 Inspection.
The above states the term Competent Person. OSHA in fact, defines it as follows:
Section 1926.450(b) defines a competent person as "one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them."
Though these are not harness specific, harnesses are equipment that needs to be inspected regularly and a Competent Person is used for more than just inspecting fall protection. So, let’s get to the specificities of who is inspecting and why it’s necessary.
The Competent Person
Not only are you supposed to be responsible for your safety equipment and inspect it regularly before and after each use. There is an additional step to the inspection process that is implemented to help with any oversight that may occur. This is where the Competent Person comes into play. The Competent Person is trained and certified to acknowledge any damage or defective issues in the user’s equipment. They are certified to sign off on the condition of your harness/equipment and suggest any corrective measures. This will usually determine if you can repair or if you need to replace.
It is recommended to contact the manufacturer of your equipment with any additional safety concerns. As the life expectancy guidelines is just that, guidelines. Therefore, if any of the safety integrities have been compromised, a replacement is most likely evident.
Why Are Inspections Necessary?
The whole purpose of all of this is the user’s safety. Implementing this two-step inspection process for your equipment can help to make sure that you are doing everything to be as safe as possible and prevent injury. While inspecting your harness, you want to look for any damaged or loose stitching, make sure that the nylon is not showing any signs of wearing, and inspect the material around the grommets for any damage. Look for stains, cuts, frays, burns, anything that might compromise the integrity of the material. Taking the time and doing this properly can prevent injury and potentially save a life.
While some brands of harnesses have a shelf life that they stand behind, everyday use can cause damages within that time frame. If at any time you should ever have a piece of equipment that you question and don’t feel comfortable using, or just want to have that second, third or fourth opinion, contact the manufacturer. As products that are used periodically, will not have the same life span as those used every day. Contacting your manufacturer or local retailer, is a great resource to explore when you’re having any questions regarding the integrity or shelf life of your safety equipment.