If you are reading this, you probably understand the importance of maintaining your fall protection systems. But are you aware that the safety equipment you use with it may need to be maintained or even replaced from time to time as well?
Here at Malta Dynamics, we find ourselves being asked about equipment replacement on a regular basis, so I wanted this month’s article to focus on when to replace the most common piece of fall protection equipment – your harness.
The General Rule
When I meet with contractors and safety directors, I let them know that the typical lifespan of a safety harness varies widely. Depending on the industry, it can range from 6 months to 6 years. Some safety harnesses can even last over 10 years depending on the amount of use and the quality of the maintenance and storage it sees.
There are many factors to consider before continued use of your harness. First, always be sure to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer; some require replacement even when the harness looks fine. This is your first step! If the label says it must be replaced after a specific date, then its time to replace it regardless of the condition.
After this first step, it’s critical to consider deterioration and the results of past safety equipment inspections. You should be inspecting your harnesses regularly before every use, and it should be thoroughly inspected by a competent person periodically to ensure it is still in safe condition for use. When inspecting your fall arrest equipment, take a good look at the material and the hardware. If anyone notes fading of the webbing or pitting of the metal components, it may be time to take the harness out of service. In addition, if any of the hardware and attachments, such as D-Rings, belts and buckles appear to be damaged or worn down, replace your safety harness. If your safety harness has been exposed to moisture, fumes or daylight that ultimately cause the nylon fibers to break down, it’s best to replace it.
It’s common for safety harnesses to experience normal wear and tear; just be sure that it is in safe condition before you use it.
There’s more, though.
When determining whether or not to replace your safety harness, consider the following:
- Is there a chance that your safety equipment is compromised? If so, replace it.
- Is there a chance that your safety harness been involved in a fall? If so, replace it.
Everyone in your organization who uses fall protection equipment must know that a safety harness needs to be replaced is if it fails an inspection for any reason. In order to meet OSHA requirements, any type of equipment that does not pass inspection must be “withdrawn from service immediately” and “tagged or marked as unusable or destroyed.”
Making the Final Decision
Ultimately, the decision to retire a safety harness is up to you, once you’ve clearly evaluated the effectiveness of the harness. However, when you invest in high-quality fall protection equipment, such as the line we have at Malta Dynamics, you may get many more years – and jobs – out of the equipment.