FAQ Topics / Harnesses

An important issue on our project regarding this subject. Should tool
belts be worn under or over full body harnesses?

Tool belts, when loaded, are heavier than full body harnesses. Therefore they tend to get removed when not needed. Harnesses should be worn throughout a shift if properly fitted which includes having legs straps always attached and the pelvic strap in place below the buttocks. Approx 30% of American harness users have leg straps unattached.

It is much more difficult to adjust or center the combined tool belt/harness when it is heavy e.g. 90+ lbs typically for a telecomm tower construction worker.

The raising of tools separate from the worker is sometimes safer and easier on the worker to be independent. For 30-40 lbs a bucket can be raised on a pulley, some pulleys are locking to catch a dropped load. Heavier tool loads should be hoisted with a crane. The move to ladder safety gates (A14.3-2002) and horizontal grab bars at the tops of fixed ladders calls for fewer bulky tool belts to permit easier passage.

But if you must wear both, harnesses go on first; try to carry as few tools as possible and in case they are dropped use tool lanyards. Tool belts should not
impede the movement of harness straps during a fall and should not turn into a waist belt that could damage stomach organs in the fall arrest and subsequent suspension.

Note: Wearing harnesses carries with it the obligation of the employers to provide protection the moment of leaving the ground (impaling or penetration risk is high) and having each anchorage approved by a Qualified Person. A practiced rescue technique is also required to be in operation at the ready.

Harnessing off in buckets (telescoping boom type as opposed to scissors

type) seems a fairly straightforward issue to me. I have had many cases both

as a compliance officer and more recently as a consultant, where, because of

the “bouncy” characteristics of the bucket (most frequently, of course, when

the bucket is fully extended), the desired purpose of the tie-off is to keep a

person in the bucket. That’s where my number one concern emerges: We have

given every worker a six foot lanyard with which to hang himself/herself,

doubtless with nary a level of training beyond “Here, wear this” and perhaps

an admonition to “be careful”. On buckets, we need a tie-off point designated

as such by the manufacturer (or rental company in the case of older rigs) and

as short a length of lanyard as possible to keep the person in the bucket and,

if they do go out, to at least be close enough to the guardrail to attempt a


I agree. I recently did a response to a question on this matter. The

important issue is an adequate anchorage point that is at least 5 ft above

standing level. The importance of a short SRL is because of no trigger height

for aerial lifts. The 2:1 requirement for strength is important to avoid

tip-over argument.

Could you provide information and references about using safety harnesses in steel baskets?

We need to distinguish the anchorage points, types of connections and harness designs involved. We have two types of steel basket devices:
1. Aerial lift – OSHA 1926.453
2. Personnel platforms – OSHA 1926.550(g)

I am doing a search on the injury threshold for fall arrest situation (falling from height and arrested in a full body harness) and I realise that fall protection standards usually use forces to indicate threshold, but other areas like car crash and parachute harness design uses G-forces. Essentially G-force is a ratio of the force acting on the body to the weight, but it has the advantage of being independent of the mass. I cannot find any literature that substantiate the rationale for the prevalence use of force in fall protection. Do you know of any literature that discusses the benefits of using G-force as opposed to the use of force or vice versa?

Most manufacturers in the USA offer a 310 lbs+ harness and limited arrestors up to 400 lbs upon request. The problem with the manufacturers increasing the weight range both up and down in the weight range is incompatibility with one device design and there would have to be two and perhaps three design capacities offered.
I have supported 90 lbs through 400 lbs. from current 130-310 lbs for the ANSI Z359 committee to be inclusive. I think the 130 lbs including tools does not permit coverage for even 50% of the US female work force let alone Philipino and other smaller male populations. The change following Wingfield’s work was to maintain 130-310 but test with 282 lbs rather than 220 lbs rigid torso or perhaps dummy and that number is currently being used in draft standards by the Z359 committee. Check the complete report by Wingfield for documentation including human drop tests and colored Excel charts.
If one device is not possible then the responsibility for distribution is magnified with accompanying liability increase. This is not an easy problem to solve.
User supervisors now search for a large harness for 400 lbs plus individuals for example with limited success, to be accommodating. However they already seemed to have dreamed up fall arrestors using two lanyards or two SRL’s in parallel even though nothing has been written about the adequacy of this approach with regard to clearance or sharing of force.
The final throught is the proper education of heavier person employers to make the request to a manufacturer for a special system for fall arrest including the recent harness research of Hongwei Hsaio for example. Having several device weight ranges may not be possible in the USA for normal distribution. On the other hand some electric utilities in the USA have grounded their linemen over 300 lbs after several weight-loss programs have failed over a number of years as personal weight increased.
I think the research is important and needs to distinguish between well built males and fat individuals in the higher weight range. Careful attention needs to be given to the heavy weight body support by two inch webbings for bruising or cutting circulation especially around the thighs. The main change may have to be in width and rigidity of such support and no research has been done in this area to my knowledge.

Has anyone ever seen or heard of workers using their harness as a
boatswains chair? Had a scaffolding supervisor tell me that this is common and accepted
practice to slowly lower yourself into your harness in a sitting/hanging position hanging from their lanyard to attach the legs and runners. I explained that a harness and lanyard is not supposed to be used for anything else other than fall protection and immediately shut that practice down. However, I cannot find any information that allows or disallows this practice to substantiate my argument. They are essentially using the fall protection harness as a climbing
harness to hang their and do their work. The only information that I can find is if someone uses a boatswains chair they must also use the appropiate fall
protection/prevention devices and nothing the other way around. If
anyone has any information on this or could point me in the right direction, it would be greatly appreciated.

The issue of suspension in a harness used for bosun chair work
is based on the proper seat and because the pressure on the thighs is painful after a while, it may only have short term use (few minutes?). That’s the harness I designed for applications where seat boards were too big for entry into some spaces while suspended, now Sellstrom-RTC.

If the suspension straps are in the front and the large swivel webbing under the butt is separate from the fall arrest features I do not see a problem in combining them, again for short duration use.