Inspecting personal fall protection equipment before each use will determine if there are any visible defects or damage that could put you at risk.

OSHA requires inspections of personal fall protection equipment before each use and annually, although most companies require and perform pre-use, monthly, and annual inspections. The monthly and annual inspections require documentation where as a pre-use inspection does not.

The most important thing is ensuring your fall protection equipment passes an inspection before you use it, each and every time.

Remember, these items are designed to save your life. It is critical that they are respected, treated with care, and properly maintained, stored, and promptly replaced when unserviceable. Taking that couple of minutes to inspect the fall protection equipment can make all the difference in the event of a fall.

Pre-Use Inspections

Safety Harness

• Thoroughly look at and feel the webbing for signs of damage such as tears, burn holes (usually from welding and grinding), and fraying or missing stitching. Most harnesses have fall indicator stitching that will rip if the harness has sustained a fall.

• Inspect the dorsal D-ring, positioning D-rings, dog ear connectors, grommets, buckles, rivets, and any other hardware for signs of damage or deterioration.

• Check for mildew, dirt, paint, etc. If dirty, clean by hand with a soft sponge in a soft non-detergent. Once cleaned, thoroughly rinse and hang to dry in a clean area. Allow the harness to fully dry before putting back in service.

• Check inspection tags for out-of-date harnesses.

Lanyards, SRLs (Self-Retracting Lifeline), and Connectors

• Inspect webbing and stitching for cuts, burns, pulled or frayed stitching, abrasion, and corrosion.

• Inspect all hardware components for signs of wear or damage.

• Check break away pack for cuts, tears, broken stitches, or signs it has been deployed.

• Ensure all connectors are double-action to open and automatically return to the closed and locked position when released.

• Inspect the SRL for damage or deterioration, and ensure the SRL engages when applying force by pulling the connector with one hand and holding the SRL body with the other.

Tips For Managing Personal Fall Protection Equipment

• Once any harness, lanyard, SRL, or any fall protection equipment has been involved in a fall event, it has to be taken out of service. It has to be destroyed by cutting into pieces before discarding.

• Only use approved and certified connectors for fall protection; they will have the ratings stamped on them. Carabiners and other connectors can be purchased at any hardware store, but they are not approved nor certified for use in fall protection.

• Always store fall protection equipment in a clean, dry area such as a locker or labeled 5-gallon bucket with a lid, or hang in an area free of dust, dirt, UV light, etc.

• While employers should supply each worker with their own fall protection equipment, this is not always the case; some facilities have harnesses that are shared with other workers. Just because you inspected and fit tested the harness at the beginning of the shift does not mean someone didn’t use it while you were at break, lunch, or out performing other job assignments. Always inspect and do a fit test each and every time before you use fall protection.

• When not in use, carry the harness by the dorsal D-ring and do not let straps or lanyards drag on the ground behind you.

• When worn, the harness should feel snug with only two fingers of gap between the body and the straps, belt, and chest.

• Ask a teammate to look over to ensure the dorsal D-ring is in the center of your back between the shoulder blades and there are no twists in straps or webbing of the harness.

• Only trained and qualified employees can use fall protection. New employees or anyone changing jobs that require the use of fall protection must go through training and fit testing.

• Treat your fall protection equipment as if your life depends on it.

Source: Glenn Dickey, All-Safe Program Manager at AgriSphere Services, LLC, Decatur, IL: gdickey@agrisphere.com, agrisphere.com.