The full body safety harness is a key part of an active fall arrest system. The harness serves two purposes: first, distributing fall forces safely across a worker’s body in the event of a free fall, and second, providing freedom of movement sufficient to allow the worker to effectively perform his or her job. The full body harness combines the features of a sit harness, which supports the hips and upper legs, and a chest harness, which supports the shoulders and chest. When properly used, the full body design contains the human torso and aides in keeping it upright during a fall event.
Front-side-view of a standard full body safety harness.

Full body safety harnesses are manufactured from different types of fabric webbing that are sewn together to into various configurations or straps. Common harness webbing fabrics include nylon and polyester. Specialty fabrics like Kevlar are used for harnesses used in hazardous applications like welding and arc flash environments. The harness straps are tightened to the body with buckles. Common harness buckles include tongue, quick attachment, and spring tension buckles. A standard full body harness has straps and buckles that tighten around the shoulders, legs, and chest.

Full body safety harnesses are also designed with one or more attachment points. The attachment point can be a critical fall arrest system link like a back D-ring, or it can be a keeper for a lanyard that’s not in use. Attachment points are sewn into the harness webbing and can be made of stamped or forged metal, or plastic. The location of the attachment point is dependent upon the type of harness and what application it will be used in.

Standard fall arrest harnesses provide a single D-ring attachment on the back. This allows for attachment of a fall arrest lanyard and helps to keep the body upright during a fall event. Harnesses used in work positioning are designed with side D-rings which allow for easy attachment of positioning lanyards. Harnesses used in vertical fall protection systems allow for a guided fall arrester to be connected to a front D-ring.
of a standard full body safety harness.

All fully body safety harnesses have a rated capacity, or weight limit for the potential user. The rated capacity includes the harness components, the worker’s clothing, and any gear the worker will be using on the job. The capacity is specific to each make and model of harness, with the typical range being between 130-310 pounds. This capacity range comes from the ANSI equipment regulation that defines performance requirements for harnesses (note that there is no OSHA requirement for harness performance requirements). This means that ANSI rated harnesses on the market are for capacities only falling between 130 and 310 pounds.

There are safety companies manufacturing harnesses with capacities higher than 310 pounds, but these harnesses are technically not ANSI rated. Harness capacities should never be exceeded, because of the serious safety concerns that could occur during the arrest of a free fall. A fallen worker wearing a harness with a capacity that is either too low or too high could experience significant injury or death.

Choosing the right harness for each job and each worker is important. Application requirements, size, weight limit, number of attachment points, worker comfort, and freedom of worker movement while in the harness are all factors that must be considered when selecting a full body harness.

Full Body Harness
What Does Full Body Harness Mean?

A full body harness is a body holding device used to protect workers from falls by distributing the force of the fall over a large area of the body, ensuring that the subject of the fall remains suspended in an upright position after the fall has occurred. It is designed to minimize the risk of injuries caused by suspension. Body belts were previously used in fall protection, but their use was discontinued by OSHA in 1998 owing to their role in causing internal injuries.
Full Body Harness

Fall arrest systems must be implemented in any situation that requires an employee to work more than 6 feet from the ground. The device should prevent a free-fall exceeding 6 feet and should allow for a deceleration distance of 3.5 feet. The maximum arresting force for a fall protection system is 1,800 pounds. The load capacity of a fall protection system should be at least double that required in order to check a free-fall of six feet. As with other types of safety equipment, the harness should be inspected daily and should not be used if there are any signs of wear and tear or damage. Once a harness has arrested a fall, it should not be re-used until it has been inspected by a competent person.
A full body harness is a harness designed to hold the wearer upright in the event of a fall from height. If worn correctly, a full body harness will distribute the energy generated during free-fall across the wearers’ body evenly, reducing the potential for serious injury.

Full-body harnesses should be the first choice when it comes to working at height because they offer:

How are full body harnesses designed?

When looking at how full body harnesses are designed, there are a few common features that you can expect to see on any full body harness:

When should you wear a full body harness?

Before you carry out any work at height, you should always assess the potential risks. Unfortunately, falling from height is a common cause of injuries and fatalities in the workplace. It’s important that you know when a full body harness is, or isn’t required. Your employee should carry out a full risk assessment before you carry out any work at height, notifying you if a full body harness is required while you complete your tasks.
Your employer might ask you to wear a full body harness if:

Choosing the right full body harness

In situations where a fall from height is a serious risk, you don’t want to be putting on any old harness and making your ascent. Choosing a full body harness that suits your weight and job requirements is paramount for your safety. Your full body harness should always:

The Complete Guide to Full Body Harnesses

Proper fall protection is often the only thing standing between you and serious injury or death. For full safety, it’s critical to choose the right full body harnesses for yourself and your team. Understanding the design and use empowers you to make the right decisions when it comes to your fall protection gear. This equipment will guard against accidents, maintain your company’s OSHA compliance, and create a better workplace for everyone involved.

A full body harness is a safety harness that connects the worker to the fall protection system anchored into the structure they’re working on. Using a series of straps that fit around the thighs, hips, chest, shoulders, and back, these harnesses arrest falls while minimizing injury to the worker. Full body harnesses are also designed to keep wearers upright after a fall to prevent suspension trauma and facilitate faster rescue.

As you’ll see below, however, the harnesses recommended today haven’t always been the most common option. It took several decades to develop a full body option that doesn’t prolong the danger caused by a workplace fall.
Full Body Harness vs. Body Belt

Initially, fall protection systems relied on a single belt, usually made of leather or canvas and worn around the waist, to prevent falls. Though this did arrest some falls, it wasn’t always successful. And when it did work, it often created new dangers, including:

In the 1970s and 1980s, workers began using two lanyards for additional safety. Known as a “100% tie-off system,” the second lanyard offered backup protection if anything happened to the first. It didn’t, however, prevent the hazards of using body belts. If you fell “correctly,” horizontally, you were often fine, but falling in any other position put you at serious risk.

Several safety organizations, including OSHA, tested body belts throughout the late 1900s. In one test performed by the British Standards Institute’s National Engineering Lab, the body belt folded the dummy in half, slamming its head against the surface below. In another study by OSHA, engineers determined that an average-sized woman could survive for 2.5 minutes while suspended in a body belt. The average-sized man would only last 32 seconds.

Though some companies used safety harnesses rather than just body belts as early as the 1940s, they didn’t become common until OSHA banned body belts as the only form of fall protection in 1998. Inspired by the harnesses used by paratroopers, manufacturers developed harnesses that strapped across the upper and lower body to distribute weight more evenly.

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