6 Tips to Use When Inspecting Fall Protection Equipment

From harnesses to shock-absorbing straps, fall protection equipment can make it easier to accomplish the riskiest construction and renovation tasks. However, it's not enough to simply buy the equipment and keep using it day in and day out without inspecting it. When planning your equipment inspection routine, include these six tips to make sure you catch even the smallest problems before accidents happen.

Check the Color

It might sound like an insignificant detail, but each part of the body harness, lanyards, and anchor point straps should feature even color. Splotches, lightened sections, and other discolorations indicate that the material has been damaged by heat or wear and tear. Even simple stains can lead to dangerously damaged equipment if you don't properly clean the spill off.

Examine All Seams

Of course, every seam and connection point needs extra attention during a routine inspection. Yank on the stitched areas and look closely for any movement or signs of stress in the thread. Since each component is required to support a lot of weight during a real fall, a little pulling and tugging certainly shouldn't reveal any give in the webbing or fraying in the seams.

Get Hands-On

Aside from pulling at all the seams and connection points to look for weaknesses, put your hands to good use by bending and twisting the sections of straps and webbing. By moving the material, you make it easier to see visual signs of damage like unusually shiny or dull areas, uneven thickness and thinness, and hardening of materials that need to stay soft to absorb shock. If you notice any of these problems during the inspection, take the equipment out of use until you can test it further to determine if the problem is serious or just a surface flaw.

Spot Mold and Corrosion

Mold and mildew is devastating to the webbing and fabric straps used in fall protection body harnesses. The tiny and nearly invisible roots of these fungal growths reduce the strength and durability of the safety equipment. Clean the harnesses regularly to remove grease and sweat that feeds mold by following these steps:

  1. Mix clean water and a mild detergent or nylon-safe soap.
  2. Dip a sponge into the cleaning mixture, then wringing it out until nearly dry.
  3. Scrub the straps with the sponge until a lather forms.
  4. Wipe off the soap with a soft and dry cloth.
  5. Hang the harnesses to dry out of the sunlight.

Find the Tag

Each worker should verify the safety tag is still on their harness before wearing it each day. These tags list the date of manufacturing and include a service life expiration date. This date is set after extensive testing of the aging of the safety materials, so trying to use it past that date is simply gambling with the chance of a major failure. Ask your employees to keep track of this expiration date and double up on your protection by setting automatic reminders on your company's management software so that expired harnesses don't cause accidents.

Avoid Markers and Modifications

Finally, check with the manufacturer before using any kind of permanent marker or ink on the harnesses, even to mark your company's name. These inks can etch into the fibers and weaken the material over time. The manufacturer can tell you exactly what kind of ink is suitable for adding instructions, reminders, or employee names.

OSHA regulations about inspections are fairly loose, so make sure you set your own internal rules instead of waiting until an accident reveals a problem with your procedures. Set up a basic inspection process every employee can use before starting work each day, then back that up with weekly or monthly inspections. For more help, contact resources like Public Works Supply. 

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