On average, full-body harnesses have a lifespan of 5 years, but this time frame does not tell you the actual condition of your equipment. Therefore, it does not accurately answer the question, “How long is a safety harness good for?”
The only way to find out is to conduct daily pre-use checks and periodic detailed inspections. Let’s look at the nitty-gritty of the life expectancy of a safety harness.
Table of Contents
- Expiration Date
- Routine Inspection
- Lifespan Depends on Each Brand
- How Often Should a Safety Harness Be Replaced?
- Things to Consider Before Replacing a Harness
- Factors Affecting Safety Harness Lifespan
- Procedure for Harness Inspection
- How Long Does a Climbing Harness Last?
How long is a harness good for? American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and fall protection system manufacturers do not provide safety harness expiration or end-of-life (EOL) dates.
With fall protection harness expiration dates, employers and employees can potentially lower their guard, thinking that the device is safe to use for the next couple of years. Moreover, it gives them a reason to delay or skip the yearly inspection.
As such, safety organizations require companies to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and conduct regular inspections with a certified professional.
Both ANSI and OSHA require companies to perform the following inspections:
1. Pre-use checks
This refers to the inspection done before using the safety harness or lanyard. Though the process takes a few minutes, the user should take their time in ensuring that the device is damage-free.
2. Detailed inspections
Also known as scheduled inspection, this refers to a more exhaustive process following the guidelines stipulated in the inspection program. Depending on how frequently the harness is used, the inspection may be carried out every month, every six months, or in some cases, every 12 months.
3. Interim inspections
Besides the pre-use and detailed inspections, an interim inspection is typically performed if a risk assessment cites potential hazards that can compromise the harness and lanyard.
Only a certified competent person can design an inspection program, which includes all three types of inspections enumerated above.
The program may outline plans for monitoring the inspection, as well as the individuals in charge of the work and their qualification.
Ways to document the inventory, as well as the frequency, process, and repairs of the inspection will also be mentioned in the program.
Lifespan Depends on Each Brand
There is no such thing as a lifetime harness. Some manufacturers specify how long their fall protection good for while some don’t.
For instance, French Creek and Guardian state that their harnesses need to be removed from service five years after the first day of use, while G-force can be used for up to 10 years. In contrast, DBI-SALA, Fall Tech, Miller, and 3M do not provide an EOL date.
Whether EOL dates exist or not, all harnesses are subjected to pre-use checks and routine inspections per ANSI and OSHA standards.
How Often Should a Safety Harness Be Replaced?
It depends on the condition of the harness and frequency of use. Safety officers put more weight on the results of the inspections or incidents that compromise the equipment’s quality.
Things to Consider Before Replacing a Harness
When should you replace a safety harness? You can take these steps to decide:
- Read your manufacturer’s instructions and abide by them.
For example, if the manufacturer recommends removing it from service in five years, start by checking safety harness expiry date using the harness release date. Even if it passes inspections, replace the harness if it is past the expiration.
- Review the inspection logs and check the current condition of your harness. If you see defects listed on the records—big or small—consider replacing the equipment.
- If the harness was previously subjected to a fall arrest, remove it from service immediately.
If the harnesses need to be taken out of use, OSHA requires marking them as “unusable” or “damaged.”
Factors Affecting Safety Harness Lifespan
- Objects that snag or protrude can rip the webbing and the stitchings. When tension is applied, the straps will break.
- Applying paint or other chemicals can deteriorate the structural integrity of the webbing.
- Acids and caustics can harm the metal hardware on the harness.
- Heavy exposure to sunlight is also detrimental to synthetic materials as it can weaken the strap’s synthetic fibers.
- Failure to comply with the manufacturer’s recommended storage method can expose the harness to chemicals and sunlight. Moreover, hanging the straps by the webbing can stretch the material.
- Once the harness is involved in a fall, it must be removed from service promptly.
Procedure for Harness Inspection
1. Webbing and Stitching
- Look and feel the webbings and stitchings to check if there are abrasions, cuts, fraying, undue stretching, pulled fibers or threads, modifications, as well as damages due to chemicals, heat, fire, and UV.
- Next, hold the webbing with your hands about eight inches apart and pull gently to find distortions, kinks, or other flaws.
- Check all metal and plastic components for cuts, cracks, deep pitting, dents, distortions, and chemical damage.
- Ensure all buckles can fasten securely and unfasten without difficulties. If the buckle has a roller protector, make sure that it rotates freely.
- Look for loose, malfunctioning, or missing parts.
3. Indicators and tags
- Load indicators are the parts of the straps that are folded and stitched firmly, which, as the name suggests, indicates whether the harness was involved in a fall or not. Whether the stitching of the load indicator is ripped fully or slightly, the harness should be taken out of service.
- Make sure that all labels display vital information related to the harness.
4. Inspection records
If there’s no documentation, the inspection didn’t happen—that’s the rule. So, record your findings in your inspection logs diligently.
Most manufacturers can provide you with inspection logs, but you can also create your own. Be sure to include the following:
- A scoring system that rates each component with a “Pass” or “Fail.” When in doubt, mark it as “Fail.”
- A space to add condition codes, assessment scores, and comment sections for the inspector.
How Long Does a Climbing Harness Last?
Safety harnesses should never be confused with recreational climbing harnesses. That said, the latter last for five years on average.
However, this timespan does not apply to all climbing harnesses. Before climbing, do your due diligence, check the manuals, and inspect the equipment per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Over ten years ago, manufacturers followed a five-year expiration standard under ANSI/ASSE A10.32. But in 2012, this rule was abolished because a work or climbing harness lifespan will not last five years if used daily.
With this in mind, the question should never be “How long is a safety harness good for?” or “How often should a safety harness be replaced?” Instead of making decisions based on a fixed timeline, we should check the harness thoroughly and review inspection logs, manufacturer’s manuals, and the safety organizations’ regulations.
Veronica is our content editor. She is a talent in delivery. Her main work is editing and writing articles that are both informative and simple to follow. She is in charge of synthesizing our understanding of what personal protection equipment (PPE) is needed in each job, how to best apply it, and how to visualize that equipment.