What is a safety harness & why do you need it?

By Anita Jaynes on 9 June, 2024

Featured Content

Working at height means that you expose yourself to significant danger and the major cause of workplace injuries and fatalities. As a result, it’s a priority for organisations and individuals working in construction, roofing, and maintenance to ensure they have the right personal protective equipment (PPE), one of which is a safety harness.

In this guide, we’ll let you know what it is, how it works, and why you need one.

What is a Safety Harness?

A safety harness is part of personal protective equipment for people working at height. It works together with other safety equipment to prevent falls or minimise injury in the event of a fall. 

Basically, safety harnesses consist of a network of straps tied to the body. They wrap around multiple areas, such as the shoulders, chest, and legs, fitting tightly to ensure that the force generated by a fall is distributed across the whole body. The harness then has a D-ring located at the centre of the back, which is where the worker is attached to a harness and connected to a secure point.

Why Do You Need a Safety Harness?

A safety harness serves various crucial purposes.

Fall Prevention and Protection

The main reason for using a harness is to prevent workers from falling from a high point. This is usually during construction, roofing, or DIY home repair, where workers rely on ladders or scaffolds to work. 

A safety harness provides protection depending on the type of lanyard used. If it’s a fixed lanyard, the harness will work together with it to ensure the worker can’t fall. If it’s a lanyard that allows movement, the safety harness will arrest the fall and prevent potential injuries or fatalities.

Distributing Fall Force on the Body

Before safety harnesses were required, workers used to rely on safety belts to connect to their fall prevention systems. Since the belt is fastened on the waist, this meant that in the event of a fall, all force would be exerted on the abdomen, something that usually led to injuries. 

Safety harnesses from RS prevent this as they come with three types of straps within the same piece of equipment: shoulder, chest, and leg straps. The harness then has a D-ring at the back where the lanyard or rope is attached. In the event of a fall, the force will be exerted on all these areas of the body, preventing injury. 

Rescue and Emergency Situations

When a worker falls while using a belt, they are suspended in an upside-down position. This means that besides the force exerted on the abdomen when the fall is arrested, they continue exerting the whole weight of their body on the small area. On top of that, retrieving a person in that position is not easy as they can’t move around or hold on to something to aid with the process.

Safety harnesses prevent this by ensuring that the worker remains in an upright position after a fall. This means that they are still mobile and can move their hands during rescue efforts. Harnesses also come with multiple connection points that can be used to make retrieval faster.

Compliance with Regulations

The UK government has put in place the Work at Height Regulations 2005, which require all employers to take appropriate measures to prevent falls and minimise injury should a fall happen. These measures include the use of personal protective equipment, and safety harnesses are a key part of it. 

When you select the right safety harnesses alongside other PPEs, you prevent injuries and deaths. But at the same, you also remain compliant and avoid huge penalties and compensation claims.