Warning. Potentially dangerous marking of climbing harnesses.



We have recently received a couple of reports, indicating that there might be a safety issue, associated with the markings, used on many harnesses, intended for professional use
The markings are there to ensure, that inspections are done at regular intervals and thus, that it is safe to use the harness.
One of the incidents included an actual accident, where the wire sling broke, and the worher fell a couple of metres, luckily without serious injury.
Two such harnesses and incidents with the attached marker can be seen in the picture below:..:

In many countries, it is a requirement, that harnesses, intended for professional use, are inspected regularly.
This a particularly true and relevant for harnesses, used for fall protection, where the workers usually have not received much -if any- training and where it is quite unusual and unlikely for the workers to hold any knd of a certification to verify their skills and knowledge.

In order to ensure that the inspections are done regularly and on time, a marker might often be attached to the harness to give information about, when the harness was last inspected and when the next regular inspection is due.

It is this marker and the way it is mounted to the harness, that might be a problem as an untrained/unaware worker might clip the carabiner with attached fall protection equipment into this marker by mistake.

The problem is particularly likely to occur, if...
- the marker is attached to the harness by a thin steel wire (which in itself might be mistaken for an attachment point, especally by workers, that have not received adequate training).
- the steel wire, used to attach the marker, is long enough to allow a carabiner to be clipped into it
- the steel wire is attached to or in close proximity to one of the standard attachment points of the harness, ie the sternal or dorsal attachment points.


To avoid mishaps or accidents, the following are our recommendations:
1. Make sure that any worker, using fall protection and fall arrest equipment, have adequate training, knowledge, skills and experience (and preferrably even certification to document this) to inspect their own climbing equipment, including their harnesses, on a day to day basis.
Most international rope access standards are certifying the workers to be able to do this inspection
This has the added advantage of allowing daily inspections prior to use and to avoid damaged harnesses to continue being used for days, weeks and months until the next inspection.

2. If the workers have not received formal training and passed a relevant certification to verify, that they have the required training, knowledge, skills and knowledge to do proper inspection of their own climbing gear, an external, independant, approved/certified agent/inspector should be used to do regular inspections of all relevant equipment and thus to ensure, that the equipment is safe to use -at least at the time of the inspection.

3. If a harness is inspected by an independant inspector, and this inspector marks the harness with a marker, the following should be considered:
- A. The attachment of the marker to the harness should be so short, that it is not possble to clip anything into it.
- B. The marker should not be attached by a steel wire, as an untrained and inexperienced person might mistakenly assume this to be a safe attachment point.
Alternatively a plastic strip might be used.
- C. The marker should not be attached to or near any point of the harness, used for attachments of safety equipment, like ie. the the versal, the sternal or the dorsal attachment points or even the side loops. As a suggestion, the marker could be attached to one of the leg loops.

It is a fact, that fatal falls to a lower level accounted for 40 percent of fatal work injuries in the private construction industry in 2015.
It is also a fact, that falls from roofs accounted for one third of fall-related construction fatalities from 1992-2009.
It is also a fact, that more than 80 percent of these fatal falls ocurred from 15 feet or lower.

So it is evident, that there is an extreme room for improvement, when it comes to decreasing the number of fatal fall accidents by improving safety practices.

As a trade association for certified rope access, we are firmly convinced by both experience and objective facts:
that the best way to increase safety and decrease the number of fatal injuries is systematic training, preferably associated with a certification to document that fact for all workers involved with the use of fall protection systems and -equipment.

For workers working with industrial climbing (rope access), the standard today is, that you are/must be certified by internationally acknowledged certification systems, so this is not where the real problem is.

The real problem seems to lie with workers who occassionally use fall protection and fall restraint equipment to protect them from falls.
They often haven't received any formal training, have not passed any certifications and are usually completely without experience in the safe use of fall protection equipment.

At the same time, there is the very unfortunate but common misconception- that safety primarily has to do with the equipment and not with the users of the equipment.
This also seems to be the case here.
In an attempt to increase safety for some relatively inexperienced and untrained users of fall protection equipmment, it has seemingly been decided, that harnesses should be inspected regularly by an independant party.

If however, the workers/users of the fall protection equipment had had the necessary training and had been certified to ensure this, then they would probably have the necessary knowledge and experience to know where to attach their equipment.
Also they could have been trained and certified to be able to inspect their fall protection equipment.

It is our hope, that this fact and understanding will gradually find its way into the industry, so a major part of all the unnecessary fall related incidents and accidents can be avoided in the future.


Tradeassociation for Certified Rope Access.
8th of november, 2017.