Harness Safety and Working at Height

16 April 2014

Falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths, with research pointing to a worrying increase in workplace fatalities in 2014 and increased evidence that working from a height presents the greatest chance of “death or serious injury” within the construction industry. In fact according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a number of contracting firms and general construction companies have been cited for purposefully putting contractor safety on the line due to insufficient safety harness protocols or for repeatedly lacking appropriate fall safety procedures. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you instigate a process whereby harness safety is taken seriously and a simple harness oversight doesn’t end in catastrophe.

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The Stats

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), falls, slips, and trips has increased by 10% from 2014. This was largely attributed to an increase in falls to a lower level, which went up by 9%. Furthermore according to research by OSHA, falls from heights are one of the leading causes of fatalities within construction. In the UK, falls from heights was the most “common cause” of fatalities accounting for three in ten (29%) of fatal injuries to workers, according to the Health and Saftey Executive (HSE). Falls also had a detrimental effect upon worker productivity, with 1.5 million working days lost due to falls, slips, and trips according to the HSE. These numbers emphasize the importance of implementing effective safety harness protocols to ensure contractor safety is at the top of the agenda at all times.

How to Ensure Safety Harness

safety harness

OSHA has been at the forefront of devising safety mechanisms to ensure adequate safety harness training and equipment is provided on every construction project, therefore protecting the safety of your contract workers. In OSHA’s latest fall prevention campaign their advice centers around protecting contractor safety by offering tips on how you can plan, provide, and train your contract workers on all aspects of fall protection equipment. Safety harness training is obviously an important part of this guidance, as well as the following tips.


  • Always stay connected when using a safety harness.
  • Make sure your harness fits.
  • Inspect all fall protection equipment before use.
  • Guard or cover all holes, this includes skylights or other openings on buildings.


  • Disconnect from the lifeline
  • Work near unprotected openings in roofs or exposed skylights
  • Use defective equipment

You should also be aware that there are different categories to consider when you are devising your harness safety protocols. According to OSHA, all fall protection products fit into four distinct categories:

Fall arrest

According to OSHA, this system is necessary if contractor safety is at risk due to a fall from an elevated position. Therefore, OSHA recommends that you use the fall arrest system every time a contract worker is working from a height of “six feet or more.” The system, OSHA notes, will only come into effect if a fall should happen. The agency recommends that you provide a “full-body harness with a shock-absorbing lanyard or a retractable lifeline”. The full-body harness will distribute the “forces throughout the body” while the shock-absorbing lanyard will “decrease the total fall arresting forces,” according to OSHA.


This type of equipment lowers and supports your contract worker while ensuring contractor safety, according to the agency. This type of system would be widely used for outside construction, or for the installation of windows. However, according to the agency the system is “not designed to arrest a free fall” that’s why OSHA recommends that you use a fall arrest system in “conjunction with the suspension system.”


Pre-planning for retrieval in the event of an accident should also be taken into “consideration when developing a full management program,”.

Make Sure Equipment is Inspected

OSHA also highly recommends that you keep all harness equipment in good working order. This is why the agency advises you to ensure all of the harness and fall protection equipment is properly stored and maintained and is regularly cleaned of “dirt, corrosives, or contaminants.” The agency recommends that the storage area should be “clean, dry and free of exposure to fumes” or other harmful chemicals.

How GoContractor Can Help

Here at GoContractor our contractor orientation software allows you to conduct all of your contractor safety training in one place. With GoContractor, you can create a custom process whereby all of your contract workers register themselves online, upload documents and photos, and take their orientation training. For example, for the purposes of harness safety you can ensure it becomes a pivotal part of your orientation process, by including it into your training program. You can also gather qualification cards online to ensure contractors are appropriately trained before they step foot on site. GoContractor gives you a peace of mind that all of your contract workers are fully aware of harness safety, therefore decreasing the risk of falls from height.


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Sonya Sikra

Sonya is the Brand Strategy Manager at GoContractor. She specializes in communicating how implementing tech in construction can drive productivity and profit.

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