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By Lucy Perry

Harnessing Safety Quality and comfort are key to selecting body harnesses PBI trains its employees to a 12-step safety plan for use and care of body harnesses. It starts with inspection, and ends with a series of questions asked of the employee to show management that the worker knows how to properly don the harness. They’re also required to use proper tie-off methods for the task. Photo provided by Peterson Beckner Industries.


he heaviest, most uncomfortable, and most critical PPE that will likely save an ironworker’s life at some point in his or her career is their body harness. Much focus is placed on tie-off procedures and types of connection points, but selection of the right harness often gets overlooked. Quality and comfort are key. “The harnesses have to be comfortable and practical,” says David Duke, field safety director for Cooper Steel, Shelbyville, Tenn. “If you don’t get something a guy can wear all day, he’s not going to wear it correctly,” adds Jason Farris, Cooper Steel’s vice president of safety and field operations.

Selection considerations All Cooper Steel employees who work at height have their own harnesses. They are assigned and fitted to their gear, and they’ll keep the gear until it wears out, at which time it is replaced. Cooper’s safety management team looks for a product that will stand up to welding sparks and hot slag as well as cuts and abrasion. Though nylon construction is the industry standard, Farris and Duke favor fireproof Kevlar/Nomex harnesses. “Compared to nylon webbing, those seem to hold up better to grinding and producing sparks,” says Duke. In their experience, employees will get about a year’s use out of a Lucy Perry operates WordSkills Editorial Services in Kansas City, Missouri. She has spent 25 years following the North American construction industry. She can be reached at wordskillseditor@gmail.com.

Nomex/Kevlar harness. Some wear out sooner, especially in welding applications. Standard nylon webbed harnesses have a life of about three to six months, he adds. Monte Bowden and Kurt Hettinger, part of the safety management team for S.L. Shaw Co., Bakersfield, Calif., are candid about the company’s harness purchasing practices: “We found that welders burn harnesses up. Welding spatter over time eats away at the harness manufacturing material. Buying special welding harnesses with Kevlar is pricey and they don’t last long enough.” Instead the company chooses to buy less expensive nylon webbed harnesses, and replace them more often. “We’re buying the least expensive and lightest nylon harnesses for our welders because they either burn them up or are wearing them under a welder’s jacket,” says Hettinger. In addition, the company keeps extra harnesses in every size in stock so if someone has a bad harness they can swap it out for a new one, says Bowden.


Meanwhile, Peterson Beckner Industries, Houston, Texas, orders basic nylon harnesses with padding around the lower back and kidneys as well as over the shoulders. “We want to make sure they’re comfortable so our employees will want to wear them, and not take shortcuts. “We look at how the webbing is made. There are a lot of cheaper harnesses that will not withstand day to day ironworker use,” says Jesse Kulhanek, safety manager. When evaluating the webbing, PBI looks for material that sheds moisture, to prevent mildew, and has a higher level of abrasion resistance. “Workers carry a lot of stuff from their shoulders, and they like it to lay on the actual webbing of the harness,” says Kulhanek. Other features are also important. There are different types of harnesses for the various connection points. The connector is putting pressure on his inner leg for long periods of time, so having a suspension seat or D-rings positioned in front of the body are best for

Profile for The SEAA Connector

Connector Fall 2019  

In the Fall 2019 Connector issue: People Movers - The Complexities of Building Infrastructure for Mass Transit; No Safety Silos; Body Harne...

Connector Fall 2019  

In the Fall 2019 Connector issue: People Movers - The Complexities of Building Infrastructure for Mass Transit; No Safety Silos; Body Harne...