Safety Harness and Lanyard Guide [+Inspection]

Harnesses and lanyards are an important piece of fall protection equipment for those working at a height. In this complete Safety Harness and Lanyard guide, we will explain different types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help you pick the right one for your job. We will cover these main topics in the post:

  • Chapter1: When Do You Need To Wear A Safety Harness?
  • Chapter2: Types of Fall Protection Activities : Fall Arrest, Fall Restraint, Positioning etc
  • Chapter3: Types of Safety Harnesses and Lanyards
  • Chapter4: PPE Inspection with Checklists
  • Chapter5: FAQs about Fall Protection

  • 📝Chapter 1:
    When Do You Need to Wear a Safety Harness

    OSHA states that fall protection has to be provided at elevations of 4' (or 1.22 m) in general industry workplaces and 6' (or 1.83 m) in the construction industry. For scaffold work, employees must have fall protection when working at a height of 10' or more above a lower level. Workers performing steel erection work aren’t required to use fall protection until they are working at heights of 15' or more above a lower level.

    📝Chapter 2:
    Types of Fall Protection

    All fall protection can be broken down into two main categories - Active and Passive. A passive fall protection system is the preferred one, referring to a stationary system that does not move or adapt or change when in or out of use. It does not require the use of PPE or active participation from the worker, e.g. Guardrails or Netting Systems.

    An active fall protection system which is dynamic and requires the use of PPE is the next solution when a passive solution is not practical. Here are different types of active fall protection.


    Fall Arrest


    Fall Restraint



    Lightweight & Breathable




    FALL ARREST: A full-body harness is used to arrest a user in a fall from a working surface, in conjunction with an anchorage and a shock-absorbing lanyard, before hitting the ground. This body device secures a user in a manner to distribute the fall arrest forces over the body parts. For a 100kg user, the max. arrest force is 6 kN according to European standardization [max. 8 kN according to American one].

    FALL RESTRAINT: Workers are restrained from reaching a fall hazard. A harness is connected with a fall restraint lanyard, preventing the worker from reaching the leading edge. Compared to Fall Arrest, this is a preferred fall protection solution.

    POSITIONING: A positioning lanyard connects the side D-rings of a harness to an anchor to secure a user in place while performing delicate tasks with two hands. It is commonly used in tying rebar, installing a cellular antenna high on a steel pole. A back-up fall arrest system is required

    RETRIEVAL: It is one of the most frequent operations found in confined space work where a worker is lowered or raised through a manhole or other vertically-accessible opening.  A retrieval line is attached to your harness by a D-ring(s)

    SUSPENSION/CONTROLLED DESCENT: Suspension equipment systems are able to lower and support  workers for working comfortably in suspension. This system is widely utilized by window washers and painters. A fall arrest system must be used alongside the suspension system.

    📝Chapter 3:
    Types of Safety Harnesses & Lanyards

    Body harnesses and lanyards are two of the components in the ABC's of fall protection that consists of (A) anchorage, (B)body wear, (C) connectors and sometimes (D) Descent & Rescue.


    ANCHORS are a secure point of attachment. Anchorage connectors vary by industry, job, type of installation and structure. The anchor can take the form of either a structural anchor (such as an I-beam or concrete form) or an anchorage connector specifically engineered for fall protection. The anchor is what the worker attaches to and it what provides the foundation strength for the fall arrest system. They must be able to support the intended loads and provide a sufficient factor of safety for fall arrest.

    Body Harnesses

    BODY HARNESSES are designed to limit injuries, or worse, death in a fall. D-ring on a safety harness is the attachment point to a connecting device (C) like a lanyard to an anchor (A), used to equally distribute the forces of the fall throughout the whole body when deployed properly. There are many varieties of harnesses available for different jobs: 

    • 1-point harness: It is a basic and affordable fall arrest harness with one D-ring at the back for connecting a safety lanyard in a fall arrest system.
    • 2-point harness: Widely used across industries, this harness has one D-ring at the back and one on the front. 
      ✔ Both points are permitted for fall arrest but the dorsal D-ring should always be the primary anchorage for connectors. 
      ✔ In fixed ladder climbing applications, the sternal/front D-ring, however, is usually used for fall arrest to prevent an user from falling.
    • 3-point harness: It features one dorsal D-ring and two work-positioning D-rings on the sides of the lower waist area, Ideal for working at heights with both hands free. 
      ✔ When a positioning lanyard connects the side D-rings of your harness to an anchor like a rebar tower, your body can be supported securely in place for work.
      ✔ This type of harness is also commonly used for installing a cellular antenna high on a steel pole without anchor points above.
      Very Important: A back-up fall arrest system is always required in a work-positioning activity
    • 4/5-point harness: This type of advanced harness usually consists of one dorsal D-ring, one sternal D-ring, two side D-rings and sometimes one abdomen D-ring for rescue.
      ✔ Fall arrest, fall restraint, positioning, suspension, rescue etc


    CONNECTORS such as shock absorbing lanyards or self-retracting lifelines connect a worker's body harness (B) to an anchorage (A) in a fall protection system.

    • Fall restraint lanyard: In a fall restraint system, a fall restraint lanyard is used to ensure a worker cannot reach a fall hazard. One end of the it connects to the anchor, while the other connects to the full-body harness via a D-ring.
    • Fall arrest lanyard: A connector used in Fall Arrest must incorporate shock absorbing functionality such as an shock absorbing lanyard and self-retracting lifeline (SRL) to assist in minimizing the forces the user is subjected to.
      TIPS: A twin tail fall arrest lanyard has 2 tails and 1 energy absorber,  allowing users to keep one leg attached to an anchor while they can disconnect the other leg to another anchor. This means that the user is constantly attached to the structure, reducing the risk of falling.
    • Work positioning lanyard: By attaching a work positioning lanyard to the side D-rings of your harness, it supports your body securely in place while allowing you to perform delicate tasks with both hands at elevated heights, very useful for performing the pillars, trees, lattice constructions etc

    Descent & Rescue

    DESCENT & RESCUE plans are required before anyone starts working. From rope access to confined space, there is specific gear needed to get to a fallen worker and get them to safety. A haul system helps raise them up, and a descent device will lower them down. Or maybe you could add trauma straps to your harness, so if you’re the one dangling you can relieve some of the pressure that gravity is placing on your parts.

    📝Chapter 4:
    Safety Harness and Lanyard Inspection

    How Often Do Safety Harnesses and Lanyards Need To Be Inspected?

    Detailed Inspections: BS 8437: 2005 and INDG367 recommend intervals not exceeding 6 months, or 3 months where the equipment is used in arduous conditions e.g. demolition, steel erection, scaffolding, steel masts or towers with sharp edges.

    Interim Inspections: They are additional to detailed inspections. Interim inspections will be required where the employer's risk assessment has identified a risk that could result in significant deterioration, affecting the integrity of the equipment before the next detailed inspection is due.

    Pre-Use Checks: Very importantly, they should also be carried out each time, before the harness or lanyard is used. A visual check should be undertaken in good light and will normally take a few minutes. 

    Who Can Do The Inspection?

    It is essential that the person carrying out any inspection is competent to do so. In the case of pre-use checks, this is likely to be the user.

    However, detailed and interim inspections should be carried out by somebody sufficiently independent and impartial to allow them to make objective decisions, and have appropriate and genuine authority to take the appropriate action. This does not mean that competent persons must necessarily be employed from an external company.

    How To Do Your Pre-Use Checks?

    Download our Full Body Harness Inspection Checklist & Lanyard Inspection Checklist to assist your inspection work.

    1. Webbing

    One thing to inspect on your safety web lanyard is its webbing which is the fabric used to hold the whole thing together. If yours is a cable or rope lanyard, then go to point 6 and 7. 

    To inspect this, you are going to want to take 15-20 centimetres of the webbing and bend it into an upside-down U, so you'll have a better view of it. We recommend starting with one end and go all the way to the other. You should check the outside and the inside integrity of the webbing, and look for things such as tears, chemical wear, mould or growths, broken stitches or burns. If there is any of the following, remove from service immediately.

    2. Stitching

    Check along all webbing/rope for any signs of damage. If the stitches are visibly coming up, that is the most evident sign you need to replace the lanyard. Some other things to look for in the stitching is if it is missing entirely, torn, loose/pulled stitches, or if the stitching is stretched in any way. If any of these things happen, do not continue using the lanyard.

    3. Snap hooks & Carabiners and Other Hardware

    Lanyard hardware that should be inspected includes snap hooks, carabiners, buckles and rings. For those with a gate/opening, it is very important to make sure they open smoothly with no difficulty. This means they do not get locked or stuck when opening them. If this safety component does not open properly, discard it immediately.

    Another important factor to check is if the mechanism closes and locks on its own. You need to look very closely to make sure that the mechanism fully closes and locks. Gates must fully and close and firmly engage the nose of the hook without lateral movement. If the lock does not close correctly, it is ruled unsafe and needs to be removed from use.

    How to inspect a lanyard - Hardware

    When examining these components, you should also look for chips taken out of the metal, corrosion, cracks, dents, sharp edges, and heat damage. If any of these are found on the safety lanyard hardware, remove it from service immediately.


    4. Labels

    The easiest thing to do is to check the labels. If the label is not attached to the lanyard or is missing, the safety lanyard is unusable. Also, if the labels are attached but not legible, the whole lanyard needs to be replaced.

    5. Energy Absorber Pack (For Energy Absorbing Lanyard)

    Energy absorber pack is folded webbing that is sewn together and contained in a plastic wrap or a pouch. In the event of a fall, the pack first tears out of the container, and then gradually unfolds by ripping out the stitches. This process decelerates the fall.

    The outer portion of the pack should first be examined for burn holes and tears. Stitching on areas where the pack is sewn to D-rings, belts or lanyards should be examined for loose strands, rips and deterioration. It's very important to look for the warning flag or signs of deployment. Deployment suggests that the lanyard may have been exposed to forces of fall arrest and this energy absorbing lanyard must be removed from service. The picture below (right) shows that the shock pack stitching has been ripped out, i.e cannot be used to decelerate a fall. 

    how to inspect a lanyard: Energy absorber

    6. Cable

    If you have a cable lanyard- a metal piece instead of fabric, you'll look at the cable for any obvious breaks in the metal. If the metal is broken in any way, discontinue its use immediately. The next issue that would signal this piece needs to be replaced is the metal being discoloured due to weathering or chemical exposure, the wires being separated and not tight to each other, or any chips or fraying of the wire cables. If any of these things occur, please refrain from using them.

    7. Rope

    If there are any tears, it would be considered unsafe for use. Additional factors to look for when inspecting the integrity of the rope safety lanyard would be if it is discoloured, has burn marks, has growths such as mould, abrasions, and or it is unsplicing. If any of these factors are compromised in any way, it is time to replace it.

    Lanyard Inspection Checklist 2019

    Checkmate Adjustable Rope Lanyard and Liftall Wire Rope

    📝Chapter 5:
    FAQs about Fall Protection

    1. What does a safety harness with a lanyard do?

    OSHA defines that it secures a wearer in a manner to distribute the fall arrest forces over at least the thighs, pelvis, waist, chest, and shoulders, with a means for attaching the harness D-rings to other components of a personal fall protection system. 

    2. How long can a person be suspended in a harness?

    A worker may lose consciousness in as little as 7 minutes after the initial fall. Another research indicates that suspension in a fall arrest device can result in unconsciousness followed by death in less than 30 minutes.

    Prolonged suspension in a harness can cause suspension trauma, which, in turn, can cause serious physical injury or potentially death. Therefore, a rescue plan in place is very important in any fall arrest activity to ensure a rapid and safe rescue.

    3. What is Suspension Trauma?

    Suspension trauma, also known as harness hang syndrome, is the natural physiological response to the human body being held motionless in a vertical position. It occurs after a worker has fallen into a fall arrest harness and is suspended in a hanging position. Leg straps, at this moment, of the harness crush the arteries on the inside of the legs, cutting off blood circulation and blocking the blood supply to the brain and vital organs. This results in nausea, unconsciousness, and a drop in blood pressure and heart rate. OSHA identified that suspension trauma could be fatal within 30 minutes of the initial fall.

    Fortunately, there is a simple solution to protect against suspension trauma: personal protective equipment known as suspension trauma relief straps. Petzl AVAO® BOD FAST Harness also allows the user to remain suspended longer while waiting for rescue.

    4. What is the purpose of a suspension relief strap?

    It is to relieve the pressure being placed on a worker's body after a fall has been arrested while working at height. With the aid of it, the worker can tolerate longer periods of suspension time as he can use the leg muscle to take the weight off of his arteries, allowing blood circulation to restore. This tool is particularly important when he works in a remote or a difficult-to-access location.

    5. What is the capacity of a safety harness?

    The capacity of a harness depends on each model, with the typical range being between 59kg and 140 kg based on the ANSI equipment regulation. Checkmate harnesses generally can support the user weight of 150kg including tools.

    6. How many years are PPE good for?

    5 years according to ANSI/ASSE A10.32 before 2012. Although this information was removed after revision, the industry still follows it as a general rule. The life span highly depends on production, maintenance and care. A good rule of thumb is to inspect the equipment properly and regularly.

    7. How do you wear a safety harness?

    • Take the harness by the shoulder straps. Disconnect shoulder straps from connecting hook (fig.1)

    • Move the straps over the head. Taking the harness by the belt, put them on over the feet. (fig.2)

    • Connect the shoulder straps to connecting hook [Y] (fig.3)

    • Adjust the belt strap. Necessarily protect free ends of the straps with the loops. Adjust the shoulder straps (fig.4)

    • Fasten and adjust the thigh straps. Necessarily protect free ends of the straps with the loops (fig.5)

    8. How do you clean a safety harness or lanyard?

    • Wash harnesses in lukewarm soapy water (ph neutral, 30 °C maximum), then rinse thoroughly with fresh tap water. (Household Face & Body Soap; ✘Laundry Detergent, Solvents, Stain Removers, Degreasers)

    • Hang harnesses on a line to dry.

    • You can wash your harness in a washing machine. Choose the 30 °C delicate synthetic setting, without a spin cycle. Wash the harness inside a thick cloth bag

    9. What are the differences between active and passive fall protection systems?

    Passive Active Active 
    Examples Barricades, Netting... Fall Restraint
    Fall Arrest
    How it Works? Prevents users from reaching fall hazard by creating barrier  Prevents users from reaching fall hazard via tie-off system Stops fall that is in progress through tie off system.
    PPE needed? No Yes Yes
    Nature of System Static & Fixed Movable Movable
    Human Interaction with System No Yes
    (Active participation of worker)
    (Active participation of worker)
    Training needed? None to Little Extensive & ongoing Extensive & ongoing
    Potential for Injury None to Little Mild High
    OSHA Preference Preferred due to very low risk Better than fall arrest -