12 Feb Fall Protection : Body Belt versus Body Harness
In a world where it seems space is always limited, many workplaces are building up instead of out. This means that there is an increased chance for fall hazards and fall-related injuries. With this in mind, it is imperative for safety managers to understand OSHA fall safety standards. Primary among these standards is the elimination of body belts and the full implementation of the body harness as an alternative.
In the late 1900s, safety regulators in the United States and Great Britain conducted research that proved body belts for fall protection were, in fact, an often times deadly piece of safety equipment. In one study conducted by the British Standards Institute’s National Engineering Lab, researchers were shocked to see a dummy folded nearly in two by the body belt with its head slammed against the surface beneath. Later, OSHA commissioned engineers at the Wright Patterson Airforce Base in Ohio to test how long a worker could survive suspended in a body belt after a fall prior to being retrieved by rescue workers. The results showed that the average sized women could survive just two and a half minutes, and the average sized man, only thirty-two seconds before dying of asphyxiation suspended in a body belt.
Thankfully, though, a worker can survive between 20 and 30 minutes if left suspended after a fall in an OSHA-approved body harness.
As opposed to the body belt that fit only around a person’s waist, a body harness fits around a person’s legs, over their arms, and around their torso. This allows for the weight of the fall to be more evenly distributed throughout the body and absorbed by the D-ring located on the harness between the shoulder blades where the lanyard is attached.
Despite its naturally safer structure, there are still a number of safety measures a worker must take when using a body harness in an environment where a fall may occur.
If you have any body belts still in use in your warehouse or distribution center, get rid of them immediately and replace them with body harnesses. While you’re checking out your equipment, complete a thorough inspection of all your fall safety gear. Remember, a good fall safety system consists of more than just a body harness! Do you have guard rails in appropriate places and designed according to OSHA regulations? Are your ladders and/or scaffolding up to code? Have your workers been adequately trained recently? You never know when a fall may occur, so it is better to be prepared than to face the consequences later.