Choosing a harness is an important first step in high-rise window cleaning. Even for those who are seasoned veterans in high rise, it is important to know what’s what on a harness and make a smart purchase when it is time to buy one. Buying a harness can be a bit intimidating at first because it is very important you get the right harness for your situation. But, this feeling can easily be dissolved when you are equipped with some basic harness knowledge and are able to articulate what you are looking for.
Fall Arrest Harnesses vs Rope Access Harnesses
Depending on how you are going about your high rise window cleaning setup, window cleaners usually choose between one of two types of harnesses. The first type is a fall protection harness. This type is lightweight and very basic, ideal for high-rise cleaning that doesn’t require your weight to be supported constantly. A fall protection harness would be used in instances with lifts, platforms, and rooftop when you are working with roof repair. It is not designed to hold a person’s weight comfortably for a long period of time and cannot be used in traditional rope access systems. A fall protection harness can almost be thought of as a type of necessary backup because it will hold your weight if something were to happen, but is not responsible for your entire weight, the entire time.
If you are looking to use a more traditional rope access method for high rise window cleaning, you are looking for a rope access harness. Go figure, huh? These harnesses are designed to comfortably hold your entire body weight throughout, although, a chair can add extra comfort and extend the time you are able to hang in them. Rope access harnesses are much more versatile than fall protection harnesses. They do everything that fall protection harnesses do, plus lots more, including their ability for performing rescues much more effectively. These harnesses are usually bulkier than fall protection harnesses because they have more features and are significantly more padded.
D-RingsAll harnesses have big rings called d-rings. Fall protection harnesses usually have front and/or back d-rings, while rope access harnesses usually have front, back, waist, and also side d-rings. But what are d-rings? So glad you asked.
The back d-ring is called the dorsal, like a dolphin. It is commonly used for attaching your fall arrest. While standing on some sort of platform, this will either be attached to a lanyard connected to an anchor or a rope grab to a back up line. In a rope descent system, it will connect to a rope grab connected to your back up line.
The front d-ring is referred to as the sternal. It can be used for all of the same things as the back d-ring. If you have a harness with a front d-ring, it’s generally desirable to attach your rope grab there in a rope descent system. This helps you self-rescue easier, and makes it easier to check that you are connected to your device correctly.
A waist d-ring is called a ventral. It is commonly used for attachment to a main line, especially in rope access where a chair isn’t in use. You might not use this as often if you’ll be using a bosun’s chair, but it will come in handy in case you need to perform an assisted rescue.
The last type of d-rings is the side d-ring, no fancy name. These are used for positioning, something that is rarely done in window cleaning. If your harness has these D Rings, just know that they are not rated for fall arrest!
There are two main certifications that you’ll see on harnesses. Which of these you need (or if you need any at all) is a subject for a much longer post involving a lawyer, but you are safest to get a harness that is at least ANSI (if you don’t be prepared to justify that decision to OSHA).
– The ANSI cert to look for is ANSI Z359. Most harnesses are going to meet this standard. It’s the general fall protection standard most often referenced by OSHA. There are a lot of rules that a harness must meet to be ANSI Z359 certified, to learn more, see this post by Miller.
– The other certification is more for rope access harnesses and is NFPA. Most rope access harnesses will meet this standard, but not fall protection harnesses. NFPA generally covers rescue equipment.
Full Body vs Sitting Harnesses
The last thing to select before you choose which harness best fit your needs is to decide between a full body harness and a sit harness. Despite how common they remain in the window cleaning industry, sit harnesses are not allowed. If you get turned upside down, it is easy to slip out of these harnesses. If you are rock climbing go ahead with a sit harness. If you are doing some sort of industrial work get a full body harness.
Once you choose the harness you’d like, check to see that the size you are getting fits you correctly. A correct fit has the straps of your harness tightened down nice and snug, particularly in the legs. A good test of that is if two fingers can squeeze between the harness and your leg without excess space. Loose leg straps will cause serious and unpleasant injuries in case of a fall. It may seem obvious, but it’s important to get a harness that fits you well. A harness that fits poorly won’t work well in case of a fall. In some cases, you might even be able to slip out of it. A good harness fit is very important. Once you have picked the harness that’s best for you, the next step is to get some training. No matter your high rise cleaning method, it is important to take theses classes to know and practice how to perform a rescue.
Abc window cleaning supplies has many harnesses to choose from, along with many other pieces of gear you’ll need for high-rise window cleaning (Wondering what else you might need to begin high-rise cleaning? Click here). Whatever you decide, knowing important features of a harness will better equip you to choose a perfect harness and alleviate some nervousness about the process.
*Note: If you are new to rope access techniques, be sure to get trained and certified in rope access by IRATA or SPRAT (or both). In fact, even if you are approaching high rise window cleaning with a sort of platform setup, these classes are a great idea because they teach important rescue techniques. This training is vital for the safety of you and your crew and should not be overlooked.