The use of a safety harness while climbing is the most important component to ensure a safe climb. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires the proper visual inspection of all safety harnesses before each use. OSHA prohibits the use of any damaged or excessively worn pieces of equipment under any circumstance.
The webbing is a fabric material, commonly nylon, woven into a flat or tubular strip that serves as the basis of the safety harness. These are the straps that will be bound around the climber's waist and legs and in some instances around the shoulders.
When inspecting the webbing, grab the strip about six inches apart and slide your hands across every part of the harness. While doing so, inspect the top, bottom, and sides of the webbing to check for any damage. A webbing is unsafe for use if any of the following are present:
---frayed edges ---broken or pulled stitches ---any additional damage such as cuts, burns, or chemical damage
The D-ring, or back pad, is a metal ring looped into the webbing to attach to a carabiner, the metal loop in which the climbing rope is fed through as a climber makes his climb or descent. They are typically located on the front-middle and back-middle of the safety harness.
When inspecting the D-ring, check to see if it pivots without tension of any kind. In addition, check for any clear damages that will cause a problem. Do the same for the carabiner. A D-ring should not be used if any of the following are present:
---any bends or other kinds of distortions ---worn or sharp edges ---any sign of a crack or break
Attaching and Inspecting Buckles
The buckles on a safety harness are the metal parts on a safety harness where the webbing is fed through. A climber may tighten or loosen the webbing by using the buckles.
When attaching and inspecting buckles onto a safety harness, one must use extreme caution and pay close attention that all pieces of equipment are correctly installed. A buckle should not be used if any of the following are present:
---unusual wear ---any bends or other kinds of distortion ---damaged fibres to the webbing when fed through the buckles such as fraying or cutting ---if slots where webbing is fed through are not straight
The grommets are holes supported by inner metal rings on the leg harnesses. These loops are found on the outside of each leg harness and can be used to adjust the tightness of the harness straps.
When inspecting grommets, pay attention to any heavy wear on this area. As with any piece of equipment, it's important to point out any signs of damage that may interfere with a climber's safety in any way. Grommets should be not be used if any of the following are present:
---looseness ---any kind of broken or distorted metal frames ---additional punched holes in the webbing in this area
The tongue buckle is usually used for leg harnesses and closely resembles a metal belt buckle. The main advantage of using a tongue buckle is that a climber will be able to tighten the webbing straps more than when using a mating buckle. A tongue buckle can be used on the waist on some safety harnesses as well.
When inspecting a tongue buckle, be sure that the buckle tongues overlap the buckle frames. The tongue should be able to move smoothly along the webbing to check that it is working properly. Tongue buckles should not be used if any of the following are present:
---any kind of distortion in the shape and motion of the tongue ---sharp edges on the roller (the part on the tongue where the webbing is looped around to tighten)
What to Do With a Damaged Harness
If a part of a safety harness is damaged due to any of the listed problems, the inspector is required to fill out a form indicating their observations. Each safety harness is identified with a unique serial number. This number should be included on the form when sent in for repair. Inspection forms need to be filled out regardless of whether the harness is ready for use. An example of a safety harness inspection form is included in Resourcs below.