Falls are the number one cause of injuries among construction workers, according to OSHA. Often, these falls are from great heights, resulting in serious injuries, broken limbs, brain injuries and even death.
Workers frequently fall from scaffolding, roofs, platforms, stacks of lumber, rock piles or just about anything they might have climbed on. OSHA publishes safety practices designed to mitigate the potential for injuries, and one of the top recommendations is personal safety harnesses.
Whether you’re a worker, supervisor or project manager, obtaining the best safety gear you can afford is crucial – crucial to the point of being an absolute necessity. Without an appropriate safety harness, the work at hand will have to wait.
A safety harness can provide protection in a number of ways. Obviously, the first way is protection from falling, but a harness can allow the worker’s hands to be applied to the work, rather than holding on for dear life. Some safety harnesses are fireproof, or fire resistant.
This should be a money-is-no-object investment, but in the real world, money is always an object and it is possible to spend good money chasing after bad if you are not well informed on the types of safety harnesses and the environments they were designed for.
We have compiled a list of safety harnesses that offer the best value for you, whether you’re an employee or someone who is charged with the safety of a multitude of employees. These safety harnesses can be relied on, come from reputable manufacturers and carry reasonable/affordable price tags.
For more information about what to look for in a safety harness, see the section at the end of the article: What to Look for in a Safety Harness
7 Best Safety Harnesses
Best Features: Very Comfortable Shoulder Pads and Waist Cushion
The Charlotte, NC-based KwikSafety company says they don’t cut corners when it comes to their products, and it’s easy to see that’s not an empty promise with this safety harness. Heavy duty, durable and versatile, the Thunder full body safety harness exceeds ANSI/ASSE Z359.11-2014 standards, some by a long shot. When used with the appropriate lanyard, lifeline or compatible energy absorber, this safety harness provides a high degree of protection from falls and stumbles on scaffolding or other platforms.
While the safety harness doesn’t make much of a fashion statement, it is a colorful one at least. The yellow portion of the gaudy black-and-yellow straps is fluorescent, so wearers are highly visible to other workers, drivers and lift operators.
What Is ANSI/ASSE Z359.11-2014?
ANSI stands for the American National Standards Institute, which collaborated with the ASSE (American Society of Safety Engineers) to create a list of requirements for personal fall arrest systems and subsystems.
The list of requirements, designated in 1992 by the code Z359 was established voluntarily, free of governmental influence and regulation. Updates were added in 1999, 2007 and 2016.
It is a comprehensive list of requirements covering things like design, training, qualifications and testing, equipment and other factors, all designed to protect workers from a fall from height. Included are provisions for assisted rescue and self-rescue, weight support, ease of use, comfort, durability and a host of other factors.
The beauty of this safety harness is its adaptability and multiple points of protection. The dorsal ring on the back as the connection point for the primary fall arrester. It’s considered a full-body safety harness. All load-bearing straps are constructed from incredibly strong synthetic fibers that are close-stitched for additional support.
The straps are waterproof, maintaining their strength while wet, and heat-resistant to ensure against failure in hot environments. The KwikSafety Thunder safety harness uses pass-through buckles, where a smaller buckle passes through a larger one and locks in place with an easy tug on the strap.
Pass-through buckles are positioned on the hips and chest to provide a custom fit. So if you’re a regular chest/big belly sort of guy (or visa-versa) you can adjust the straps independently. There are other adjustment points as well – for a total of five. For durability, the buckles are made from anodized yellow zinc, probably the most prolific rust-resistant metal in common use today.
The safety provided by any quality safety harness goes beyond the aspect of catching you in case you fall. With reassurance that you are protected against a fall, you can concentrate more on the job at hand, making sure that whatever you’re doing – sawing, hammering, drilling, carrying things, etc. is done safely and correctly.
Overall, when weighing price and quality, this is the best safety harness on the market.
Best Feature: Six Points of Adjustment
The Seraph safety harness gets the most out of the least, with pads and adjust points where they’re needed, lightweight strapping where they’re not. But don’t worry about compromised performance. The stitching, fabric density and secure attach points give this safety harness a resounding thumbs-up on safety standards and makes is the second best safety harness.
This is a lighter version of Guardian’s Velocity safety harness and is well suited for many applications in the construction industry. With a super-comfortable back pad, shoulder pads, waist pad and strapping with a little more “give” to it make this model the perfect safety buddy for high-altitude carpenters, window washers, roofers, aborists, gutter cleaners and others.
The construction is heavy duty with reinforced belt loops, including two lanyard keepers (attach points), a durable back placard and steel grommets that add strength. The Seraph safety harness comes with a reinforced tool belt that won’t sag under the weight or snag on obstructions. The back and shoulder pads, already comfortable just the way they are, can be adjusted and even replaced when the time comes.
There are two types of buckles on this safety harness. On the chest, Guardian has installed pass-through buckles, where a smaller piece passes through a larger one and once you re-orient the smaller buckle to an upright position, it can’t go back through the larger one. On the legs and waist, common belt-type fasteners (tongue) are used.
This harness has six points of adjustment and is suitable for the following uses:
- Personal Fall Arrest – Structure must withstand loads of 5,000 pounds. Maximum free fall is six feet, but with optional certified equipment, the free fall zone can be expanded. This application uses the safety harness’ dorsal (mid-back) D ring.
- Work Positioning – This allows a worker to work with his hands while suspended. The structure that the safety harness is attached to must withstand loads applied in the directions permitted by the system of at least 3,000 pounds. The maximum free fall is two feet, with no expandability. Uses side D-rings.
- Restraint – This prevents workers from reaching the point where they are a fall risk. The structure must withstand loads of at least 1,000 pounds at a slope of no more than 4/12 vertical to horizontal. Obviously, there is no allowance for free fall, because this orientation is designed to stop the worker from falling in the first place. Uses D rings on the back, chest, side and/or shoulder.
- Rescue/Confined Space – This allows a worker to be pulled back to safety after a fall or after getting into a confined space that he cannot escape from without assistance. The structure that the safety harness is attached to must withstand loads applied in the directions permitted by the system of at least 3,000 pounds. Uses D rings on the back, chest, side and/or shoulder.
This is for people 5’0″ to 6’3″ and for weights of 140 to 250 pounds. It’s certified by OSHA and ANSI.
Best Feature: All Straps Tuck In (No Loose Ends)
Rather than looking at this as fall protection, you might want to look at this as fall prevention. The Welkfolder 3D safety harness meets the aforementioned ANSI/ASSE Z359.11-2014 standard.
The system is ergonomically designed to fit and feel like a second skin, in order to keep the wearer comfortable, liberated and on task. The shoulder straps, leg straps and chest straps work with alloy steel zinc plated buckles to allow for adjustments without loose ends. The straps double back upon themselves and cinch tightly for the ultimate fit.
With pads on the shoulders and waist, the weight is distributed evenly, ensuring that whatever energy is expended by the worker during the day is expended on the job, and not on fidgeting with his safety harness. That may not seem to be a big deal, but even spending a few seconds out of every minute adjusting the safety harness, tugging on a strap, sliding a pad to a more comfortable spot etc. takes a real toll on job performance.
Comfort in the belly area – let’s admit it, guys with girths – is important. The Welkforder 3D incorporates an ergonomically-designed block pattern of pads that keep the weight of the harness offset from the torso. Wrapped in a quick-dry Oxford material, it allows the air to whisk away moisture and perspiration, keeping the wearer dry and comfortable.
This safety harness is suitable for wearers from 130 to 310 pounds and waist sizes up to 45 inches. It works for fall arrest, work positioning, travel restraint and suspension applications. Leonardo DaVinci would definitely have appreciated this safety harness while painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel!
The strength of the safety harness is supplemented by the three D-rings that have a breaking strength of 5,000 pounds. The buckles rate at 4,000 pounds, so virtually any fall, for any reason, at any angle is going to be protected. It also doesn’t hurt that the webbed material that comprises the straps is made from non-recycled synthetic fibers with a very high tensile strength.
Footwear is another key safety/comfort component. Check out the best construction work shoes.
Best Feature: Available in Four Sizes
Roofers in particular will appreciate this no-frills safety harness manufactured by Malta Dynamics. It provides safety but still allows freedom of movement on steep roof pitches, or in any high-altitude environment where a fall could be deadly. Built-in lanyard keepers hold those darn life-saving lanyards out of your way when you walk and climb. Detaching from the lanyards altogether – like at break time or the end of the shift – is a simple motion, but not one that would happen accidentally.
While other safety harness models can accommodate the same range of sizes and weights, the Warthog does so in a series of sizes, ensuring that the fit is inherent and natural and not simply adjusted up or down to the size. If you’ve ever spent 10 minutes adjusting your safety harness before the start of your shift – even though everything was adjusted properly the last time you wore it – you can appreciate the fit of the Warthog safety harness.
The fit of the four size options isn’t perfect, say some users, but for many of them it comes closer than anything else they’ve tried. The sizes are X-Small, Small-Large, X Large – XX Large and XXX Large. The overall weight range is 130-310 pounds, and the supported height limit is 6’8″. Before ordering, check the weight/height chart on the order page (see inset on the left of the page).
Construction of the straps is of high-tensile strength polyester, and the metal parts are rust-resistant zinc-plated steel for durability.
This just in! See our newly-published list of the Best Tool Bucket Organizers. Save yourself a trip back to the pickup truck, perhaps.
Best Feature: Lanyard Included
You literally carry your life in your hand with the Guardian Qualcraft safety harness. The lanyard is included, along with a handy carrying bucket to tote it with. Now, obviously, you’re not going to schlep that bucket around everywhere you go, but when you do, it makes things much easier.
Guardian makes its second appearance on our list, and the components that made the Guardian 11173 such a good choice are represented here as well. The big difference with the Qualcraft is the 50-foot lanyard that’s included, plus the bucket to carry it in. The company calls this a “roofing kit built for roofers by roofers.”
The lifeline includes a shock absorber so that the arresting process isn’t as likely to result in an injury due to the sudden stop and jerk-back. Having your own lanyard saves having to connect to an existing system, but it also requires a little forethought concerning attachment points. The anchor comes complete with screws and nails as well as offset holes to protect roof trusses. This should help in the process.
The safety harness itself has dual lanyard keepers, positioned as out-of-the-way as possible to keep you from tripping over your own lifeline. And while the similarities to the Guardian 11173 have already been mentioned, there are some differences regarding the way the Qualcraft approaches specific tasks. In a couple of applications, like fall arrest and restraint, a Qualcraft roof bracket or ladder is required.
Best Feature: 50-foot Lifeline Included
Here is another great choice for roofers, one that includes a full set-up for fall protection. The Palmer safety harness kit includes a universal full-body five-point safety harness, a reusable roof anchor, a 50-foot vertical lifeline with rope grab and attached personal shock absorbing lanyard and a storage bucket.
With five adjustment points, the safety harness can be snugged up to a wide range of body types. The lanyard attaches a single dorsal D-ring. The leg straps snug up to the thighs with a standard belt buckle and reinforced grommets. It is designed for wearers from 130-310 pounds.
High-density polyester straps assure strength and durability, and the 50-foot 5/8″ vertical lifeline rope is made of polyester fibers that have been twisted into an incredibly strong rope – one that not only will support the weight of a 300+ pound user but also the sudden jolt when all the slack is gone. It connects to a sturdy roof anchor made of galvanized steel with a breaking strength of 5,000 pounds.
Palmer Safety is a US-based company dedicated to fall protection and safety training. Most of the company’s products are complete kits, designed to work together for high reliability. In addition to safety harnesses, Palmer makes anchors, ropes, PPE gear and other products that help maintain health, comfort and safety.
Best Feature: 400-pound Capacity
For the best safety harness that doesn’t resemble a spider web, the DuraFlex Python safety harness is your boy. Its simple design and sea green straps give it a festive appearance, even though festive appearance probably isn’t on your checklist. Color aside, this safety harness is one of the most amazing safety harnesses on our list, because it lists a maximum weight of 400 pounds.
The Python is designed to alleviate some of the stress of heavy tool belts while still providing maximum fall protection. It features cushioned tubular webbing with water-repellant foam padding and a contoured edge.
The use of tubular webbing provides greater comfort in the neck and shoulders, reducing fatigue, one of the leading causes of falls in the workplace. Despite the comfort-friendly design, the Python boasts a maximum fall protection weight of 400 pounds, one of the highest ratings on our list.
This is made possible, not only by the superior strength of the tubular webbing, but also the oversized D-rings. It meets all the standards set forth in the OSHA, ANSI and CSA (Canadian Standards Association).
Tubular webbing is just like it sounds. It’s a hollow tube of polyester (in this application), which makes the webbing softer and more pliable. It’s as strong as flat webbing, yet can be knotted or twisted much easier. You’ll find tubular webbing on backpacks, kayaks, collars and slings.
What to Look for in a Safety Harness
Workplace accidents should be everyone’s concern, and preventing workplace accidents should be everyone’s passion. In the case of a safety harness, it applies to anyone whose job requires them to work, walk or stand at a height above six feet. This includes construction workers as well as the people who don’t do manual labor at height but have to be present at the site for delivery, inspection, observation and supervision. Let’s see what to look for in the best safety harness.
Safety Harnesses and Distribution of Force
A 180-pound person in free fall generates many times that amount in applied force. In fact, the maximum amount force that safety harnesses are required to arrest is 1800 pounds.
If your harness is called upon to arrest you at free fall, say from the roof of a two-story house. The safety harness must not only stop your downward travel, it must distribute the weight so that the restraint isn’t focused on a small area. Otherwise, you could be injured just as badly as if you had hit the ground.
The array of contact points, D-rings and buckles distribute the force throughout the body, concentrating it on the body parts most capable of handling shock force – like shoulders and chest, upper thigh area and pelvic region.
Therefore, the more points of contact between lanyard (the rope that is attached to the frame work of the jobsite) and safety harness and from the safety harness to the body, the better the force is distributed. This should be a key feature to look for when selecting a safety harness.
Take-home message: The best safety harness will have more points of contact.
How Many Points of Contact Do You Need in a Safety Harness?
You can get safety harnesses with as many as five points of contact, but do you need that many to get the best safety harness? A lot depends on the job and the height at which the worker will be staying. Too many points can limit the worker’s ability to move around or to use his arms in a comfortable manner. Too few, and the chance of recoil injury increases.
A two-point full body safety harness generally uses a large D-ring on the back – called a dorsal ring plus one other point, usually on the thighs. The various straps and adjustment points can assist with even more weight/force distribution.
A four-point full body safety harness have evenly spaced contact points on the back and around the waist on the front. Again, proper adjustment of all belts and straps can make a big difference in the arresting capability of the harness.
If you or your employee work in a particularly dangerous environment, or even have to work while suspended in mid-air, ala Peter Pan, a five point safety harness is likely to be your best choice. It has front and back attachment points and a suspension point – also called a ventral point – at the waist.
Take-home message: The best safety harness will have five points of contact, but the number of necessary points of contact is job-dependent.
Other Safety Harness Types
- Vest Type – Instead of a lot of straps, this uses large sections of cushioned fabric so that the wearer need only pull on the vest and make a couple of adjustments to create a snug fit. It might be the safest type of safety harness you can get, but workers will find it restrictive and hot in the summer.
- Parachute Harness – This is similar to the vest type safety harness but has more straps to adjust, in order to achieve the “perfect” fall arrest system. You will find few of these in use in construction, however, due to the restricted movement and discomfort.
- Sit-In Harness – Most commonly seen worn by painters working from scaffolding, the sit-in harness keeps the wearer in an upright position while seated.
Other Factors to Consider When Buying a Safety Harness
Some industries and job types have special needs, and have special safety requirements. For instance, if you are a beam welder, you would need a safety harness that one, won’t catch fire if struck by a glowing chunk of slag, and two, won’t conduct electricity, since welding is done at extremely high voltage levels.
Some of the more popular models of safety harness have specialized versions that meet fireproofing or electrical conductivity (or lack thereof) standards, so research product descriptions thoroughly. The most reputable makers of safety equipment generally have a consumer-friendly customer service department, staffed by experts who can answer questions and make recommendations.
Most safety harnesses are brightly colored for a reason – to ensure that the wearer is seen. It can be a highway safety issue, or a buddy system issue or even a “where did I put that dang safety harness” issue, but visibility is key. In some jobs, visibility is everything.
Safety Harness Size
The No. 1 complaint logged on consumer forums regarding safety harnesses is that they don’t fit as expected. Some safety harnesses are one-size-fits-all, and if you make all the adjustments correctly, they are. (Although the phrase should probably be one size fits nearly all.) But spending 10-12 minutes (sometimes more) pulling straps and connecting buckles before taking on the work at hand gets to be a drag.
Some of our models have different sizes and a height/weight chart to guide your choice, and while that typically results in a fit that is more quickly achieved, it still doesn’t account for various body shapes that don’t match up to the photo of the buff macho man in the catalog. Again, proper adjustment of all straps, belts and pads will result in the best possible fit.
Padding and Webbing of the Safety Harness
In the workplace, comfort is more than a feel-good issue. A worker who is comfortable is more productive, less fatigued and less likely to make mistakes. Some safety harnesses have padding at various stress points, like the back, shoulders and abdomen. Others have no padding at all, but the better ones have such well-engineered strap systems that adding pads is generally unnecessary.
Webbing is the heart and soul of the straps, belts and lanyards of safety harnesses. The material – usually high density polyester – is what stands between you and the pallet of bricks 20 feet below you. Here, the question isn’t so much which is the strongest on a brand new safety harness, but which is the stronger on a safety harness that’s two to three years old.
Choose a safety harness with good ratings for durability, resistance to fraying, resistance to fire and chemicals and the cycle of getting wet and drying out again. The buckles and attach points should be sturdy with a rust-free coating.
Inspect Your Safety Harness
It can’t be overstated that you need to inspect all safety equipment on a regular basis. For personal safety harnesses, the primary wearer needs to inspect his gear daily, and a second person should do a back-up inspection as often as possible. The back-up inspection can detect problems that the primary user has overlooked or has determined that he’s not worried about (but should be).
Tiny rips, holes, or webbing that seems stretched or distorted can be signs of impending failure. Metal parts should be totally rust-free and not bent or chipped, and all adjustment systems should be put through a quick test.