26 Oct Tower Climbing Harnesses vs. Rope Access Harness
Working at height has inherent dangers; weather, location, environmental concerns all present their unique challenges in addition to the type of work to be completed. To further complicate matters the continuing evolution of safety components has led to very specialized equipment.
In the past it was common to see generations of workers climbing with a generic harness. Unfortunately, this “one size fits non” approach caused more than a few accidents. Today we face a different challenge, with so many seemingly identical options, how does one choose the best harness for their application? At the heart of all personal protective equipment is the full body or fall protection harness, let’s take a closer look at what makes up a standard tower climbing harness.
Most manufacturers offer harnesses designed for use in “hot” environments which could include the potential for an arc flash, or when working under or around grinders or welders which can throw molten metal on climbers below. Because of their unique design and exotic materials (Kevlar or Aramid) these harnesses are often made to order and are significantly more expensive than their non-arc rated counterparts. Most tower climbing harnesses will have a dorsal (back) or sternal (front) attachment point for making connections to fall protection equipment including; cable or rope grabs or fall arrest lanyards, in addition to hip D-rings for work positioning. Though all harnesses look similar from a distance there are specific styles which work best in certain applications.
TWO STYLES OF FULL-BODY HARNESSES
- First is the tower climbing harness which is typically an “H-style”, so called because it makes an H across your chest when donned. The tower climbing harnesses is popular because it typically has large hip D-rings which are used for working positioning and can be used in conjunction with a spreader bar and a batten style seat to create a stable work platform suitable for use when working in suspension, perhaps under an antenna or dish.
- The other style is the rope access harness or “Y-style” because, you guessed it, the harness makes a Y across your chest when its donned. These harnesses are designed for workers who primarily work in suspension off fixed ropes though they can be used for tower climbing as well. Typically, Y-style harness have large, well-padded leg loops and a design better suited for long periods of sitting or hanging in the harness. These too can be used with a batten seat for added comfort. Again, this style of harness includes a dorsal (back) D-ring for connection to fall arrest systems (fall arrest lanyards or rope grabs), hip D-rings (for work positioning), sternal connection for back-up devices or ascenders, and offer central (umbilical) connections for components that allow workers to ascend and descend fixed ropes. There are countless offerings in the harness world, let’s take a closer look at what the experts in fall protection consider the best balance between; price, safety and features.
All harnesses below are designed to meet the most current ANSI Z359 standards, always check manufacture tags and recommendations for inspection, care and use before each conducting work.
Buckingham Manufacturing has been in the at-height business for more than 100 years, though they’re not widely known in on the tower climbing side of the business. The two most popular models stocked at the Safety One Pro Shop offer are the Bucktech and the S1 Pro Harness.
The Tower Climber’s Standard: Bucktech is a full body harness with green anodized aluminum D-rings, an included Batten seat made of structural webbing which can be removed is desired, quick adjust, double action buckles on the chest and leg loops, two integrated tool loops and break-away connectors for parking fall arrest lanyards when not in use, plus generous padding in the waist belt.
The Ultimate Harness for Tower and Rope Work: S1 Pro Harness was designed by industry experts to their specifications based on years of experience, it was designed to be the most versatile harness on the market, this Y-style harness functions just as well on a tower as it does on ropes, from a bucket or in a confined space vault. The ergonomic design allows for freedom of movement yet offer support when twisting, reaching or working at odd angles. It features sewn loops on the shoulders to assist in rescue or retrieval from a confined space, durable steel hip, dorsal and sternal D-rings, dual umbilical connection loops plus an aluminum belay ring for multiple connection points and a 3,600lb. gate rated central carabiner make this harness as easy to don as it is comfortable for all day work. Regardless of your work scenario take the guess work out of your system and choose the Buckingham S1 Pro Harness!
DBI/SALA is a name known throughout the industry for providing quality, innovative and specialized fall protection equipment.
The Premium Offering: Exo-fit Strata Tower Climber’s Harness, features all aluminum D-rings, their unique revolver adjusters at the legs and chest, polar mesh back pad, auto-reset lanyard keepers and thermoformed belt/hip pad and their proprietary LIFTech weight distribution system to keep weight off your shoulders and a padded batten seat. All of which add up to create a premium harness designed to keep you safe and comfortable all day.
The Standard: Exo-fit NEX Tower Climber’s Harness offers a nice balance between price and performance with most of the same features from the Strata minus the LIFTech system and with slightly different padding and lanyard keepers.
Petzl is a long-standing name in fall protection and offers the VOLT LT, designed for those working in fall arrest or work positioning situations, including tower climbing and general fall protection.
The Lightweight Standard: The VOLT LT, was designed with FAST automatic buckles on the waist belt and leg loops and with minimal padding the anatomical design is intended to be snug yet comfortable and prevent the harness from snagging on obstructions. The mesh construction and lightweight webbing in addition to aluminum dorsal, and hip D-Rings as well as sternal loops made of webbing allow for one of the lightest fall arrest harnesses on the marker with unmatched breathability. The experts at Petzl didn’t compromise functionality for weight savings and have designed a semi-rigid waist belt that offers excellent support for your gear or tool bags.
CAMP USA, though new to the safety market CAMP has a long-standing reputation in the sport world built on unique, quality products with a relentless attention to detail.
Best Value Rope Access Harness: The GT ANSI Harness was designed with input from CAMP’s research on suspension trauma and constructed to allow workers to conduct work activities in suspension with unparalleled comfort. The wide waste belt and all aluminum D rings (dorsal, sternal, hip, umbilical and back) keep weight down and comfort up. Getting in and out of the harness is a breeze thanks to double action buckles at the legs and a built-in, heavy-duty steel ANSI rated carabiner at the central connection. Finally, the built-in keeper and loops for a for a chest ascender are a welcomed touch, as are the integrated tool loops designed for rack your gear or work with tool tethers.