1. Australia
  2. 3M Safety
  3. Safety Stories
  4. The full-body fall protection harness.
3M Safety


  • share

    The full-body fall protection harness.

    December 04, 2020

    3M™ Protecta® X

    The new generation of Fall Arrest Harnesses

    Sign up for a FREE demonstration

    • The full-body fall protection harness.

      Once it’s been established that there is a requirement to work at height, the right work methods need to be developed and suitable fall protection equipment selected for the job at hand. The most crucial element of someone’s personal protective equipment is the full-body harness, they connect the worker to the fall protection system. Of everything that workers at height use, they will interact most frequently with the harness, whether donning, adjusting or inspecting it. However, harnesses can be extremely uncomfortable if they are:

      • Not appropriately selected for the task

      • Not worn correctly

      • Not adjusted properly

      These factors can put the fall arrest effectiveness at risk for the user. In addition, users of industrial fall protection harnesses need training in its use, care, inspection and maintenance. A full-body harness is the single most important equipment choice you can make for you or your workers. In the event of a fall, the full-body harness distributes the fall arrest forces evenly across the body.

    • The evolution of the fall protection harness.

      Harnesses have come a long way since the linesman’s ‘body belt’, worn in the early 1900s around users’ waists for pole climbing. These forerunners of today’s full-body harnesses were at best better than nothing, only providing some protection to arrest falls if the worker happened to fall ‘correctly’. The belts offered no impact or shock protection from impact forces to the body. Worse still, they rarely fitted correctly, meaning that workers often fell out of the belts which were too loose. Accidents led to the development of the first full-body harness, designed initially with the objective of better distributing fall arrest forces and minimising the chance of the worker falling out of the system. Developed in the 1940s and modelled on the military parachute harness, this harness did distribute fall arrest forces more evenly but still fell way short of perfect. The bulky and heavy materials used in its construction proved to be very cumbersome and hard to don and wear, leading to a lack of widespread use.

      In time, developments moved on to triangular and X-fit style harnesses. These were easier to don, as they fell in place by grasping the dorsal D-ring. The first harness with comfortable features such as soft edging and padding was not developed until 2001 and was designed in the mould of a recreational harness that incorporated durable materials. Today they have evolved to include features such as five points of adjustment, stand-up dorsal D-rings, quick-connect buckles to aid donning and fit, integrated self-retracting lifeline adapters for fast and easy connections and industry-specific features.

    • Top 5 most important full-body harness features.

      Only a properly fitted harness will ensure the correct distribution of fall arrest forces to the appropriate regions of the body. In the event of a fall, if the harness is too loose, the uneven distribution of forces throughout the body could exert dangerous pressure on certain areas. Movement of the sub-pelvic strap can lead to serious injury for male workers, and if the chest strap is loose, it can cause the shoulder straps to fall off the shoulders. A harness that is not correctly adjusted can cause a choking hazard in the event of a fall. Any loose straps could also prove hazardous if caught on moving or heavy equipment. Harnesses that are too tight also lead to the improper distribution of fall arrest forces in the event of a fall, as well as extreme discomfort and loss of circulation.

      1. Comfort
      It’s all very well for a harness to meet Australian Standards and have every certification mark going. However, these safety components are useless if the harness doesn’t get worn, or is worn incorrectly. Some harnesses have to be worn for up to 12 hours per day, so comfort is paramount. Webbing and edging should be soft to avoid chafing the skin, and in moist environments, anti-absorbent and waterrepellant webbing can help to keep the worker cool and dry. Padding around the shoulder straps and leg areas is essential.

      2. Adjustability
      The harness will not be comfortable if it doesn’t fit properly. There should be multiple points of adjustment, in order to ensure the worker can properly fit the harness to his own body. Adjustment points should be maintained and secure. This is less easy to find in a full-body harness, as often adjustments are required throughout the day. However, today harnesses are available with adjusters and quick-connect buckles that lock without loosening, even when worn for extended periods.

      3. Ease of donning and use
      Features to look for to maximise ease of donning and use include quick-connect buckles and stand-up dorsal D-rings. It’s also easier to put on harnesses that maintain their shape so they don’t get tangled.

      4. Durability
      A good quality harness will stand up to any environment that it’s being used in, making the investment in premium harnesses worthwhile. Features such as pads over high-wear areas like shoulder straps help to reduce them from wearing out. Other durability features include rigid belt loops, corrosion-resistant hardware and abrasion-resistant webbing.

      Different harnesses suit different work situations, so it’s critical to select the right harness to complement the task at hand. If the harness is treated like a vital tool of the trade rather than a hindrance, then the worker will be far more inclined to wear it. There are several customised features available on the market, such as areas to attach a tool pouch, suspension trauma straps and seat slings.

      As well as ensuring the right harness selection and fit, the equipment needs to be inspected before and after each use to ensure it is in good working order. If there is ever any sign of an unsafe condition or if the harness shows signs that it has arrested a fall it should be immediately withdrawn from service & destroyed. An inspection program should be developed by a competent and trained person at least 6-monthly, or less depending on the working conditions during use. Each separate inspection should incorporate five distinct elements: hardware, webbing, labels, subsystem components and record keeping.

      The manufacturer’s instruction manuals also include information on how to adjust and don the harness. 3M Fall Protection has a range of instructional posters on how to properly fit and inspect a harness, along with inspection and maintenance guidelines, checklists and a wide range of accredited training courses. Contact your 3M Fall Protection Specialist for more information.

    • The ‘X’ factor... the new generation of 3M™ Protecta®
      X Fall Arrest Harnesses.
      Sign up for a FREE demonstration

      Introducing the Protecta® X, the new generation of 3M™ Protecta® Fall Arrest Harnesses, redesigned and upgraded to incorporate enhanced comfort and safety elements. A range of harnesses that provide reliable protection, comfort and convenience; now with upgraded premium features and a sleek, modern look – all at an affordable price. Available in a variety of styles and configurations, these new harnesses have enhanced features as standard inclusions, including quick connect buckles, auto-resetting lanyard keepers as well as softer and more durable hip padding.

      Backed by science, every feature is carefully thought of and crafted based on research, user experience, technology innovations, science and most importantly, with your workers at height in mind. The new 3M™ Protecta® X Fall Arrest Harness range – raising the bar but not the price. Ideal for use in a wide range of industries, including construction, utilities, telecommunications, manufacturing, MRO, transportation mining and general industrial applications.

    • 3M™ Protecta® X Fall Arrest Harnesses features at a glance

      D-ring placement
      Conveniently placed front fall arrest D-ring helps you stay balanced and centred**

      Auto-resetting lanyard keepers
      Provides easy parking and release of snap hooks or karabiners

      Web end keepers
      No loose web ends help you stay comfortable and tangle free

      Impact indicators
      Make it simple to inspect the harness for damage and help ensure it’s safe to use **

      Modern black components
      Zinc plated steel with electro deposit paint finish

      Protected labels
      For long-term identification and inspection

      Comfort padding
      Softer and more robust hip pad is 3x thicker* for extra comfort

      EZ-Link SRL adapter
      Integrated easy-link web SRL adapter lets you quickly and easily connect and disconnect personal SRL’s **

      Improved belt
      Durable and sturdy belt for tool bag carrying convenience**

      Gear tool loops
      Tools can be secured while working at heights, to keep people and property safe anywhere below you**

      Quick-connect buckles
      Offers one-handed operation and smooth adjustments

      Labelled attachment points
      Easy and clear identification of fall arrest anchorage points

      * Compared to previous model ** Only available on selected models


    • 3M™ Protecta® X demonstration.

      3M™ Protecta® X, harnesses with the features you want at the price you need. Want to learn more about the
      unparalleled performance and quality of the 3M™ Protecta® X Full Body Harness? Sign up for our FREE demonstration*
      and discover how it can deliver cost-effective fall protection for workers at height.
      Sign up for a FREE demonstration

      Every at-height worker deserves to be safe, no matter the size or nature of the job. That’s why Protecta® has become the go-to choice for safety managers looking for reliable fall protection solutions that comply with safety regulations and complies with industry requirements to help their workers get the job done and return home safely at the end of each day. This article is a general guide, reach out to a 3M Fall Protection Specialist if you’re unsure of any aspect of fall protection or fall protection equipment.

      Want to learn more about full body harnesses? Tune in to the Science of Safety Podcast Episode 83: Fall protection body harnesses.

      *T&C's Apply:
      •  Businesses should have a minimum of 20 workers to qualify for the demo
      •  Demo is subjected to:

      • Location
      • Effective implementation of COVID-19-safe controls
      • Travel restrictions and local health requirements