How often should I replace my rescue harness?


We get many calls asking about the “life expectancy” of rope, harnesses and other nylon products. Of course, there are many factors involved and no one “set in stone” answer, but a lot depends on how much you use your harness and the ways you use it. Even where you store your gear is a factor. For example, for emergency responders working in industrial environments, atmospheric exposures may be a key consideration for nylon products even while in storage. Another consideration is “when” the harness or rope was made… manufacturing parameters change as technology improves and you may just want a product that’s been tested to the latest standards. However, as with all of your rescue equipment, it’s important to account for its use as well as to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Never take chances when there’s any doubt about the serviceability of a life safety product. For more details on the service life of nylon products, our harness manufacturer, CMC Rescue, has provided the following information.

The service life of a rescue harness is closely related to the life of a rescue rope – both are used in the same environments, both are made from nylon or polyester, and both receive similar levels of inspection and care. Since harnesses are worn on the body, they are generally better protected than the ropes. On the other hand, harnesses rely on the stitching to hold them together, and due to its small diameter, the thread can be more susceptible to abrasion, aging, and chemical damage than web or rope.

The fall protection industry recommends 2 to 3 years as a service life for a harness or belt in use. They recommend 7 years for the shelf life. The military was using 7 years as a service life for nylon products. The Climbing Sports Group of the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America says that a climbing harness should last about two years under normal weekend use. At this time, the rescue industry does not have a recommended service life for harnesses.

Through the ASTM consensus standards process, the rescue industry set 10 years as the maximum service life for a life safety rope, see ASTM Standard F1740-02 Guide for Inspection of Nylon, Polyester, or Nylon/Polyester Blend, or both Kernmantle Rope. The guide stresses that the most significant contributing factor to the service life of a rope is the history of use. A rope that is shock loaded or otherwise damaged should be retired immediately. Hard use would call for a shorter service life than would be acceptable for a rope that sees very little use.

If we apply the same analysis to the rescue harness, then the actual use and the conclusions drawn from inspection would be the significant criteria for retirement. We do know that with any use, a rope will age, and thus a harness is likely to do the same, so a 10-year maximum service life may well be appropriate for harnesses as well assuming inspection has not provided any reason for early retirement.

As with ropes, if the harness has been subjected to shock loads, fall loads, or abuse other than normal use, the harness should be removed from service. If there is any doubt about the serviceability of the harness for any reason, it should be removed from service.

About Francelle Theriot

Francelle is a Louisiana native, artist, blogger, wife, mother, daughter, friend, and world traveler. She has a long career in producing award winning art for the screen, print and interiors as founding partner of a design firm. She is focusing her energy on fine art to share her idea of beauty and emotion with everyone. Her eclectic style depicts American life from a creative mother's point of view, and includes watercolor, acrylic, and mixed media.
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2 Responses to How often should I replace my rescue harness?

  1. ASTM F1740 provides very comprehensive guidelines for users of rescue rope. The title “Standard Guide for Inspection of Nylon, Polyester, or Nylon/Polyester Blend, or Both Kernmantle Rope” indicates it is specifically intended to guide the user in the inspection of these rescue ropes, and is not intended to be a guide in the selection and use of rescue ropes. However, the information included in F1740 is not to be considered the only criteria for evaluating the serviceability of rescue rope. One of the first considerations the user needs to address is the selection of an experienced individual who is deemed qualified by his user to perform and document the rope inspections. While F1740 does provide excellent guidelines, the user and/or the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) may feel it necessary to augment the information in F1740 with additional training.

    Fortunately, our friends at PMI Rope have produced a very comprehensive webinar on Rope Care which includes specific information on rope inspections. This 61 minute webinar is presented by Mr. Steve Hudson, president of PMI Rope. Steve has an unsurpassed background and knowledge base regarding the manufacture and use of rescue rope and his presentation should more than satisfy your need to augment F1740.

    The following is a link to PMI’s webinars. Use the scroll down on the left and select the 3/2/10 presentation titled “Rope Care.” The information that addresses rope inspection begins at the 24:30 time mark of the presentation.

    PMI Webinar Video

    Thank you for visiting Roco Rescue online and hopefully this provides the information you are seeking.

  2. elvin Burnell says:

    Where can a person get training per ASTM F 1740 on how to inspect rescue rope?

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