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Belting up

Leigh W Sparrow, Publisher
Leigh W Sparrow, Publisher

October 1, 2010 - As many of you are well aware the Vertikal Press has been a passionate advocate of the wearing of harnesses with short lanyards in boom lifts. In fact, we have even stated that we believe their use should be mandatory.

There are few accidents more tragic than those in which an operator ends up on the ground below a perfectly stable and fully functioning lift after being catapulted out of the platform, for whatever reason.

Huge progress has been made in recent years to encourage the wearing of harnesses thanks in no small part to IPAF’s Clunk Click campaign, of which we have been an enthusiastic supporter since the start. However going around a number of exhibitions in recent months it was sad to see that not only do a number of people still not 'get it', but that in some cases early progress has been rolled back.

One fact is also clear, that most full-body harnesses are still awkward to put on if they are not already set up and adjusted to the user and they are familiar with the particular harness. The problem with this is that at a show where every visitor to a stand is a different shape, fitting them into a harness when they just want a quick demonstration can be a nightmare.

At a recent show one exhibitor, not wishing to give up on his rule that all boom lift users should wear a harness, decided instead to use a good quality belt-type harness.

Now at this point I expect some of you to deride any suggestion that this might be a good idea. However the simple fact is that if a belt type harness is buckled up properly and used with a lanyard with little slack, it will prevent a person being thrown from the platform and will not cause a serious injury in doing so.

It is also a fact that at the moment a number of users are failing to use harnesses, particularly in situations where the time in the boom is short and the conditions specific. Such as show demonstrations and third-party truck drivers when unloading. And yet, even though the boom is rarely raised, this latter example is one of the riskiest of jobs for catapulting.

A slip on the ramps, or worse, and a substantial catapult effect can be generated. Even when not too severe, it can throw the operator in the air causing him to land on the guardrails, resulting in serious injury.

A simple belt-type harness would prevent that and its simplicity would encourage most drivers to use them – after all they already use seat belts in their cab and these are every bit as easy to employ.

It is true that there are a number of good arguments against this – ‘softening’ of the harness recommendations, including the fact that it may confuse the message and that there are a number of good easy to use jacket-type harnesses on the market that could be used. While others will say this is the ‘thin end of the wedge’ and that before long everyone will revert to belts.

To this we would say: the jacket-type harness still does not solve the size problem at a show, and that some of them are still not that simple if they are to be put on and adjusted properly.

We would never recommend that belt-type harnesses are used for those working from a platform, for all-day use a full-body harness is likely to be far more comfortable.

However, for short or intermittent use in applications such as demonstrations and a single loading/unloading sequence, officially advocating the use of a belt-type harness as an option and might just help boost the use of harnesses and save one or two lives a year along with a large number of injuries (to delivery drivers' ribs etc.) not to mention all the trauma that goes with it?

It is important that when the industry is on show at an exhibition, good practice is also on display. At present this isn't always the case – if belt type harnesses were ‘approved’ this could change. At the same time, harness manufacturers need to look at improving the design of their full body harnesses.

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