Inspecting Personal Fall Arrest Systems

By Mar 15, 2022
Getty Images / Procurator


A personal fall arrest system (PFAS) is an effective way to keep workers safe around fall hazards. Before each use, each of its many components must be carefully inspected individually to ensure the whole system will work correctly when needed. Upon completing this training, the employee will understand the inspection process for a PFAS and the timing for completing it.

Full-body harness

  • Examine all nylon webbing for burn marks, tears, frayed areas, broken fibers or pulled stitches anywhere on the harness.

  • Examine D-rings for excessive wear, pits, cracks or deterioration of any kind.

  • Check that buckles are not deformed or cracked and that all will operate correctly.

  • Be sure any rivets and grommets are secure and not deformed in any way.

  • Check tongues/straps for additional punched holes or excess wear from repeated buckling.

Harnesses should be hung up after each use, ideally in a closed cabinet, to protect them from damage when not in use. An annual inspection of the harness must be completed by a competent person. Check with your supervisor to determine when to turn it in for that inspection. Any harness that has been used in a fall must be destroyed and replaced.

Tie-off points

  • Examine tie-off points for integrity and attachment to the solid surface.

  • Check to make sure an annual inspection of all tie-offs and anchorages was completed by a competent person.

  • After a fall, a tie-off and anchorage point must be removed, destroyed and replaced.

Lanyards/shock-absorbing lanyards

  • Inspect lanyard material for any damage, including for any cuts, burns, abrasions, kinks, knots and excessive wear.

  • Check all locking mechanisms to make sure they remain locked once they have been locked.

  • Go over the shock absorber for any visible signs of damage, especially where it attaches to the lanyard.

An annual inspection must be completed by a competent person. Lanyard storage is the same as for harnesses, i.e., hung up, preferably in a closed cabinet for protection.

Self-retracting lanyards/lifelines

  • Check the body for any physical damage.

  • Inspect all nuts and rivets to ensure they are tight.

  • Go over the entire length of the nylon strap/wire rope to make sure it is free from any cuts, burns, abrasions, kinks, knots, broken stitches/strands and excessive wear, and that it retracts easily.

  • Examine the lanyard/lifeline to be sure the locking mechanism works correctly when pulled sharply.

The inspection procedure for the self-retracting lanyard/lifeline differs from that for other components of a PFAS in two main ways:

  1. A competent person must inspect the lanyards/lifelines every month and, after a fall, they can be inspected and reused if found to be undamaged.

  2. Lanyards/lifelines should be serviced according to manufacturer specifications, usually every 1–2 years.

Check with your supervisor to ensure that inspections by a competent person are performed as required.

A thorough examination of a PFAS can help to keep you safe even if a fall occurs.

Discussion questions

  • When should the full-body harness be inspected?

  • How often should self-retracting lanyards be inspected?

  • What are the main differences between the inspection process for a self-retracting lanyard and all other PFAS components?

  • What should be done if any part of the PFAS is found to be damaged or worn?





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