1. #1
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    Default Belay Harness Attachment Location?

    At the 2004 International Technical Rescue Symposium in Albuquerque, NM a very informative presentation on "Fall Arrest vs Belay" was made which examined the many advantages for using a front harness belay attachment instead of a rear harness belay attachment.

    Question: Which harness belay attachment point does your team use and why? Is your choice determined by tradition, by testing, by standard, by past history of incidents, etc?

    Front belay?

    [] Yes
    [] No

    Reasons:

    Rear belay?

    [] Yes
    [] No

    Reasons?

    No belay?

    [] Yes
    [] No

    Reasons?

  2. #2
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    Default Rear Attachment Belay

    Our team uses class III harnesses and we use the rear attachment belay in the middle of the back.

    We use this for three reasons:
    1) if a fall were to occur due to the main line breaking and there is a shock load applied to the rescuer, the high rear attachment point 1) keeps the rescuers neck from serious injury. By having the attachment there the head will fall forward and the chin will hit the chest preventing the head from bending in a direction it is not intended to. if the attachment was on the front at the waist the head isnt going to stop until the back of the head hits the back.
    2) if the rescuer were to be rendered unconcious it is easier to lift a person if they are in a vertical position. even if the main line is still intacted, you can raise with the belay line to keep the rescuer in the vertical position and use the main line as the saftey back up. if the rescuer had the belay line on the front next to the main line and rendered unconsious he would be raised in a horisontial position which he is more likly to get hung up on something.
    3) having the belay line on the middle of the back attachment its keeps the belay line out of the rescuers way while they are working. By tying the belay line with a figure 8 on a bight directly to the attachment point (no carabineer) it will prevent a side loading of a carabineer by taking it right out of the mix.

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    We used to use rear belay until a guy got squashed between the haul line and the belay line while doing a pick off. He got squeezed hard enough that he had trouble breathing. Also, we decided that a rear attachment would cause your orientation to change should the main line break, possibly sending you into a wall or something. Your center on the line would move you into a new position. We use front attachments for everything now.
    Jason Brooks
    IAFF Local 2388
    IACOJ

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    Check with your harness manufacturer. I found a couple of harnesses that actually say that the rear ring is not intended for belay use.

    I prefer a front chest belay so I can manage the rope if needed.

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    Which harnesses are you referring to? I would like to be able to add more information to the list of plus and minuses for our gear use.
    Jason Brooks
    IAFF Local 2388
    IACOJ

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    Default Belay Harness Attachment Location?

    There are many different brands of rope rescue harnesses with a waist-level "D"-ring attachment point on the rear of the harness. I won't bother to get into all the different brands/models, etc., other than to say that you can look at almost any rescue equipment vendor catalog and find numerous examples of them. Universally, none of these harnesses are designed for the wearer to hang from the waist-level rear attachment point. The front attachment location distributes the weight of the user to the thigh/butt straps as designed. The rear waist-level attachment point transfers the user's weight to the front waist belt portion of the harness creating dangerous conditions for the user. It painfully compresses the abdominal organs against the diaphragm making it difficult to breathe and can lead to unconsciousness in just a couple of minutes followed by death.

    Some of the high points from the 2004 ITRS conference are:

    1. There is a vast difference between fall arrest and belay. (I would venture to say that a very large percentage of fire departments in this country do not understand the difference between the two.)

    2. Although applicable for most fall arrest situations, the use of the dorsal attachment for a rescue belay is not necessary and can be very dangerous.

    3. Fall arrest lanyards are 6 feet in length for the worker to be able to perform their duties. Ideally the anchorage would be above the worker but in the absence of adequate anchors the worker may anchor at foot level (very dangerous). The worst-case scenario for a worker using fall arrest equipment gives the possibility of a 12 feet fall. The impact force in a fall like this would be around 13-14 kN using a 16 mm (5/8") laid nylon rope lanyard and no shock absorber. It is very likely that the injuries sustained in an impact of this severity would be fatal for the average worker.

    4. A look at the worst case scenario for rescue clearly illustrates the difference between these two systems. The highest potential impact is when the rope is the shortest. This would be when the rescuer is being lowered over the edge. Even if the belay is maintained with little slack, there is still a potential for a 1 meter (3.28 ft) fall due to the height of the attachment on the harness and lack of high directional at the edge. It is reasonable to assume that the distance from the edge to the anchor could be as little as 3 meters (10 ft). This is the worst case scenario for rescue as established by the British Columbia Council for Technical Rescue. It results in a 1 meter (3.28 ft) fall on 3 meters (10 ft) of rope. Peak force can be calculated in this scenario to 5.9 kN for a 100 kg (220 lb) load. This not accounting for slippage in the belay device, which will reduce the peak force further. As the load moves further down the structure, impact force is reduced.

    5. This use of fall factor can be a helpful tool to compare the severity of a fall with these two systems. There is no factoring for friction or other variables. Fall factor is determined by dividing the fall distance by the length of rope in service. In the worst case scenario for fall arrest where a worker may fall 12 ft on a 6 ft lanyard the fall factor would be 2. The worst case scenario for rescue, of a 1 meter fall on 3 meters of rope results in a fall factor of 0.3. If the rescue load were 10 meters down the side of the structure, the resulting fall factor would be 0.08. There is clearly an enormous difference in the severity of the fall between these two practices. In the fall protection industry, a fall factor of 2 is considered to be fatal.

    6. There are examples within US fall protection legislation where the uses of alternative connections are employed. Specifically, in regards to work positioning systems. OSHA 29 CFR 191262.502(e)(1) states: “Positioning devices shall be rigged such that an employee cannot free fall more than 2 feet (0.9 meters).”

    7. Up until January 1, 1998, body belts were acceptable as part of a personal fall arrest system as long as the arresting force was limited to 4 kN (900 lbf). This is only 135 lbs less impact than the 4.6 kN impact seen in the rescue belay tests and it is being taken with a body belt instead of a full body rescue harness. It is possible to make the comparison of rescue belay to a positioning system, which does not allow great free falls.

    8. The positioning of the body before and after the fall is another important part of the system analysis. When the primary attachment to the rescue system is at the front of the harness, the body will be in a reclined position. With the belay attached dorsally, the body will have a tendency to hang leaning forward when suspended. This change in suspension position during the arrest phase can be violent enough to produce damaging hyperextension and/or flexion of the neck. There is also a danger of the head being thrown into the structure causing damage to the unprotected face. This danger is highest when the rescuer is making the initial edge transition. At this point, the rescuer is leaning back as he or she is being lowered over the edge. A mainline failure at this point not only has the greatest possible impact force but also the danger of the rescuer being pulled head first into the edge by a dorsal belay. With the belay attachment at front waist or chest, belay activation at the edge transition is a gentle settling in with little or no change in body orientation. Also, in the case of a front belay attachment, the belay line can be kept tighter than dorsal as it runs parallel with the main line, particularly at the edge transition. A dorsal belay will always have more slack at the edge transition due to the discomfort of the rope on the rescuer’s neck and shoulder. The practice of passing the belay line under the arm at the edge transition creates the additional hazard of an arm or shoulder injury during the arrest. These dangers were demonstrated at ITRS by Rigging for Rescue, where considerable damage was caused to the rescue mannequin during drop tests.

    9. On some harnesses there is a sliding “Y” strap designed for belay line attachment uses the rescuer’s neck as the spreader bar. The shoulder straps are forcibly drawn against the sides of the neck which can lead to compression of the carotid arteries, unconsciousness and loss of blood flow to the brain.

    10. There are also hazards associated with the inability to see one’s connections. An improperly connected carabiner will go unnoticed at the dorsal attachment. This hazard was the cause of a worker becoming a quadriplegic after falling from a bucket truck in Australia in 1996. He was thrown from the bucket 5 meters (16.4 ft) to the ground after his lanyard failed to arrest the fall. The cause was determined to be an improperly connected snap hook. Due to the connection at the rear of the harness, this hazard went unnoticed. In a case like rescue, where a front belay attachment can be safely used, an accident such as this can be easily corrected with a visual inspection of the connection. To use a rear attachment unnecessarily, could be argued as negligent.

    11. In addition to improper connections, there is also the hazard of rollout. This occurs when the connecting hardware is not oriented properly in the D-ring, resulting in an inward gate pressure, which opens the connector. A locking carabiner can have the gate broken and forced open with as little as 0.4 kN (90 lbf). Fall arrest harnesses are designed to minimize this hazard by utilizing large d-rings. Rescue harnesses do not always use these same large d-rings and are used with carabiners as opposed to snap hooks. There may also be circumstances where a rescuer may need to disconnect and connect system components. This cannot be safely done with a rear attachment.

    12. Another benefit to a front attachment is the ability to anticipate the moment of impact during activation of the belay system. This common among climbers who will react by grabbing the rope and tightening muscles. This reaction minimizes body rotation and reduces the likelihood of neck hyperextension and/or flexion. Climbers have been surviving large falls for years with a sit harness. There is also better protection from facial impact against the rock. When a climber falls, they will grab the rope and then prepare to swing towards the wall, stopping with their feet. This could not be done with a dorsally attached full body harness yet the same hazard exists on a structure where rope rescue is being performed.

    13. It is essential that anyone suspended in any type of harness have the ability to place their feet against a firm surface to take the weight off the thighs. Muscular contraction in the legs will help maintain adequate blood flow back to the heart. This can be done by creating a foot loop to stand in and is often referred to as self-rescue. Attaching a piece of accessory cord to the rope is extremely difficult where rear attachment is used. Also the use of rear attachment is likely to result in head trauma and unconsciousness during the arrest phase due to the adjustment of suspension position and resultant impact with the structure. Unconsciousness will contribute to the rapid onset of cardiovascular problems, as the legs will be motionless and there may be airway occlusion with the head tilted forward.

    14. The lack of relevant standards for rope supported work is what lead to the development of the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT) in the US and the International Rope Access Trades Association (IRATA) in the UK. Rope access workers safely use rope and specialized hardware as the primary support for workers, replacing the need for expensive scaffolding, ladders and rigging. Traditional fall protection legislation did not adequately address the concerns of the rope access community so IRATA and SPRAT published a set of guidelines for the safe use of rope access techniques. The Health and Safety Executive in the UK has commended IRATA on their guidelines, which is a rare accolade.

    15. IRATA technicians have safely used front belay attachments for years. Records kept by IRATA since 1989 document over 5 million hours of work on rope with no fatalities and only a handful of lost time accidents. Of the few accidents, most were the result of general workplace hazards such as injuries from tools, falling objects, inhalation of noxious fumes and mishaps while off rope. The rope access community has proven that these techniques can be used successfully despite the fear mongering that is rampant in North America.

    16. The hazards associated with dorsal attachment far outweigh the single benefit, which is protection in a long free fall resulting in very high arrest forces. This worst case is not only unrealistic for rescue, but can be avoided in the fall protection industry with suitable training. With minimized fall distances and peak forces, front belay attachment is a safe option. This has been shown in other parts of the world where front attachment is used for fall protection situations where impact force can be minimized. There are clearly different variables involved in rescue and a proper risk/benefit analysis should be done for each situation. To use dorsal attachment ignores the hazards of facial impact with the structure, inability to inspect connections, inability to safely disconnect and connect system components, and the difficulty in performing self-rescue.

    We use a front belay attachment location for standardization and safety for our rope rescue classes as well as for our rescue standby teams.

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    JBrescue - I can't remember the brand and model (Maybe an older Yates harness - They had a sliding ring in the back) as they were in use by the local state fire academy and I haven't taught there in years.

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    Default sliding yoke harness

    The Born Body Harness sold by J.E. Weinel has a sliding back "Y" yoke for belay line attachment. It creates very uncomfortable and possibly dangerous carotid artery pressure when hanging from the yoke.

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    The Born is the only one that I know of that has the yoke outside of industrial harnesses. Since I know Russ Born, I will not comment of his design. My biggest recommendation to anyone looking to get a harness is to try them on and hang in them. Find the one that fits your body the best and is the most comfortable.
    Jason Brooks
    IAFF Local 2388
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    JBRescue - Now there is a name I haven't heard in a long while. I knew Russ when he had his small shop in my home town of Millersport, Ohio. I was a 19 y/o volley back then. He did a couple of airbag classes for us. Great guy.

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    Default Harness belay location

    I've known Russ for many years and his Born Body Harness, even with the potential sliding yoke problems, is the only harness we use. Very quick to don and great comfort. We attach both main and belay lines to the front triangular screw link to eliminate the sliding yoke concern.

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    We are using the Yates Voyager harnesses for the rescuers. Edge men use either our yates Kevlar laddermans harness, or sometimes just a basic laddermans belt.

    We use the chest loop for belay, for the reasons mentioned already:

    1. Reduced risk of driving the face into the rock/wall
    2. Ability for the rescuer to reach and handle the rope
    3. Maintains the original alignment in the event of a fall


    We typically have only used the dorsal ring for belay when lowering into a confined space. In that scenario, we are using the shoulder rings for the mainline, and the crew prefers to keep the belay out of the way.
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

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    This is a big hot button, While I don't always agree with it you need to be attached high on the back.
    OSHA requires high back attachment for fall protection, and from what we learned from our local IDOL (OSHA) people they consider our rescue belay fall protection.
    I understand the hazards of hanging in our harness attached in the back, but since it is just a "what if" safety measure, I would rather stay OSHA complient.

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    I know in Ohio we do not need to be OSHA complient for ropes. Confined space is another issue. But, there is a loophole that says if it is a hazard you don't need it. I assume, without looking it up, this would also apply to moving it away from the rear. The OSHA standard for fall protection is meant for the industrial guys that you fall arrest straps and screamers attached in the back. I also assume, that this is so that they are out of the way while they are working as that could be a hazard as well.
    Jason Brooks
    IAFF Local 2388
    IACOJ

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    Default Belay harness attachment location

    OSHA requires a confined space entrant (this includes rescuers) to wear a full body harness and retrieval line when entering the space. The retrieval line is just that, a retrieval line. It is not part of a fall protection system. It is for the confined space attendant (hole watch in industry) to use in making a non-entry rescue. OSHA says most fatalities in confined spaces are atmospheric related (low oxygen, flammable and/or toxic). They do not intend for a rescuer to have to make entry into the space to attach a second safety rope (belay line) before removing the victim with the retrieval line.

    Once you have the victim out of the space and packaged for lowering, then you have to add a belay line per 29 CFR 1910.66 Appendix "C". This is where OSHA hides the fall protection standard for general industry.

    Rope rescue (high angle, confined space) is not fall protection. Different techniques, different equipment, very different hazards. Rope rescue is much more closely related to rope access work. Cal-OSHA lists it as follows:

    Cal-OSHA Subchapter 7. General Industry Safety Orders
    Group 1. General Physical Conditions and Structures
    Article 4. Access, Work Space, and Work Areas
    3270.1. Use of Rope Access Equipment.
    (j) A safety, secondary, belay, or backup line, or other appropriate fall arrest device shall be used when the main line is the primary means of support, unless the employer can demonstrate that the second line or other fall arrest device would create a greater hazard or would otherwise be infeasible.
    (1) When a safety line is used in conjunction with the main line, each line shall be provided with a separate anchor, and shall be separately fixed to the employee's harness. This shall not prohibit both lines from being attached to a single harness attachment point.

    Note that Cal-OSHA does not require a rear attachment for belay and is ok with hooking main and belay to the same harness location. Kind of hard to believe that kind of sense coming from a governmental agency. Thanks to SPRAT (Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians) for their continued input to OSHA and bringing some sense into what we do.

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