Over one century ago, a group of workers fought epochs of erosion with 44-pound jackhammers and dynamite. Their job: to free loose rock from the walls of the canyon that would go on to become the Hoover Dam. This crew, the “high-scalers,” completed their onerous tasks while suspended by body belts. While the core concept of this fall arrest system has remained relatively unchanged, the technology has expanded substantially, with the full body harness (FBH), as addressed in ANSI/ASSP Z359.11-2021: Safety Requirements For Full Body Harnesses better protecting workers.
If you’d like to see the Hoover Dam “high-scalers” in action, watch the video below. If you need the full body harness standard, ANSI/ASSP Z359.11-2021: Safety Requirements For Full Body Harnesses is available on the ANSI Webstore.
From the Body Belt to the Full Body Harness
The fall arrest systems utilized by the high-scalers began as a rarity. No laws required the body belt, and it did not find much usage in work sites. However, it soon took off and remained the most common means of fall arrest throughout the 20th Century.
Unfortunately, body belts were teeming with hazards. The worker had to fall in a particular way just not to slip out of the belt or avoid injury to the spleen, liver, and spine. These issues drove OSHA to prohibit body belts in 1998 as a means of personal protective equipment (PPE) for fall prevention.
Around this time, the full body harness displaced body belts. First emerging in the 1940s, this technology drew inspiration from military parachuting equipment. Even in its early days, the advantages of the full body harness was clear: by better distributing forces throughout the body during a fall, the FBH did not inflict damage onto the user.
Over the years, a widened material selection encouraged further advancement of the full body harness, and, in 1992, the first edition of ANSI/ASSP Z359.1 was published, becoming one of the first standards in North America to require the full body harness in a fall arrest system. Ever since, the designs continue to evolve, running in tandem with improvements to ANSI/ASSP Z359 standards for fall prevention solutions.
About ANSI/ASSP Z359.11-2021
Since harnesses serve multifarious work environments, ANSI/ASSP Z359.11-2021 finds usage by a vast range of professionals. Overall, it applies to full body harnesses in occupations requiring personal protection against falls from heights. If required, the standard allows for specialized functions of travel restraint, positioning, and/or rescue.
With this, ANSI/ASSP Z359.11-2021 adherents include manufacturers, distributors, purchasers, and users of FBHs, along with relevant testing, certifying, and regulating bodies.
The American National Standard covers requirements for the performance, design, marking, qualification, instruction, training, test methods, inspection, use, maintenance, and removal from service of full body harnesses. ANSI/ASSP Z359.11-2021 also depicts a multitude of full body harness components through figures found in its text.
This standard applies only to FBHs and auxiliary equipment designed for use as part of the full body harness. The full body harnesses covered by ANSI/ASSP Z359.11-2021 are for users within the capacity range of 130 to 310 lbs. (59 to 140 kg).
ANSI/ASSP Z359.11-2021 revises the previous edition of the same American National Standard for full body harnesses, ANSI/ASSE Z359.11-2014. The update of ASSE to ASSP in the designation is due to the American Society of Safety Engineers changing its name to the American Society of Safety Professionals in 2018.
ANSI/ASSP Z359 Standards
The standard for full body harnesses complements the various other documents in the ANSI/ASSP Z359 series of fall protection and fall restraint standards. These other American National Standards are listed below (please note that some might also be known with ASSE in their designations, as they were last revised prior to 2018):
ANSI/ASSP Z359.2-2023: Minimum Requirements For A Comprehensive Managed Fall Protection Program (Learn more in our post ANSI/ASSE Z359.2-2017 – Minimum Requirements for a Comprehensive Managed Fall Protection Program)
You can acquire these standards, along with some other relevant documents, at a 50% discount as the ANSI/ASSE Z359 Fall Protection and Arrest Standards Package.