When I began my construction career in the early 90s jobsite safety was a priority and I was taught to use nail guns and saws safely. I remember being trained how to use an extension ladder, to always be aware of what was going on around me, and a hundred other things that related to safety. That being said, I don’t remember learning to use personal fall protection equipment.
Over the years that changed; the rules regarding the use of fall protection became stricter, I began to supervise construction projects with volunteers who do not work in the trades, and as I got older I became aware of how quickly life can change for the worse. In the last few years I’ve read a lot about fall protection and OSHA, and taken an OSHA 10 class. For all of those reasons I became more safety conscious and now use personal fall arrest gear as necessary.
About a year ago I contacted a few manufacturers about trying out some of their harnesses. The ones we had in the truck were past their prime and it was time to see what was new and review them for guys who need to buy the equipment. There were too many models to test them all so we tested two or more models (basic and deluxe) from the companies that agreed to send product.
Here’s what we learned about Capital Safety’s DBI Sala Exofit Nex, Protecta Pro Vest Style Harness, and DBI Sala Delta Vest Style Harness. Click the links immediately below for information on the other brands tested.
Super Anchor (Deluxe Tool Bag Harness and the Max Harness)
Werner (LiteFit; Blue Armor 1000; Blue Armor 2000)
DBI Sala Delta Vest Style Harness
This rig looks pretty basic but there are a lot of features packed into it. The rear D-ring is spring-loaded (to make it point up) to make it easier to clip a lanyard to and the webbing is water repellant with rig stitch indicators and DBI Sala’s I-Safe identification tag (RFID). I like the tongue in loop leg straps because they make it easy to put the harness on and take it off—even when I’m wearing gloves.
What I don’t like about the Delta Vest Style Harness is that the vertical torso straps are adjusted by using a “Revolver” mechanism. Twist one way to tighten the straps and the other to loosen. They work fine, but are a problem for me because I need to wear a nail bags over the harness—and the bags make the Revolvers rub. I like everything else about this harness and if I did not need to wear nail bags I’d be happy to wear it every day. The Vest Style Harness is available in sizes from X-small to 3X-large and retails for about $100.
Protecta Pro Vest Style Harness
I like simple harnesses and this is a very simple harness. The “pass through” buckles on the straps (chest and legs) are very low profile and easy to connect and disconnect. The Pro Vest Style Harness weighs very little because there are no bells and whistles. The Pro Vest Style harness is available small to 2x-large and retails (online) for about $50.
ExoFit Nex Vest Style Harness
The ExoFit Nex is the most feature rich of all the harnesses we’ve tried. The shoulder and leg straps are extremely well padded. The shoulder pads have a protective covering so the straps don’t wear if you carry things on your shoulders. The leg straps are adjusted using quick connect buckles that can be locked so that they cannot come undone. The same style buckle connects the chest strap too. The rear D ring is spring loaded to that it points “up” toward the head. This makes it easier to click in your life line, especially if you aren’t very flexible. The torso straps have “revolver” style adjusters where you twist the knurled knob to lengthen or shorten the strap and then it locks that in place.
The webbing is water repellant and the shoulder pad has straps to store the hook on certain styles of lanyards. Next to this is a pocket to carry an ID card or other small items. This harness also has some reflective fabric here and there. One other feature this rig has built is on both hips you have trauma straps, foot straps that store in zippered pouches on either side of the belt. If you fall and are dangling you can unfurl the straps and take some of the pressure off the leg straps—which can be uncomfortable and cut off circulation when you are dangling.
To help keep track of inspections, this rig is fit with an RFID device so that inspections, assignments (ie who has what harness) and inventory can be done on a computer saving time. With all of these features and a hefty price tag (about $360) is this a harness worth buying for the average construction worker? One guy on my crew really liked this rig and felt it was very comfortable. In addition I loaned one out to a female friend of my mine who wore it roofing. She had some complaints that matched my own.
I didn’t really care for this harness. I found that the fit was comfortable, but I didn’t like the trauma strap location when I put on my nail bags. Additionally the way the straps come together at my hips would chafe under the pressure of my nail bags. I didn’t like the extra pockets on the shoulder straps. Overall this rig felt big and obtrusive. I appreciate all the features, but in my opinion in order for a harness to be worn, it needs to be nearly invisible in use or guys will just get bugged and not want to wear them. I would not suggest buying this rig if you plan to wear tool bags over it.