IPAF Opens Competition for Best Women's Fall Harness Design

A trade association based in the United Kingdom announced the start of a new competition on Friday to find the best new design for a fall harness sized for female workers. In its announcement, the International Powered Access Foundation said a "radical re-examination of harnesses used by female operators of boom-type mobile elevating work platforms" is needed.

"Research suggests that MEWPs are increasingly used by women, particularly in the non-construction sector, which now accounts for more than 40 percent of European MEWP rental activity," said Tim Whiteman, IPAF's managing director. "However, women operators regularly complain that the design of traditional harnesses make[s] them uncomfortable and could cause serious pain and damage to breast tissue in the event of a catapulting incident."

IPAF recommends that operators of such platforms wear full-body harnesses and a short adjustable lanyard to prevent possible ejection from the basket. The group's announcement said IPAF is determined to make the needed PPE both comfortable and affordable for women.

"Harnesses should be designed to be as comfortable as possible for all users. MEWPs are the safest way to perform temporary work at height, but without appropriate harnesses, women expose themselves to unnecessary risk," Whiteman said.

Fall harness sizing is a topic that has been studied for some time, including in a study of 108 men and 108 women that was reported in a paper published in June 2007 in Human Factors, a journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. The authors -- human factors/ergonomics researchers from NIOSH, Total Contact Inc., and the University of Michigan -- concluded at least 24 percent of men and 31 percent of women would not be able to find a well-fitting harness. They recommended an alternative model that successfully classified 96-100 percent of tested participants to their best fit size for two harness types.

Some companies already make fall harnesses sized for women. Norguard Industries Inc. of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, introduced its first line of harnesses and lanyards for women on April 16. The new Go Pro-Girl™ line's products are CSA certified and meet the ANSI standard; based on patterns modified to accommodate body structure, they are available in an exclusive shade of pink, the company said.

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