A UK-based trade association has announced a new competition to find the best new design for a fall harness sized for female workers. In its announcement, the International Powered Access Foundation called for a "radical re-examination of harnesses used by female operators of boom-type mobile elevating work platforms" (MEWPs).
"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 IPAF managing director Tim Whiteman. "However, women operators regularly complain that the design of traditional harnesses make them uncomfortable and could cause serious pain and damage to breast tissue in the event of a catapulting incident."
IPAF believes that operators of boom-type platforms should wear a full-body harness with an adjustable, short lanyard to prevent possible ejection from the basket in the case of an accident. For this reason, it is concerned by the complaints received from female MEWP operators and is determined to make the necessary Personal Protection Equipment comfortable and appropriate 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," said Whiteman.
Despite the discomfort, female operators should never operate boom-type platforms without a full-body harness. Full details of U.S. and UK industry recommendations are set out in IPAF Technical Guidance Note H1, available at the Publications section of www.ipaf.org
IPAF is inviting harness manufacturers to work with the federation to address the discomfort issues and to find a way to minimize the potential dangers of damage to female breast tissue caused by the placing of load-bearing straps vertically across the front of the chest area.
IPAF will award an IPAF Design Prize to the best solution. All entries must be received by March 15, 2010.
Fall harness sizing is a topic that has been studied for some time, according to Occupational Health & Safety E-News. The research includes 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, OHS reports. 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.