OHS Code Explanation Guide

Published Date: July 01, 2009
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Part 39 Tree Care Operations

Section 795 Harness standards

Sit harness

Historically, the tree care industry has relied upon the sit harness or “climbing saddle” as it is known within the industry, as the piece of safety equipment that supports a worker while he or she works at height. A saddle consists of a waist belt with two wide leg loops, and sometimes a support strap that passes under the buttocks. Unlike a full body harness, a saddle does not have any shoulder straps.

Virtually all saddles in North America have been built to the requirements of ANSI Standard A10.14-1991, Requirements for Safety Belts, Harnesses, Lanyards and Lifelines for Construction and Demolition Use. Although the Standard has been withdrawn by ANSI, its use has set the precedent of what is acceptable for worker protection in work positioning systems during tree care activities. The Standard has also set the basic design requirements of the safety harnesses. Based on this precedent, the OHS Code allows the use of sit harnesses or saddles in work positioning systems during tree care activities for which it is not reasonably practicable to use traditional fall protection equipment. To be acceptable, the sit harness or saddle must be approved to one of the standards listed in subsection 795(1).

Full body harness

In some cases, workers may choose to use a full body harness rather than a sit harness. Many models of full body harness have the waist belt and leg straps of a sit harness, plus shoulder and chest straps. As a result, a full body harness provides protection that is equal to and often better than that offered by a sit harness or saddle. While the minimum requirement is for an approved sit harness, a worker can use a full body harness and is encouraged to do so. To be acceptable, the full body harness must be approved to one of the listed standards for full body harnesses.

Experience in the province of Quebec suggests that full body harnesses with the appropriate design features can be used during tree care activities. Alberta Human Services will monitor the Quebec program and initiatives elsewhere in North America that would eventually result in the tree care industry moving towards full body harnesses for all tree climbing activities.


Only sit harnesses and full body harnesses approved to one of the listed standards are acceptable. For compliance purposes, the harness must bear the mark or label of a nationally accredited testing organization such as CSA, UL, SEI, etc. as evidence that the harness meets the requirements of the listed standard. Without this mark or label, the harness is unacceptable even if the manufacturer’s label and product literature states that the harness complies with one of the referenced standards.

Subsection 795(1)(a)

NFPA Standard 1983, Standard on Fire Service Life Safety Rope and System Components, 2006 edition, specifies minimum design, performance, testing, and certification requirements for new life safety rope and new system components including escape rope, water rescue throwlines, life safety harnesses, belts, and auxiliary equipment used for rescue and training by the fire service or similar emergency service organizations.

The Standard defines a Class II life safety harness as a harness that fastens around the waist and around the thighs or under the buttocks and is designed for rescue with a design load of 2.67 kilonewtons (600 pounds-force). This is a sit harness or saddle.

A Class III life safety harness fastens around the waist, around the thighs or under the buttocks, and over the shoulders. The harness is designed for rescue with a design load of 2.67 kilonewtons (600 pounds-force). This is a full body harness.

Subsection 795(1)(b)

EN Standard 813:1997, Personal protective equipment for prevention of falls from a height – Sit harnesses, specifies requirements, testing, marking and instructions for use of sit harnesses for use in work positioning and restraint systems where a low point of attachment is required. The Standard states that sit harnesses are not suitable for fall arrest purposes.

A sit harness is defined as an arrangement of straps, fittings and buckles or other elements in the form of a waist belt with a low attachment element and connecting support encircling each leg suitably arranged to support the body of a conscious person in a sitting position. Sit harnesses may be fitted with shoulder straps and/or may be incorporated into a garment.

Subsection 795(1)(c)

CSA Standard CAN/CSA-Z259.10-06, Full Body Harnesses, covers full body harnesses for use as body supports in personal fall arrest systems and in other work situations that involve the risk of falling. The Standard does not stipulate designs for full body harnesses, except insofar as design limitations are necessary to help ensure safe and durable service. The Standard does not include harnesses for use by firefighters or for use in recreational situations such as mountaineering.

Subsection 795(1)(d)

ANSI Standard Z359.1-2007, Safety Requirements for Personal Fall Arrest Systems, Subsystems and Components, specifies requirements for the performance, design, marking, qualifications, instructions, training, inspection, use, maintenance and removal from service of connectors, full body harnesses, lanyards, energy absorbers, anchorage connectors, fall arresters, vertical lifelines, and self-retracting lanyards comprising personal fall arrest systems for users within the capacity range of 59 to 140 kilograms (130 to 310 pounds). In terms of harness types, the Standard only specifies requirements for full body harnesses.

Subsection 795(1)(e)

EN Standard 361: 2007, Personal protective equipment against falls from a height – Full body harnesses, specifies the requirements, test methods, marking, information supplied by the manufacturer and packaging for full body harnesses. Other types of body support, specified in other European Standards e.g. EN358, EN813 or EN1497, may be incorporated into the full body harness.

The full body harness may comprise straps, fittings, buckles or other elements, suitably arranged and assembled to support the whole body of a person and to restrain the wearer during a fall and after the arrest of a fall.

Subsection 795(2)

The requirement that a harness be approved to one of the listed standards does not apply to sit harnesses and full body harnesses in use in tree care activities prior to April 30, 2004, the effective date of the first edition of the OHS Code.