It is rare to see any major innovation in in the area of working at heights, particularly in relation to fall protection harnesses. Yet coming soon to the Australian and New Zealand markets, via the Galahad Group, is the ZT Safety Harness, a fall arrest harness without a groin strap.
The ZT Safety Harness has been designed to eliminate the potential for suspension trauma which can result from being suspended for some time in a traditional harnesses. A video is perhaps the best way to understand this harness which, in the absence of the groin strap, is integrated into a pair of work trousers or coveralls with webbing extending down the leg of the trousers to gaiters on the lower calf. This configuration provides for a suspended worker to be in a seated position with the shock from the fall being distributed more evenly along the body.
There are advantages other than the elimination of suspension trauma. Groin straps in harnesses can be uncomfortable and this discomfort can deter people from using harnesses. If the ZT safety harness encourages the wearing of personal protective equipment, this is a big positive.
The ZT trousers are standard Dickies-brand work trousers reinforced with webbing on the waistband and with the gaiters in the trouser leg. Work clothes on construction and building sites are easily torn so replacement cost may be a consideration, if the trousers cannot be repaired or patched. However the condition of the pants is unlikely to affect the harness structure so functionality should be maintained.
The process for washing the gear may need some explanation (an a brochure is available on this process, but not online). Standard machine washing is the way to go and the company provides a special pouch for some of the metal components of the harness.
The function of the gaiters is difficult to understand without seeing them. I initially thought the gaiters may tighten around the calf and impede the ankle-high safety boots that many construction workers are required to wear but the gaiter is loose and only comes into play during a fall.
In some ways the optional harness coveralls may be a more attractive option as this allows for regular clothing underneath. However, as with many other safety products from Europe such as cut-resistant clothing for instance, their suitability for the hot climate of Australia can be dubious. As workwear in Australia increasingly becomes lightweight and has ventilation designed into the clothing, some of the European products need to look at hot weather fabrics and appropriate designs.
The ZT Safety Harness shows a new perspective on safety harnesses for the Australian and New Zealand markets which is not just a new buckle or different lanyard. The removal of the groin strap is a good move resulting in an alternative approach with the design of the trousers and coveralls. The products are still not ready for retailing here yet but, when available, should be checked by those who work at heights. There is merit in the concept but only those who may need to work in this PPE can truly assess the practicality.