Harnessing the future: ZT Safety Systems aims to minimise harness trauma

By Maria Hadlow09 August 2011

Because the harness is part of the user’s work wear, it can be worn comfortably all day.

Because the harness is part of the user’s work wear, it can be worn comfortably all day.

ZT Safety Systems was the winner of the Contribution to Safety Category at this year's IAPAs (International Awards for Powered Access) with its innovative new harness.

Gordon Leicester the founder and owner of UK aerial rental company Facelift had been mulling over ideas to improve fall restraint harnesses for some time when he finally had his Eureka moment.

Suffering from a painful neck - he took a muscle relaxant on a long haul plane journey to help him sleep and when he awoke had formed the concept for an entirely new type of harness.

The problems he was trying to overcome were many-fold from the seemingly trivial to life threatening.

On the serious side, a fall from height of just 2m wearing a conventional harness attached to a lanyard can cause serious injury and even death due to the abrupt stop.

Severe whip lash could break your neck, internal organs are damaged - in some case prolepses can occur - and, if you survive that, blood supply can begin to be cut off.

If you are not brought to the ground relatively quickly - in perhaps as little as 20 minutes you may lose consciousness and again - die.

On a seemingly more trivial note many operatives who are in and out of truck cabs between working a height do not want to be getting in and out of a harness all day and yet do not want to wear it permanently because it is uncomfortable.

The result can be that they don't wear the harness at all putting them self at risk.

Mr Leicester's ZT harness uses the body's natural spring to arrest fall but not with a sudden stop. The harness consists of a conventional looking harness which supports the upper body but, through an alternate thick/thin webbing system, the load bearing pressure is directed to leg gators which grip the calfs.

The webbing and gators are sewn into a pair of trousers - although the trouser fabric contributes nothing to the strength of the harness, it is just a carrier for the webbing.

In the event of a fall, force is immediately directed through the gator, gripping the calf and allowing the body to act like a spring or shock absorber..

Testing carried out at the Millbrook vehicle testing centre in Milton Keynes, UK - which uses sophisticated crash test dummies equipped with load sensors and high speed cameras - showed astonishing results.

ZT Safety System harnesses were compared with conventional front supporting and rear supporting harnesses. Permanent damage from whiplash is said to occur when forces of 37N/s is applied to the neck: conventional harnesses recorded forces of up to 90N/s.

The force on the groin was 1.2t - now that's going to hurt! - compared to nothing on the ZT system due to the calf grip design.

Interest in the ZT harness is high and ZT Safety Systems is getting a lot of evaluation models out into the market. The harness can be sewn into any type of work or uniform trouser in as light of heavy material as the customer requires.

Once the operator has his or her work wear on, there is no need to consider the harness - you are always wearing it.

The harness and trousers are machine washable and come with a lanyard bag which doubles as a protective wash bag to prevent the metal elements damaging your washing machine.

Mr Leicester and his partner in ZT, Steve Morris have sourced all the components in the UK and will assemble at the factory near Brighton, Sussex.

Mr Leicester said, "There are between 4 and 10 million harnesses purchased every year - to have just 5% of that market would be great. But the important thing is that this harness will save peoples lives."

Generously, part of the annual profit from the new harness will be donated to the Lighthouse Club, a charitable UK organisation which helps people injured in the construction industry.

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