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Safety Harness for Painting

etherhuffer's picture

I am painting my home, which in some areas is two story. I am getting old and creeped out about falling. I think I would like to get a safety harness for when I am up high on the ladder. The local store says I need 5/8 rope for the safety line. Question is, what is best way to anchor this? I have a big thick cedar fascia board for a torchdown gutter that I could put an eyebolt with backing washer and nut through. I could toss a rope over the roof to a tree or similar. How do I do this without being an idiot?

Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities- Voltaire


(post #72780, reply #1 of 20)

Sub it out to a painter. REALLY. Do that.

Spheramid Enterprises Architectural Woodworks

There is no cure for stupid. R. White.  

(post #72780, reply #2 of 20)

I'd be leery about putting an eye through the fascia, no matter how solid it looks. most jurisdictions require minimum anchor strengths of 5000 pounds. even with a good fall arrest system with a shock absorber, peak forces from a fall can approach 1000 pounds.

there are a number of options designed for roofers, which are engineered such that, if installed according to the instructions, they will support the load. i realise that you probably aren't keen to make holes in your roof, but some are installed with nails requiring ony 1 shingle be lifted.

if you're going to throw a rope over the roof, the obvious caution about ensuring no one can move the car once you tie the end off to the chassis would apply. i know of someone this happened to: his wife went for groceries, and only stopped when she heard him bounce off of the oil tank after his quick trip up one side of the roof and down the other.

have you thought about renting a genie boom? some money, but saves time and a lot harder to fall off of. note: you'll probably still be required to wear a harness.

Amateurs talk strategy, Generals talk logistics.

Amateurs talk strategy, Generals talk logistics.

(post #72780, reply #4 of 20)

I roof. I just shelled out over 400 bucks for my harness. The anchorage IS NOT nailed under a shingle, it has 3" screws , eight to be exact, #12. They HAVE to be into a rafter or ridge , acc. to OSHA.

Boom lift? Yup, we have one. Gotta be strapped to the basket.

I don't follow to the letter of the law , but this guy sounds as if he is iffy at best, and that is what kills ya...being scared is good, it is called preservation of life.

I picture a man tied off improperly, leaving the ladder and SPLAT! into the wall, before he ever hits the ground.

He needs to get a painter.

Spheramid Enterprises Architectural Woodworks

There is no cure for stupid. R. White.  

(post #72780, reply #7 of 20)

Just had a guy in my area fall and die when ladder moved on 2 story wall he was painting. Believe he was 48 yrs. old

(post #72780, reply #8 of 20)

I trashed an ankle at home off the lower step of a 6' step ladder. Still, 6 mos or more later, I am limping.

I need to re read my tag line. And follow the unwritten advice.

Spheramid Enterprises Architectural Woodworks

There is no cure for stupid. R. White.  

(post #72780, reply #9 of 20)

Yeah, I have seen the broken hips and limbs. Just takes a second and a ladder ride and thats all it takes.  What I my do is the low sides myself and sub the high side. A day with the Porter Cable paint remover should give me an idea of whether this is a smart or dumb idea.

Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities- Voltaire


(post #72780, reply #11 of 20)

Unsure will kill you as much as overkill on safety. Follow my lead for a minute?

You get a harness , cheap is 100 bucks , roofer in a bucket it's called. You spend an inordinate amout of time=risk attaching said fall protection to what ever you tie off to. Strap on the harness, that takes a bit of dexterity that you should posess to begin with.

Now ya have a fall arrest rope/bungee and slide carabiner all wadded up around yer feet. a bucket of paint, a roller wand and wasp spray cans...just NOW you gatta pee, and take the walk down...I hate it.

Pick up the phone. Call a guy who subs to subs, buy the paint, tell him where and how it goes on, have a beer in the shade, and be glad you gave that guy the job so he can enjoy a beer in the shade when he gets home and tells his wife..

What a GREAT customer you were.

Or get hounded by the Dr.s and Radiologists for unpaid xrays and "treatment" you never got.

I do the job daily, it pays..but the bodily cost gets Richter scale as you get older, and some think I am nuts for keeping on  and keeping on...but living proof that we can still do it, ain't what it's cracked up to be. Pride and Ego, ain't worth a dime to the ER Docs.

Spheramid Enterprises Architectural Woodworks

There is no cure for stupid. R. White.  

(post #72780, reply #13 of 20)

Some anchors are screwed, some nailed. depends on the brand. i'm looking at miller's web site- says eight 16d nails. "...installed on a wood roof sub-surface or vertical wall"

OSHA definitely requires you to be tied off if you're in a lift on the job site. you, working on your own house, this may not be enforcable.

having said that, the purpose of safety systems is to make you safer, not to make you feel better. if you don't feel comfortable without the gear, that may be your body's way of telling you that you shouldn't be there. even with the gear, you won't be confident, and that may make you more likely to fall.

perhaps sub it out?

Amateurs talk strategy, Generals talk logistics.

Amateurs talk strategy, Generals talk logistics.

(post #72780, reply #14 of 20)

I love this site. And the advice is so good. John Walker, you are correct about hanging in a harness. The corollary at our home is this: Be safe, but don't do relatively risky stuff alone. When I go up roofside to clean gutters, I make sure the spouse is home. We have a low pitch on the roof but stuff happens. When I have the car on jack stands where they are supposed to be I still have someone around. Electrical work with the panel off and locked, I still have another person around. Accidents just can happen despite best precautions.

The advice about ladder outriggers is well taken. I took a ladder ride last summer from just midway up(ledge is was resting on LOOKED secure, was not) and luckily soft dirt below. Stuff just happens. I am scrapping the harness idea and doing the low and hiring the high. Thanks so much for the great advice all.

Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities- Voltaire


(post #72780, reply #3 of 20)

You know, I, would really like you to sit back, read your post, and think. If you are not physically able to paint your own house, sub it out. You sound like its a life or death situation. Live and learn. SUB IT OUT.

(post #72780, reply #5 of 20)

You've been given some excellent advice...if you still want to paint it yourself, rent some scaffolding. It is fairly cheap and very safe if you follow the recommendations.

I've also painted using an extension pole, with both a roller and a brush (check out Sherwin Williams for the tool that allows the use of a brush). I even used it to cut in against a ceiling of a different color than the wall. If I had not tried it, I would not have believed the amount of control possible.


(post #72780, reply #6 of 20)

Such Vociferous(But much appreciated) replys. I did the house once on a tall ladder, but that just seems less smart these days. I have seen the lift units. Our neighbors used one. I am in scrape and caulk mode on weekends and off hours. The best use of a lift is in one fell swoop.  A cynical note, most of the painters want to pressure wash and spray. I have failed paint over cedar that needs either stripping or power removal and start over. More than one painter has laughed at this. In other words, my own labor is actually worth it to get it done right. I suppose I could sub the ugly work and then rent the lift...........

Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities- Voltaire


(post #72780, reply #10 of 20)

If you fall with a harness on and their is no one around to get you down you could die.Scaffold is the best solution a harness is last resort.

Harness-Induced Death

Wide ranges of situations require safety harnesses of various types. Workers requiring fall protection, workers entering many confined spaces, mountain climbers, deer hunters in elevated stands, and cave explorers all try to protect themselves through the use of safety harnesses, belts, and seats. What is little known however, is that these harnesses can also kill. Harnesses can become deadly whenever a worker is suspended for duration over five minutes in an upright posture, with the legs relaxed straight beneath the body. This can occur in many different situations in industry. A carpenter working alone is caught in mid-fall by his safety harness, only to die 15 minutes later from suspension trauma. An electrical worker is lowered into a shaft after testing for toxic gases. He is lowered on a cable and is positioned at the right level to repair a junction box. After five minutes he is unconscious--but his buddies tending the line don't realize it, and 15 minutes later a dead body is hauled out. The cause of this problem is called "suspension trauma." Fall protection researchers have recognized this phenomenon for decades. Despite this, data have not been collected on the extent of the problem; most users of fall protection equipment, rescue personnel, and safety and health professionals remain unaware of the hazard.
Take care,
More info here

Edited 7/8/2006 8:40 pm by johnAwalker

(post #72780, reply #12 of 20)

Everyone addressed the harness issue so I won't.

Instead, I'll urge you to purchase outriggers for the top of your ladder. It will stabalize it and give you greater access to parts near the ladder to paint.

They are available at the big boxes, paint and ladder/ hardware stores.


Exasperate your vegetables until exhausted; disturb your chestnuts in milk until queasy, then disappoint.

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Flay your Suffolk bought-this-morning sole with organic hand-cracked pepper and blasted salt. Thrill each side for four minutes at torchmark haut. Interrogate a lemon. Embarrass any tough roots from the samphire. Then bamboozle till it's al dente with that certain je ne sais quoi.

Arabella Weir as Minty Marchmont - Posh Nosh

(post #72780, reply #15 of 20)

Take a course in rock climbing with aids. If you can complete the course and climb with aids in rock then you'll have enough background knowledge to tie into a fall arrest system and do it safely. If you can't do the course completely, then you should contract this project out to professional painter. Take this advice and at the very worst, you gain a little knowledge of climbing and you still get the house painted.

(post #72780, reply #16 of 20)


 Make your life simpler and much much safer.  Go to your local rental house and ask for a tow behind man lift.  These are neat little trailer vehicles with a boom large enough to get to just about any place on your house.  You park it near your house and then use the boom controls to move you around.. much, much, easier than than climbing up a ladder and only being able to paint several feet before you need to climb back down and move the ladder again..

  You probably can paint most one one side of your house before you lower it down and move it, it's so wonderfull to swing around with both feet firmly planted in a platform and moveing with a simple flick of a hand control..

   To tow it you'll need a pickup or a really heavy passenger car with a stout trailer hitch.  I don't understand why every painter in the world doesn't have one, some people just like doing stuff the hard way!


(post #72780, reply #17 of 20)

I could really use a man-lift. Been feelin low, need a picker upper------Hehehehehe. These are all good ideas. I think I have to find the rental rates to see if it makes sense. A guy down from us used a little self propelled lift. They are 4 feet so they can get up the sidewalks.

I went out today and did some butt scratching. I have about 40 long by 20 high of cedar lap that has failed. Even with a lift, I am looking at power paint removal or stripping, and this looks ugly. Its our south AND wet weather side of the house. One painter suggested Redi Strip. I tried a small area with this stuff. The results were not stellar. May have to bite the bullet and just pay big.

Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities- Voltaire


(post #72780, reply #18 of 20)

To my customers with a similar problem to yours...failed siding...I recommend Hardie panel or plank. Takes paint very well and it lasts a long time.

Doing some today in fact. Check it out. You could even buy it, paint it one the ground, then have it the guy who wants the beer ;>)

john [who is too old to be climbing ladders, but still does (the 43 is not my age)]

(post #72780, reply #19 of 20)

I love the stuff. Its close call on this. May be more labor to save the cedar than pull it off and use Hardie. I love the Hardie, put it on a shed and it looks grand. Install is not fun however.

Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities- Voltaire


(post #72780, reply #20 of 20)

When I did my roof, I first tried the cheap Miller harness.  Way too uncomfortable, so I shelled out for a nice Yates.  I used the 5/8" poly line with the rope grab, and I kept a second grab and strap shackled to the back of the harness.  I practiced using the two grabs with a foot in the strap of the second to sort of inch-worm my way up and down.  Never had to do it for real, but that was the self-rescue approach.  If I had to do it again, all I'd add would be to keep the cell phone with me. 

The issue with hanging for long times in a harness first arose with the construction of all the new towers for HDTV.  If you're conscious and able to shift your weight, you can avoid the problem. 

I looked into buying a boom lift or forklift and basket.  Way too expensive for me, either to own or rent long term.  But if you can do something as a one day job, like gutters, they're great.  



-- J.S.




-- J.S.