ROPES and Harnesses

When I first began painting as a career, I worked as an assistant to a "one-man painting contractor". He was a skilled craftsman, but his version of “Painter Safety” was to have me paint the high parts, while saying “just don’t fall”. When I ventured out on my own Painter Safety became a priority, especially when working on taller homes where a fall would likely cause injury or death.

The first piece of safety equipment I purchased was a 150’ Arborists Rope (7/16” diameter). A quality rope is one safety item that every painter should own and use. I have since added a complete Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS), which I add to and maintain on a regular basis.


A - Anchor

B - Body Harness

C - Connectors

It is as simple as ABC.

A - Anchors - “a secure point of attachment for lifelines, lanyards or deceleration devices.

B - Body Harness - “straps which may be secured about the employee in a manner that will distribute the fall arrest forces over at least the thighs, pelvis, waist, chest and shoulders with means for attaching it to other components of a personal fall arrest system.”

C - Connectors - “a device which is used to couple (connect) parts of the personal fall arrest system and positioning device systems together. It may be an independent component of the system, such as a carabiner, or it may be an integral component of part of the system (such as a buckle or dee-ring sewn into a body belt or body harness, or a snap-hook spliced or sewn to a lanyard or self-retracting lanyard).”

*Note - As a general rule, every part of your Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS) is expected to have a rating of 5,000lbs (22kN) or more.


All ropes should have the weight rating clearly listed in the seller's description, and it should also be affixed to the rope itself (preferably one with independent certification). Any rope that does not clearly label their weight rating and certification should be avoided.

A Rope 75-100’ long is a good length for most residential painting projects. Longer ropes are useful for taller homes, when you need to reach from the roof to the ground. Shorter lengths may be preferred in tighter or confined areas, when extra rope may create a tripping or slipping hazard.

7/16” (or 10-12mm) is a common diameter, and will work with many Fall Arrest Devices. It is important to verify that rope diameters are compatible with your particular Fall Arrest System.

A “Static Rope” ( rated above 5000 lbs breaking strength) should be used. A Static Rope is specifically made to not stretch when force is exerted upon it. Dynamic Ropes should be avoided; They are for climbing, and are not suited for use in this application.

*Note - Any knot added to a rope decreases it’s strength. For this reason, buying a rope that is rated for higher than 5000 lbs may sometimes be necessary. A sewn-eye rope is stronger than a rope that uses knots to affix to an anchor point, but it is not as versatile. For example: it does not allow the rope to be cut and healed, for use in smaller sections.
Rope Care and Inspection


Figure Eight Knot
*note- Rope shown is for illustration purposes only, not rated for use in a PFAS

Step 1: Start by taking a bight of rope - about arms length - and fold it in half.


Step 2: Pass rope around itself (as shown) and then back through the loop formed.


Step 3: Pull on both ends of the rope to snug the knot, straightening and fixing the knot as the rope tightens.

It is called a Figure Eight Knot, because of the way to looks.


Step 4: An Overhand Knot should be added to the extra rope (as shown). The Overhand Knot acts as a stop-knot, ensuring that the Figure Eight cannot come undone.


Step 5: This rope is now safe to connect to an approved roof anchor using a carabiner (as pictured).


If a roof anchor is not available (or cannot be installed), using the rope and carabiner in this manner will allow you to clip onto immovable objects like a tree, a car wheel, an i-beam, chimney chaise, etc...

*REMINDER - an anchor must be capable of withstanding 5000 lbs of force.
If you wrap the rope around an object, it may lower the rope's breaking strength requiring a stronger rope to be used, or consider adding a Tree Strap to your PFAS.


A Fall Arrest/Restraint Device is critical to protecting your safety, and the safety of your workers.
(Basically, this is the part that connects you to the rope.)

There are many Fall Arrest/Restraint Devices available, but they should be ANSI approved to be considered.
Kong Back-Up ANSI (pictured)

1. open the Cover (shown).
This is how it connects to the rope. The cover slides open, and the rope sits between the lever and the guide.


2. Close the cover (writing and arrow should be upright at all times when in use).
3. Attach Carabiner (as shown).

How it works: Once the cover is closed and the carabiner is attached, the rope cannot fall out, or slip out of alignment. The Fall Arrest Device slides up and down the rope easily while you are working, but if you apply any downward force on it, it cinches the rope slowing and stopping your movement (somewhat the way a seatbelt works).

IMPORTANT NOTE ! Once the Fall Arrest Device is installed on the rope, DO NOT touch it with your hands, as this can interfere with the function of the device.


A Shock Absorber (pictured above) connects with the carbiner on the Fall Arrest Device. The remaining carabiner connects to your harness.

A “Shock Absorber” should be used with your PFAS.

Static Ropes are designed have “no stretch”, which means that if a fall were to occur, none of the impact would be absorbed in the rope. A "shock absorber" is designed to open on impact, and stretch to absorb the fall.

For example: if a 220lb person fell 6’, the impact would be around 2500 lbs of force. It can reduce the same fall impact above to around 900 lbs of force.

(a short lanyard can be added between the shock absorber and the harness, but total length must not exceed 6'. I sometimes use a 30-48" Dynamic Lanyard instead of shock absorber when I want a longer leash for working.).

Harnesses must be "Full Body" (as pictured)
Harnesses must have a connecting ring on the upper back.

*Note - I prefer an additional connecting ring in front (pictured), called a Sternum connector. This is useful for situations when a back connection makes work difficult or creates dangerous working conditions, such as getting snagged.


Disclaimer: The author assumes no responsibility for your safety.
This article does not constitute training, or take the place of proper instruction. You are responsible for knowing and understanding all elements of your PFAS before using. Do not attempt to use any safety equipment without a complete understanding of what they are and how they operate.