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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

Full-body fall protection harnesses are designed with a variety of D-ring configurations. It is the location of the employed D-ring that determines the fall protection applications the harness can be used in (provided that the equipment manufacturer also approves use in the application), so it is important to select a harness suitable for your particular job.

All full body harnesses are required to be designed with a dorsal (back) D-ring, however D-rings may also be present at the shoulders, hips/side, and sternum (chest). There are other potential D-ring locations, but for our purposes we are going to focus on the big four: dorsal, sternum, side, and shoulder.

The Big Four - Harness D-Rings

Here’s a quick overview of the permitted fall protection applications based on harness D-ring:

Dorsal D-ring

Suitable for use in Fall Arrest (maximum 12’ free fall, if used with extended free fall lanyard), Restraint, and Rescue/Retrieval applications.

Sternal D-ring.

Suitable for use in Fall Arrest (maximum 2’ free fall), Restraint, and Rescue/Retrieval applications.

Side D-rings

Suitable for use in Work Positioning (used as pair) and Restraint.

Shoulder D-rings

Suitable for use in Work Positioning (used as pair), Rescue/Retrieval (used as pair), and Restraint applications.

The Big Four - Harness D-Rings

And just in case you need a refresher on what exactly each fall protection application entails, here’s a brief recap just for you:

Fall Arrest

The risk exists for the worker to fall over the edge of the hazard. The Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS) must incorporate a shock absorber rated for sufficient free fall.


The worker is prevented from accessing the edge of the hazard by the specific configuration of the PFAS. No shock absorber is required because the worker is not at risk of falling.

Work Positioning

The minimum required anchor breaking strength for certified/engineered anchors. This number is representative of the anchor achieving the required 2:1 strength ratio required by OSHA and ANSI.


A worker is still at risk even after their fall is arrested, since prolonged suspension can result in significant injury. It is necessary to recover a fallen worker promptly, and to do so it is typically necessary to connect rescue equipment to the harness of the fallen worker to raise or lower them to a safe area.

When selecting equipment, it is essential to always use a harness with a D-ring configuration suitable for the work being done. Consult with your Competent Person if unsure of what fall protection applications you will be working in. Guardian is also always here to help you answer any fall protection applications you may have.