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Everything You Need to Know About the Unsafe Harnesses on Sale Online

We’ve spotted a worrying development around The Castle lately. Our duty managers have spotted a new harness appearing on our climbers, which are currently on sale through websites like Amazon and claim to be proper climbing harnesses. Unfortunately, they are not.
At first glance these may look like a normal harness to the untrained eye. And they seem fantastic value – only £20 instead of the regular £65 and up for a quality harness. But look a little closer and you’ll see they’re not cut out for the job. Like so many things, the deal that seems to good to be true, is.
Unfortunately, whilst these knockoffs may look the part at first, the low-quality stitching and unpadded seatbelt like materials are simply not cut out for the job. As our Centre Manager Lisa said, “I could knock that up on a sewing machine in my living room – it’s not going to save your life.” 
There are other giveaways too. Legally, all Personal Protection Equipment (which includes harnesses) must be tested to prove it is compliant with safety regulations. Only products which pass the rigorous testing process are legally on sale. Each legally compliant product comes with two labels: one CE number and one EN number, both of which are all clearly shown on the label to prove they’ve passed this test. For harnesses, look out for the EN number EN12277 on the label. The CE number varies depending on the manufacturer but will always start with CE followed by four numbers (i.e. CE0082). If it only has a CE number and no EN number, it’s not designed for climbing. 

Fake Label:

On this example, the standard of English is poor, and the all-important EN number is missing. 

Real Labels:

On a compliant harness, such as this one from Black Diamond, you can clearly see both the CE and the EN number on the label.

We appreciate quality climbing gear is expensive – but it is designed to save your life. You’re not paying for a brand name or the latest model, but for high quality materials that are strong enough not to break if you fall, or despite normal wear and tear. These harnesses are non-compliant, which means they lack the proper safety features to do the job a harness is meant to do. The Association of British Climbing Walls has encouraged climbers to “Check your colleagues, friends and strangers – let’s keep each other safe!”

Five Ways to Ensure Your Harness is Safe

1. Purchase it from a reputable source. Buying things online is always risky when it comes to health and safety gear. If you can, buy in person so you can try your equipment first, making sure your harness fits you properly and is comfortable – and in a specialist climbing store, you’ll have a knowledgeable second pair of eyes to check your harness fits correctly. There are plenty of reputable climbing gear sellers in London, including our own shop, where you can try on harnesses using our hanging test point to simulate what it’s actually like on the wall. This isn’t a sales pitch from us: if you don’t buy from us, we’d still rather you bought from a rival shop that is selling quality tested gear than unsafe kit. Don’t risk your life for the sake of a cheaper bill. 
2. Buy a brand you recognise. Popular and reputable brands for harnesses include Edelrid, Black Diamond, Petzl, Mammut, DMM and Arc’teryx. 
3. Consider reading up on harnesses on climbing-specific websites like UKC so you know what you’re looking for. They publish regular gear reviews of the newest gear, and will spread the word of any gear recalls of faulty goods. 
4. Check the label. If you’re unsure, always check for the following EN number on your harness: EN12277. This is a legal requirement that shows your gear is compliant with EU safety regulations. If it doesn’t have the right EN number and a CE number, it’s probably unsafe. 
5. Ask! If you have gear you’re not sure about, or just want to be certain, please come ask one of the Castle Staff. If we see anyone wearing unsafe harnesses, we WILL stop you climbing in them for your own safety. We already have a small collection of these harnesses in our office. 

New: Not Just Harnesses

**Added 18th June 2018**

Following on from this, UKClimbing have just published a similar article to this one - but not just about harnesses. Their investigations confirm what we've heard from others in the industry that this trend for unsafe gear sold online is not just limited to harnesses, but is now extending to ropes and other PPE equipment as well. Please be aware when you're buying all and any equipment and check thoroughly if you're buying from a reputable seller. 

Read more on the UKC website.