Tree Stand Safety Harnesses Have a Limited Lifespan

Did you know the full-body safety harness you wear when you hunt from a tree stand has an expiration date?

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Due to federal regulations, all safety harnesses are stamped with a date identifying when the harness was made. And the effective service life is considered to be five years from that date, although some harness manufacturers say the life of a new, unopened harness is five years from the purchase date.

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Certified tree stand harnesses will all have a warning information tag similar to this one attached to some part of the harness.

“We’re making product now that won’t be on a store shelf until next year,” said Jerry Wydner, co-owner of Hunter Safety Systems, which makes harnesses and related gear for hunters. “It wouldn’t really be fair to take that year away from the customer.”

Certainly, a harness can exist in good working condition for more than five years. So what does the expiration date mean?

According to Wydner, all harnesses used for safety – whether it’s one used by a hunter in a tree stand, or by a utility lineman climbing telephone poles – are considered to have five-year life spans. That’s a standard set by most organizations that deal with safety equipment and safe working conditions, including OSHA, ASTM International, ANSI and TMA- the Treestand Manufacturers Association.

“That’s considered to be the normal, effective service life of that harness,” Wydner said. “Beyond that, you should retire the harness.”

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The warning information tag for this harness indicates it was built in June 2017. Its effective lifespan is five years from this date, or five years from the date of purchase – assuming it is purchased new and unused.

Essentially, manufacturers are saying their harnesses are capable of doing what they’re supposed to do for five years – assuming the harnesses are maintained properly and are regularly inspected to insure they remain in good condition.

“We don’t know what people are doing with these harnesses,” he said. “They could be exposing them to anything.”

So manufacturers are not saying a particular harness will definitely fail after five years. They’re just saying it shouldn’t fail within five years.

“If you have a $100 harness, and you keep it for 5 years, that’s $20 a year,” Wydner said. “That’s not a lot to pay for something that’s keeping you safe.”

Within the five-year service life, Wydner said any harness should be retired if the user notices damage or excessive wear, or if a fall occurs while the harness is being worn.