We previously reviewed the new 2016 PETZL NEWTON – a basic (but not so basic) – fall arrest harness. But the second piece of equipment in PETZL’s long awaited fall arrest line is the PETZL VOLT (and the PETZL VOLT WIND, but this review does not cover the VOLT WIND). Without question the VOLT is a real triumph in fall arrest and work positioning design (especially for Tower Climbers, who we highly recommend this harness for).
But, before we give you our review, it is important to preface this harness with some safety context.
As we previously stated in our review of the NEWTON, these harnesses first and foremost exist to support an on-site Fall Protection Plan.
Because the VOLT will best serve the Tower Climbing industry, it’s always important to remember that Tower Climbing was once thought to be the “Most Dangerous Job in America” and for good reason. Free climbing once dominated industry practice and tying off typically only occurred once a climber reached their precise work area on a tower. Because it was often thought to be too much work to tie-off at all times and harnesses were originally designed to simply carry tools or secure a worker at one exact point, numbers starting speaking directly to poor safety practices: workers were fatally falling, towers were ill-equipped, safety procedures were not being followed, and arguably, fall arrest gear was lacking in adequate design.
Since 2009 there have been real industry efforts to improve on safety across the board and alongside this push, safety procedures, towers and fall protection equipment have seen real design improvement- most notably with the installment of a safety climb device or a steel cable that now runs from the bottom to the top of a tower, which allows climbers to be tied-off and connected 100% of the time. Although there are still towers that exist without this mechanism, generally speaking, things have improved greatly (Please see this article by Allen Powell for more detail).
The PETZL VOLT is a true symbol that the best equipment manufacturers globally are expanding their design departments to think about the best technology possible for ALL
at-height vocations with a total dedication to safety and ease of use.
This PETZL video below highlights these innovations in the VOLT. So, please have a look if you haven’t yet!
First off, it is interesting to note that the VOLT, for Petzl, is aimed to replace the ergonomics of the PETZL PADFAST accessory, which is very shortly going to be discontinued. The NEWTON+PADFAST combination is replaced wholly by the VOLT harness design. So, if you have been using the PADFAST, know that it is quickly on its way to the PETZL boneyard.
Next, the Pacific Ropes Trainer and I thought immediately, “Why aren’t Rope Access harnesses built more like this?” The immediate physical experience you have with this harness is related to its light weight. In comparison to PETZL Professional Rope Access harnesses, the VOLT is comfortably light in weight. So, congratulations design team at PETZL (could this possibly be the start of a rethinking of the AVAO?)!
Again, just like the NEWTON, PETZL has introduced 2 points of attachment on either side of the upper sternum (fall arrest lanyard connector holders) to ensure that if you are using a PETZL Absorbica lanyard, for instance, the force of a fall will be pre-negated to ensure you fall “properly” and your shock pack deploys according to its technical specs. This is one feature you won’t see on a typical Fall Arrest harness and by far these plastic attachment points are an incredibly cool design feature on the VOLT.
In line with this clever fall arrest feature, PETZL has ensured that the ventral attachment or ladder climb attachment is built for comfortable movement on a rail, cable, and a fall arrest trolley, and in the event of a potential fall, the ventral attachment points break in such a way that you fall into a sternal position to ensure your body remains upright and not severely jilted. So, PETZL’s fall arrest stitching design is an incredible upgrade on harnesses that station you at a ventral attachment point only.
In terms of its ergonomic design, PETZL has made this harness incredibly comfortable to get in and out of. Instead of climbing in through stationed leg loops, this has a backpack or vest entry with subsequent automatic, adjustable clips to ensure you can easily and quickly get into the harness and have it form fitted to your body. This is truly a component of this harness’ “easy fit” character and the lumbar support is unmatched in this vest.
Tightening can occur at all the entry points and is done so with total slickness and ease. We noticed right away that tightening the VOLT is nice on all “corners” of the body: your armpits and most importantly, your special bits. So, the “easy fit” is a major pro to purchasing this harness and when you add the PETZL VOLT seat, it is like working in a lazy boy at height.
Other special mentions include the rear equipment loops which are designed to store your tools in a most unobtrusive way and the fall indicator points/labels are placed perfectly to ensure they are visible after a fall, which ensures the harness is retired from use immediately.
My personal favorite feature on the VOLT (aside from the fall arrest lanyard connector holders) is the apparent ventilation system integrated into the vest of this harness. Your back can breathe! This is a magical feature that on a hot day you will really appreciate along with the lightness of the harness in general.
So, there you have it folks!
Have you been to our Equipment Shop yet? You can get your own PETZL VOLT here.