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Accessory Child Harnesses
Safety Concerns and Proper Usage

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#1 Detour

Posted 03 November 2009 - 06:27 AM

Original post added to by lucky 2/Moderator

The quote below is taken from the CREP website regarding use of an accessory child harness- Scroll down the FAQ's

Can I use an accessory child safety harness with a booster seat? -

A child safety harness is difficult to fit correctly. Research recommends using a child safety harness only in situations where it is not possible to replace your lap-only seatbelt with a lap-sash seatbelt. In this case, it is recommended to use a booster seat with an anti-submarining feature.
If you must use a child safety harness, ensure that the shoulder straps are not too tight and that the lap part of the seatbelt is very low across the thighs, otherwise it may ride up into the child's stomach area. Incorrect use of a child safety harness may cause severe submarining and direct contact between the harness system and the child's neck (see video below).
Remember, every child must be suitably restrained when travelling in a vehicle, unless you have and carry a current certificate signed by a medical practitioner exempting your child due to medical reasons.

end quote

The post below was written by member Detour, it has been pinned as it was found to be helpful to many members who were considering an accessory harness.
As EB cannot verify any of the information written, we suggest you refer to formal sources of information before making a final decision in regards to the use of an accessory harnesses.
Formal sources of information such as the CREP website.

Over the past few months, I have received lots of emails, PM's and posts regarding the use of accessory child harnesses in vehicles. It's quite clear that there is a lot of conflicting and out of date information out there, and as such, a lot of confusion. So I'm going to try to make some sense of it all, and hopefully help you make an informed choice when considering your options for travelling with your little ones.

By far the most common question I receive and see is "when should I use a child harness?" The only real answer to this question is - "when you have no other option".

Experts in their fields, Dr Julie Brown, Derek Wainohu, Peter Aquilina, Basuki Suratno, Dr Paul Kelly and Prof. Lynne E. Bilston recently co-published a report detailing the study of the effectiveness of child harnesses (http://www.sciencedi...001457509001766[/b]). They found that no benefit could be garnered from using a child harness in place of a vehicle lap sash seatbelt, and in most cases, their use actually creates a more potentially dangerous situation. To quote the report's conclusion;

...results from this study suggest that in frontal impact
at least, accessory child safety harness systems provide no better
protection than lap–shoulder belt systems. When accessory child
safety harness systems are misused the level of protection provided
is seriously degraded.

Why are accessory child harnesses a problem?

Child harnesses are very difficult to fit correctly. Coupled with this is the fact that they need to be re-fitted each and every time they are used. In a study performed by the Price of Wales Medical Research Institute, it was found that up to 100% of harnesses used with booster seats were fitted incorrectly.

Even if the harness is fitted correctly, the very design of the harness pulls the lap belt upwards, putting it in the extremely undesirable position across the child's abdominal soft tissue area. This is the most dangerous situation for a restrained child to be in. In the event of an frontal accident, the child would 'submarine' under the lap belt, and cause extremely serious internal injuries, and in some instances, death. For some seats which include clips or special anti-submarining designs, this effect is less apparent, but still does not produce any benefit over the use of a vehicle lap sash seatbelt.

So, as the above referenced report poses - why use a harness when they a) offer no benefit over using the vehicle lap sash belt, and b) significantly reduce the level of safety when fitted incorrectly (which is the vast majority of the time)? The simple answer is there is no reason.

So what is the current scientific community's view?

Many members of the industry are of the opinion that an accessory child harness should not be used with a booster seat unless the only available position in the rear of the vehicle has a lap-only belt. I also strongly recommend that an accessory child harness is not used without a booster, at all. I have researched this configuration, and it's quite disturbing. There is a possibility that their usage may be restricted in / removed from the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1754, which is currently being revised.

Posted Image
Accessory Child Harness with no booster seat - submarining.

Why are we told harnesses are the safe option?

There is a very real problem in the industry, where out of date, often misleading information is being provided to retailers and consumers. It is important to understand that retailers can only pass on information they have received. Manufacturers of harnesses are still marketing them as a safe option, for example, one leading booster seat currently on the market includes literature stating a child harness should be used "to improve the child's safety, stability and comfort during travel". It is my personal opinion that this kind of marketing is completely profit-driven, and completely neglects the current data. In that regard, retailers cannot really be blamed for passing on 'incorrect' information.

What if I have to use a harness?

If you have to use one, that is, if you have 3 across the back and your middle seat has a lap-only belt, there are a few things you can do to increase the level of safety.
  • If you can, reconfigure the order or the restraints so that a capsule or carseat with in-built harness is using the middle seat.
  • If that is not an option, use the harness in conjunction with a booster seat. Try to get a booster that features a crotch-clip or anti-submarining design.
  • Ensure the lap belt is low on your child's pelvis each and every time you fit them.

If you have a vehicle lap sash seatbelt available, use it in preference to an accessory child harness.
The only time an accessory child harness should be used is when you have a child in a position in the vehicle where only a vehicle lap belt is available.
If retailers try to promote the use of accessory child harnesses to you, point them to this post, or send them a link to the report linked above.  

I hope this has made things a little clearer for people. If a mod would like to sticky this thread, that would be fantastic. I'm open to any discussion, fact checking or any other queries people have, but I can assure you the above is a true and accurate representation of the current understanding of the usage of accessory child harnesses.

Edited by lucky 2, 29 September 2014 - 12:06 AM.

#2 IsolaBella

Posted 03 November 2009 - 09:51 AM

Very nice summary of the situtation cool.gif

Link to research


Edited by lucky 2, 04 July 2013 - 09:36 AM.

#3 LittleDCJ

Posted 03 November 2009 - 09:51 AM

Thankyou, that was very informative.  

Can I just ask where your knowledge comes from and what your position is?  It's much easier to say 'X' from Y reviewed this rather than a 'random' EB member writing about it.

Edited by LittleDCJ, 03 November 2009 - 09:53 AM.

#4 Detour

Posted 03 November 2009 - 10:05 AM

I have worked in the child restraint industry for 10 years, and am involved in the development and testing of child restraints.

I'd like to note that I am brand-neutral, which I hope can be seen in my posts. I also haven't advertised my firm, as I am here without their knowledge or approval. I am simply trying to provide people with up to date information. You can also see in my posts that I provide source material for all of my claims and opinions where possible.

I am also a father, so I have a personal vested interest in improving our industry.

I don't want to deceive anyone here, so I am being as up front as I can be without jeopardizing myself or my employer. If my participation here is seen as, or becomes unethical, I welcome users and mods to call me on it and take necessary action.


Edited by Detour, 03 November 2009 - 10:07 AM.

#5 sebela

Posted 03 November 2009 - 12:32 PM

The issue for me is getting a child to actually stay in their restraint without a harness. I would never use a harness without a booster with good anti submarining prevention (preferably center clip and side arms) as it quite clearly isn't safe. But I have a child that is not yet 3.5 yrs and is 19kgs, intellectually I don't think she is ready to be trusted in a seat belt. As it happens I have decided to leave her in her 5 point harness seats until 20kgs, but 20kgs is looming as my kids grow like a weeds in summer and I have to figure out what to do next.

In a Hi-liner or MaxiriderII or Pegasus, all of which I own, or similar booster with a harness I can make sure it's properly fitted and too tight to escape. Using those boosters with a seat belt I just can't ensure she actually stays in it. Also boosters shaped like the maxi rider & pegasus are clearly designed purely with harness use in mind, if you use them with a seatbelt it has to come either over the top of the wings and cut into the neck or over the side of the wings and be a long way out from the body (and it seems very likely to move a lot in a crash).

I have started trialling her in the Hi-Liner with a seatbelt only on short trips where we are alone and she is the only child I have to watch in the mirror but honestly I don't think it's going to be a good solution. This is what you get for marrying a man that is 6'7".

#6 meegs2230

Posted 03 November 2009 - 03:47 PM

Appreciate this post, very informative.

Since you work in the industry what are your thoughts on the Infa Secure press-stud strap thing that stops my 2yo getting his arms out of the 5pt harness? Does it compromise safety? And is he almost to tall for this seat? If too big for seat, what seat would you do? 17kg, 2yo, 96cm.

#7 Detour

Posted 03 November 2009 - 04:01 PM

The belt wraps and products of their kind don't compromise the safety of the restraint. They're actually pretty handy for more active kids original.gif

As for the size and fit of the seat, your little one's shoulders should not be more than 25mm higher than the top shoulder harness slots. If he's past that point, you really should consider moving him into a booster seat. I've seen some boosters (whose names escape me right now) that expand both upwards and outwards (as in the width of the seat). Something like that may be worth looking at.

Most boosters are rated between 14kg and 26kg, so at 17kg your little fellow is well within the bracket.

Sebela - I have some ideas for you but I'm just running out the door. I'll post when I get home / tomorrow morning original.gif

#8 TheStick

Posted 03 November 2009 - 05:44 PM

Thank you so much for the time you have put into this very informative post.  I hope the mods will sticky it so That I don't have to keep pasting the link into future posts on this question!

#9 meegs2230

Posted 03 November 2009 - 08:10 PM

QUOTE (Detour @ 03/11/2009, 05:01 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Sebela - I have some ideas for you but I'm just running out the door. I'll post when I get home / tomorrow morning original.gif

Thanks for the tips. I will also be watching this re: response to Sebela... I would prefer a dedicated booster (like Hi Liner, Hipod Barcelona or Infa Vario Kid = top 3 in ratings) as to a convertible booster for same reasons, shape and how adult seat belt fits through them seems better as they don't have those wings and the height is adjustable. Perhaps this is why they scored higher than any convertible booster. Don't know if I would trust my 2yo in an adult seat belt but have never tried him in it. I'm sure most would say too young to trust him in it... anyone have any suggestions? Don't want H harness at all now.

#10 sebela

Posted 03 November 2009 - 08:21 PM

Just popping back in to add - although I have a Hi-Liner, Maxi-Rider and a pair of pegasus I am happy to buy a new seat (or multiple as the case may be, for the Grandparent cars *sigh*). However, it seems to me that while a H-harness might not offer any benefit in a crash, it wasn't actually worse when correctly fitted right? And presumably the dummy didn't climb out of it before the crash. Or lean over with their head on their knees before the crash. So presumably it may be better simply because it keeps the child completely within the restraint at all times....

Also a traditional Hstrap is also far easier to use and adjust than a protecta harness, I hated every minute I used our protecta harness and had already decided to find some other solution for #2 and #3 as I know I was the only one that actually made sure it was properly adjusted every single time I put DD1 in the car, given it was so fiddly and difficult to do. Even DH, who is quite good about these things, didn't get that every single time it was taken off it got skewed and would not even back out on it's own the way a standard one will.

Edited by sebela, 03 November 2009 - 08:22 PM.

#11 Detour

Posted 04 November 2009 - 06:20 AM

However, it seems to me that while a H-harness might not offer any benefit in a crash, it wasn't actually worse when correctly fitted right?

The issue with this is that at a rate of almost 100% of the time, they are fitted incorrectly. Even when fitted 'correctly', unless you have some sort of anti-submarining feature, they are still inherently dangerous.

There are a couple of things you could try with the seatbelt;

For the sash belt, something like the SafeFit Guide might help. I'd also be interested to know if you're using a locking clamp to lock off the lap belt. They basically make the lap belt much tighter, and it's the lap belt that actually does all the work in an accident (I could post some images of seatbelt vs harness tests I've done, which show almost no difference in forward movement of the child, if anyone's interested).

These are just a couple of ideas. Obviously you (and meegs) know if and when your child is too young to be trusted to stay in a seatbelt - if they're crawling out of it, then yes, it would probably prove safer to restrain them using other means, including a harness (or a straight jacket wink.gif).

Unfortunately you're both special cases, so it's kind of a grey area. To be completely honest with you, I haven't really thought about harnesses in terms of simply keeping the child in the restraint on a day to day basis (I guess because my little guy isn't at the seatbelt stage yet), so you've given me a bit to think about. If I manage to come up with anything that might be more helpful, you'll all be the first to know.

Edited by lucky 2, 04 July 2013 - 09:39 AM.
r/o inactive link

#12 ikeaqueen

Posted 04 November 2009 - 07:26 AM

Safe-fit = very poor fit of the seatbelt IMO, look how high up it is pulling the lap part over the childs stomach, it should be much, much lower.

A better option IMO is the Autosafe Seat Belt Height Adjuster.

Edited by lucky 2, 04 July 2013 - 09:40 AM.
r/o inactive link

#13 Detour

Posted 04 November 2009 - 08:01 AM

That height adjuster is very interesting. Thanks for the link.

#14 wilkosbaby

Posted 04 November 2009 - 09:35 AM

Great explanation Detour. Thanks for that. STICKY please MOD!!

I have sent it to some friends that are using HHarnesses on 5 year olds in boosters (and they are not being used correctly) so they can make thier own decisions to switch to lap/sash.

With regards to PP comments regarding use of lap sash in younger kids. There were some comments about how the Pegasus etc are clearly designed to be used with H Harness because the sash has to come all the way over the high side wings.  

I have a number of  Pegasus as second seats for my DD1 in g'parents cars etc, and there is a little plastic clip that somes with them to be used to hold the sash in place. You thread it through where the shoulder slots come  out and I find it keeps the strap in the right position so that it doesn't rub their neck. The seat belt fit then is secure.

Also bear in mind that a H Harness in a Pegasus can not be threaded through the slots, it must also come over the top of the seat.

Hope this helps.
Kind regards

#15 sebela

Posted 04 November 2009 - 11:52 AM

I have a number of Pegasus as second seats for my DD1 in g'parents cars etc, and there is a little plastic clip that somes with them to be used to hold the sash in place. You thread it through where the shoulder slots come out and I find it keeps the strap in the right position so that it doesn't rub their neck. The seat belt fit then is secure.

Thanks for reminding me of that clip, I haven't used either of our Pegasus for a couple of years and used a standard Hstrap with them at that time so have never used it. I will have to go see if it's still attached to either of them.

#16 sebela

Posted 04 November 2009 - 12:09 PM

For the sash belt, something like the SafeFit Guide might help. I'd also be interested to know if you're using a locking clamp to lock off the lap belt. Something like this. They basically make the lap belt much tighter, and it's the lap belt that actually does all the work in an accident (I could post some images of seatbelt vs harness tests I've done, which show almost no difference in forward movement of the child, if anyone's interested).

I don't have one of those clips as I don't have any Infa seats, is it possible to buy them on their own? It does look like it would help the fit of the seatbelt on my hi-liner for my 7.5 yr old. I am not convinced by those safefit guide things though, I can't see how it would work with the anti submarine devices on all of my seats? And I don't see how it does anything at all to stop the child leaning forward or climbing out? The Autosafe Seat Belt Height Adjuster looks interesting but I didn't get a clear sense of how it works, attaches etc, or whether it is compatible with a booster from either website I saw. The whole car seat thing is such a headache.

#17 Detour

Posted 04 November 2009 - 12:45 PM

I'm not too sure if you can get those clips by themselves. Maybe try Infa-Secure? You could always just say you lost yours  dev (6).gif

I hadn't thought of the SafeFit being used with Anti-Sub devices. From what ikeaqueen said I take it it's not all that great anyway.

In other news, I've just been in contact with the QLD Dept of Transport, to see if I can get them to amend some of their old information on their site regarding harnesses.

Edited by lucky 2, 04 July 2013 - 09:42 AM.
r/o inactive link

#18 jazziek03

Posted 04 November 2009 - 08:10 PM

Hi Detour,

This has been most infomative.  I've actaully just purchased my 2nd Pegasus for my 4yo (17kgs) as I've been most happy with the adjustable clip above the shoulder which brings the sash close to the child as well as the submarine clip for my 6yo.

This is the new VicRoads rule effective next week:

"Children aged from four years to less than seven years must wear an approved, properly fastened and adjusted, forward-facing child restraint with in-built harness or an approved booster seat
which is properly positioned and fastened"

Based on this, do I require a H-Harness with the Pegasus to abide by this rule or is 4 yo & 17 kg OK to go without.  I'm happy to go without based on your analysis above, but I don't want to break any rules!

Thanks Detour.

#19 umma

Posted 04 November 2009 - 10:56 PM

Hi Detour,

Thanks for your information but I'd have to agree with the PPs (Sebela and Meegs) on the topic of escapees.  I have two of them, although one has outgrown the behaviour now.  I don't think that the PPs are special cases at all, I think it is a very common problem.

The ASC would not work with Safefit and I am not sure how the Autosafe Seat Belt Height Adjuster helps with escapees if the problem is not the height of the seatbelt.

Perhaps there are situations when H-harnesses are safter and it is pity this was not acknowledged in the paper by Brown et al.  As Sebela has pointed out a signficant difference between the crash test dummies and real children is the dummies don't wriggle, squirm and climb out.

#20 Detour

Posted 05 November 2009 - 07:27 AM

jazziek - You do not need a H Harness to comply with the new road rules - "or an approved booster seat which is properly positioned and fastened" applies to a booster seat fastened with a seatbelt aswell. I have actually been in contact with the state transport bodies this week to try to get them to be clearer in this regard.

umma -
I am not sure how the Autosafe Seat Belt Height Adjuster helps with escapees if the problem is not the height of the seatbelt.

I think the idea is that if the sash belt isn't irritating the child, they're less likely to try to get out. I know that may not stop the behavior in all cases, but it might be worth looking at.

You're actually right when you say the people in this thread, including yourself, are not special cases. I've actually received more queries about this particular problem this week than any other issue.

Perhaps there are situations when H-harnesses are safter and it is pity this was not acknowledged in the paper by Brown et al. As Sebela has pointed out a signficant difference between the crash test dummies and real children is the dummies don't wriggle, squirm and climb out.

I know what you're getting at, but to be fair, the study was of the effectiveness of child harnesses in an accident. It would be very hard to do a study on the day to day usage of harnesses versus seat belt systems (although I would love to see one).

Edited by Detour, 05 November 2009 - 07:37 AM.

#21 TheStick

Posted 05 November 2009 - 01:28 PM

Has any research been done into that locking feature that some seat belts have, and could this possibly prevent the kids leaning forward etc?

#22 Detour

Posted 05 November 2009 - 03:12 PM

Not that I am aware of.

I've been throwing this issue around our office and we've been trying to come up with some ideas to make things easier. We've had a few ideas that we may prototype and see if they'll stick to the standard, but it really is quite difficult.

Essentially, we can't lock the sash belt with an external device, which makes this problem quite a challenge.

Working on it though!

#23 umma

Posted 05 November 2009 - 08:11 PM

Of course the best solution would be if there were car seats with 5 point harness for bigger kids.

The point I am trying to make is if I my younger son is busy playing with his seatbelt and I am busy trying to tell him off while driving and end up having an accident wouldn't it be safter for him to be wearing a harness (with an ASC) than not being restrained at all by his lap sash belt from which he had escaped.   I feel fairly confident about this because  I accidently strapped him into his older brother's HL one day (with lap sash belt) because he likes to sit there and I didn't notice wrong kid in wrong seat and I only had one of them with me.  He promptly climbed out of the seat and went roaming around the back of the car.  That seat belt was not going to do any good at all!  I reallly do not think it has anything to do with the strap on his neck it was far more just because he could.

I'd have to say that I am confused about the safety of a harness with an ASC - I could see that the research shows that the major risk with a harness is that it is almost 100% of the time poorly fitted and the main issue with this is submarining.  I couldn't tell if a harness is used with an ASC is it acceptable or not other than they made a blanket recomendation to avoid their use altogether.  

Obviously I am going to try to keep my younger son in his car seat as long as I can but soon enough he is going to grow out of it and probably before he will grow out of pretending to be Houdini.

#24 wilkosbaby

Posted 08 November 2009 - 10:19 AM

Not so long ago one the regular posters (JMB?) posted some information regarding the ratchet type seatbelts that self lock. She had a link to her website too, but for the life of me I cannot find it now. huh.gif

Not all cars have them. I had them in my previous car, a Subaru Outback. Basically, you pull the sash out to full extension then let it retract to the position you want it. Then it is locked, and if you move forward it will not let you. The only way to release the lock is to undo the belt and let it fully retract again.  

It strikes me that this would be great for kids in a booster using an adult belt, as it prevents them moving about too much. Although, it would mean an adult would most likely need to do up their belt every time. Problem is not all cars have them, and even then a lot of people are unaware of the feature.
They are also a PITA if you are using a HHarness, as it can pull the lap belt back up everytime, even with a gated clip holding lap and sash together.  

ON the plus side, a ratchet belt means you don't have to use a gated clip to hold lap and sash together when installing a RF/FF seat.

Perhaps more research and education is needed into this feature Detour, it would be a big plus to stop too much kid movement if put in all cars esp now boosters are mandatory until 7. What do you all think?

#25 Smile-it-confuses-people

Posted 08 November 2009 - 04:58 PM

Thanks for the info Detour!

I have been thinking about this for some time, once DD1 got to 18kgs I put her in a maxi rider AHR, with the protecta harness. I check the length of the lap sash each time, the adjustment of the protecta harness each time. Then I caught DH saying he found it too hard to do up, so he pulled the sash part through the gated buckle to make it longer.......

I told him that in the event of a crash his adjustment of the gated buckle could have resulted in some serious injuries if not worse.

We've recently tried the set up without a protecta harness and she pulls the seat belt loose, tucks in under an arm or behind her, so for now we are back with the h-harness..... I'm confident it's installed well and adjusted well each time as the girls only go out with us, ie no one else takes them out in their car etc.

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Kids who meet milestones at their own pace

We usually only hear the success stories: tales of the two-year-old who’s talking, running and completely toilet trained. But other stories need to be told too.

Ruby shines as Bonds Baby

Sarah Kiss has a word of advice for proud mums and dads who are keen to enter their babies in this year's Bonds Baby Search Competition - just have fun.

Why dads should go to sleep school

If your family needs to go to sleep school, go with them. You are part of that family and you are part of the solution.

36 baby names inspired by food and drinks

A French court may have ruled out Nutella as a baby name, but that doesn't have to stop you from taking inspiration from the supermarket (or bottle shop). See what parents in the US have chosen for their delicious little ones.

Clever breastfeeding products

Check out this range of products designed to help make your breastfeeding journey more enjoyable, manageable and convenient.


Win a KitchenAid Mixer

Let's celebrate 300,000 fans on Facebook

To celebrate, and to thank our amazing fans, we?re giving away a KitchenAid Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer.

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