"I was working from a scissor lift one day with my partner, and we couldn't quite get close enough to the spot we needed to reach. My partner stepped up on the lower guardrail to get the extra height he needed. He's a big guy, and very strong. When he finished sticking the material where it needed to be, he pushed off the overhead beam and jumped back onto the floor surface of the lift. This made the lift sway, and I thought for a minute that we might tip. When we got back to the ground, one of the electricians who had been working nearby mentioned that all it takes to tip a scissor lift is 200lbs of force, and that if my partner would have pushed off just a bit harder we might have gone over. He also told us that we shouldn't be wearing shock absorbing lanyards because if we did tip, they wouldn't help us at all. I was amazed that my employer had not mentioned the fact that we need different lanyards for different lifts. It's a good thing that electrician shared this information with us before someone fell while wearing the wrong gear."

Lanyards are a part of both fall protection plans and fall arrest systems. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is designed to provide front line protection while you're on the jobsite. However, PPE is useless if you do not use the right equipment for the job. If you're working at heights, you use fall protection PPE. Simple enough concept to grasp, though, day after day workers use the wrong type of lanyards. If there's a chance you might fall out of a lift, or off a ledge, the whole point of wearing a harness and lanyard is that is catches you, preferably, before you hit the ground. Here are some tips for choosing the right system for the right job.

Quick Tips

Types of Lanyards

  • Shock absorbing - With the exception of travel limiting devices, and retractable lanyards, lanyards, when used as part of a fall arrest system, must be equipped with shock absorbers, which limit fall forces to less than 1800lbs (8kN). Shock absorbing lanyards are available in pack and tubular models, depending upon preference. It is important to note the length of the lanyard when fully deployed to ensure that the total fall distance is calculated correctly.

  • Retractable - Retractable or self-retracting lanyards are used as a form of travel restraint and act as a fall limiter, rather than being a form of fall arrest. The idea is to prevent the fall from occurring in the first place, by limiting travel distance and automatically locking when an excessive force is applied to the line. These types of lanyards are typically non-shock absorbing due to their designed purpose.

Connectors / Hooks

There are two main types of connectors available. The first is a classic snap hook, and the second is a rebar hook. The demands of the job and the anchorage used will dictate the most appropriate connection type.

Dual or Double Legged vs Single Legged Lanyards

Lanyards are available in either double legged or single legged form. A double legged lanyard will typically be used in a situation where the worker is moving during work, thus necessitating a change in anchorage point. A double legged lanyard will allow the worker to move to a different anchor point while still being connected.

Lanyard Material

The type of material that the lanyard is made of will vary depending on the demands of the job. For instance, welders will use a special lanyard that is char resistant. Lanyards are typically available in chain or webbing form, with a variety of webbing material options depending on the job requirements.

The Right Lanyard for the Job

Just as different jobs require different types of harnesses, different lanyards might also be required. It is important to know that depending upon your environment, the nature of the work you are doing, and the type of harness you are using, the most appropriate lanyard will vary.


  • If you are working from a boom lift or man lift, you will need to use an adjustable lanyard. Adjustable lanyards allow you to adjust the length of the lanyard to an appropriate length for the height you are working at. Remember, the point of a lanyard is to catch you if you fall. Wearing a lanyard that takes 8' to stop you, while working at 6' is redundant.

  • When working from a leading edge, a retractable lanyard or dogleash must be used if there is no guardrail system.

  • When working from a scissor lift, a retractable lanyard or dogleash must be used. Adjustable or shock absorbing lanyards are not to be used in scissor lifts, as the force generated from a fall outside the lift will tip the lift before the lanyard has a chance to save you.