"I had been through all the training of the self-retracting lanyard safety system, but that was a year or so back. I still felt pretty confident figuring I knew most of what I needed to know. My co-worker and I were getting this gear on at the same time when he suggested that there was no need to be that concerned about being rusty as we weren’t going to be on the job that long. A nearby worker was quick to tell us that this type of attitude was fine if we didn’t mind falling fifty feet. Just the mere thought of this was enough for me to speak to my supervisor about my needing to familiarize myself again properly with the safety equipment, before having to rely on it."

Self Retracting Lanyards/Lifelines

A self-retracting lifeline (SRL) is a piece of safety equipment that is designed to arrest the fall of a worker, who is working in an area where a fall could occur causing the worker to fall from a heights. The SRL is a deceleration device, and is comprised of a line that is drum wound. As the worker moves the line will extract or retract onto the drum. If a fall occurs the SRL drum will automatically lock into position and the fall is stopped. As with any type of safety device it must be used and maintained properly in order to provide its best protection.

The Right SRL for the Job

Just like standard safety lanyards, there are a variety of types of SRLs available. SRLs may be single legged or double legged, and can be made of cable, synthetic webbing, or rope. The type that is required is dependant on the job being done. For more on choosing the right lanyard for the job, check out Lanyards: Tip for Choosing Your Safety Lanyard.

There may be several options available for using SRLs, but it is highly recommended that the device be used overhead whenever possible. There may be times when the SRL is required to be used at foot level, but extreme caution must be used when doing this, as it might require additional equipment. The specific environment also dictates what type of SRL is used. For example, a leading edge could cause damage to a synthetic line, therefore a cable line should be used.

Safety Considerations When Using an SRL

  • Swing Falls If the SRL anchorage is not put into proper overhead position and a fall occurs then it can cause the faller worker to swing like a pendulum. The danger here is that this individual could end up swinging into an object that could cause serious personal injury.
  • Proper Use and Training The job or site supervisor has the responsibility to see that the SRL equipment is being used properly. Often workers will tend to take short cuts when it comes to some jobs. Assuming it is going to be a quick task so not worth the little extra time or effort to don the SRL equipment. All workers have to be fully aware of the safety equipment that is available to them and what is mandatory.
  • Preventing Roll Out Roll out refers to when a fall occurs and the non locking snap hook pops loose. It is called a disengagement. This has occurred because when the force of the arrest of the fall takes place it causes a rebound up through the lifeline. There is a specific standard that the snap hooks or carabineer must meet.
  • Non-Locking Snap Hooks Two non-locking snap hooks should never be attached to one another. These hooks should never be used where they are hooked back onto their own lanyard. The exception to this is when the hook is certified as a tie back lanyard. A snap hook should never hook directly to a horizontal lifeline, and no more than one hook should be attached to one D-ring. Non-locking snap hooks should never be attached to the lanyard webbing or to a webbing loop.
  • Safety Plan Development The site manager should ensure that a proper safety plan for the prevention of falls is designed and followed. It should also include the rescue of a fallen worker who was protected by wearing the SRL. The fallen employee may experience suspension trauma. This is where the blood of the body begins to pool in the legs. This means that the worker must be rescued as quickly as possible. There should be measures set in place including having the necessary equipment on hand to bring the worker back to safety. Utilizing emergency services may be an option, but the protocol for safe retrieval should be documented to expedite rescue and avoid confusion.
  • Care and Maintenance It is the responsibility of the company as well as the employee to ensure that the self retracting lanyards/lifelines are properly stored and maintained according to the manufacturers specifications. These safety devices should be inspected according to the amount of use and type of work environment they are exposed to. Specific incpection regulations are provided by OSHA and ANSI.