I had been through all the training for my self-retracting lanyard safety system, but that about a year back. I still felt pretty confident and figured I knew most of what I needed to know.

I mentioned this to one of my co-workers and he said I shouldn’t be concerned about being a little rusty because we weren’t going to be on the job that long. Another worker overheard us and said “that attitude’s alright if you don’t mind falling fifty feet!” 

Putting that thought in my head was enough to get me to ask my supervisor for a refresher on how to use the fall safety equipment.

Self-Retracting Lanyards in a Nutshell

A self-retracting lanyard (SRL) is a piece of safety equipment that is designed to arrest the fall of worker who is working at height. It won’t prevent the worker from falling, but it will stop them from hitting the ground if they do.

The SRL is a deceleration device that consists of a line that is wound into a drum. As the worker moves around, the line will extend from the drum or retract back into it. If the worker falls while wearing the lanyard, the SRL drum will automatically lock into position and stop the fall.

As with any type of safety device, SRLs must be used and maintained properly in order to provide optimal protection.

The Right SRL for the Job

Self-retracting lanyards come in a few different varieties. They can be single-legged or double-legged. The lanyard can be made of cable, synthetic webbing, or rope.

The type you need will depend on the job that will be performed while using it. For instance, the sharp angles of a leading edge could damage a synthetic line, so anyone working near leading edges should be equipped with an SRL that has a cable line.

Safety Considerations When Using an SRL

  • Overhead Use – Whenever possible, SRL devices should be used overhead. There are times when you will need to use an SRL at foot level. In those cases, you will need to exercise extreme caution and may also need additional equipment.
  • Swing Falls – If the SRL anchorage is not put into the proper overhead position, it can cause the user to swing like a pendulum during a fall. This can result in a collision with a wall or object that can result in a serious injury – even if they don’t reach the ground.
  • Preventing Roll-Out – Roll-out happens when the force of the fall arrest causes a rebound up through the lifeline, causing the non-locking snap hook to come loose. To prevent roll-outs, make sure snap hooks are attached in the proper fashion and to the right anchorage.
  • Non-Locking Snap Hooks – Two non-locking snap hooks should never be attached to one another or hooked back onto their own lanyard (with the exception of certified tie-back lanyards). Only one non-locking snap hook should be attached to each D-ring, and it should never be attached to the lanyard webbing or to a webbing loop.
  • Care and Maintenance – Make sure that any SRL you use is properly stored and maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications. If you’re not sure what this involves, ask your supervisor for the maintenance information.
  • Never Take Shortcuts – SRL devices will only work as intended if they are used as intended. You may be tempted to take shortcuts, especially for quick tasks or jobs that you’ve done many times before, but proper use is mandatory.
  • Be Aware of the Rescue Plan – If a worker’s fall is arrested by their SRL, the job of keeping them safe isn’t over yet. A suspended worker is still at risk and should be rescued as quickly as possible to avoid suspension trauma. Follow the rescue procedure and call emergency services if needed.