I had been through all the training on the self-retracting lanyard safety system, but that was a year or so back. I still felt pretty confident and figured I knew most of what I needed to know. I mentioned this to my co-worker while we were putting on our gear and he said that I shouldn't be concerned about being a little 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. Putting that thought in my head was enough to get me to speak to my supervisor about needing to familiarize myself again with how to properly use my fall safety equipment.
A self-retracting lanyard (SRL) is a piece of safety equipment that is designed to arrest the fall of a worker who is working at height.
The SRL is a deceleration device that is made up of a line that is drum wound. As the worker moves, the line will retract. And 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, it must be used and maintained properly in order to provide optimal protection.
The Right SRL for the Job
There are a variety of SRLs on the market—single legged and double legged, made of cable, synthetic webbing, or rope. The type you need will depend on the kind of job that will be performed while using it (for more advice on this, see Choosing the Right Fall Protection Lanyard).
It is highly recommended that SRL devices be used overhead whenever possible. There may be times when you need to use the SRL at foot level, but extreme caution is required in these cases and you may also need additional equipment.
The work environment also dictate the type of SRL that will be needed. For example, a leading edge could cause damage to a synthetic line, so anyone working near leading edges should be equipped with an SRL with a cable line (find out how much clearance you need to safely use a leading edge SRL).
Safety Considerations When Using an SRL
- Swing Falls – If the SRL anchorage is not put into the proper overhead position, it can cause a falling worker to swing like a pendulum. While the fall is still prevented, a worker in a swing fall could collide with an object and suffer a serious injury.
- Proper Use and Training – The job or site supervisor is responsible for making sure that SRL equipment is being used properly. Workers are often tempted to take shortcuts with their safety equipment, especially for quick tasks or jobs that they've done many times before (see Safety and Overconfidence to learn more). Workers must be made fully aware of the safety equipment available to them and that its use is mandatory.
- Preventing Roll-Out – Roll-out refers to the non-locking snap hook coming loose when a fall takes place. It occurs as a result of the force of the fall arrest causing a rebound up through the lifeline. 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.
- Developing a Safety Plan – The site manager should ensure that there is a proper safety plan for fall prevention in place and that it is followed. The plan should outline rescue procedures for fallen workers who were protected by their SRLs. Suspended workers should be rescued as quickly as possible, since they can experience suspension trauma (blood pooling in the legs). Emergency services for suspended workers may be an option, but the protocol for safe retrieval should be documented clearly and thoroughly to expedite rescue and avoid confusion.
- Care and Maintenance – It is both the company and the employee's responsibility to ensure that SRLs are properly stored and maintained according to the manufacturer's specifications.