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If It’s Not 100%, It’s Not Fall Protection

Usage of Twin Personal Self retracting lifeline (SRL’s) and dual leg energy absorbing lanyards

A key purpose of fall protection is ensuring that workers are safe when they are performing typical job functions at height. This means 100% tie off. Although that is easier said than done, to achieve continuous safety, it’s essential to start with mobility.

I’m sure you have heard the folks in real estate say there are three important things to remember: location, location, location. Well, if you talk to enough folks in fall protection, they will say the key is mobility, mobility, mobility. Keeping the worker 100% connected to the fall arrest system begins with mobility.

One of the things that is most concerning while reading incident reports is that many fall fatalities occur while the user is wearing a fall protection harness.

We know that many variables impact fall fatalities, but by far, the most common denominator is the failure to connect to an anchor or a fall protection system during an unintentional loss of balance while the worker is connecting from one secure point to another. Although, the worker may have been wearing a harness and/or a lanyard, they were not 100% connected to an anchor point or fall protection system during the fall event.

Why does this happen?

In most cases the worker was not given the correct equipment to perform his or her job duty while staying continuously connected to an anchor point or fall arrest system. This goes back to mobility. Most of these accidents happen when the worker is making a transition.

Transitions occur when the worker continues to perform his/her job function after disconnecting and reconnecting from the fall arrest system in a different location while exposed to a fall hazard.

An example of a transition like this would be changing from a single point tie-off like an anchor strap and then connecting to a horizontal lifeline. The worker disconnects his or her SRL or energy absorbing lanyard then connects to the next system.  It’s during this critical time that the worker must be 100% connected into a fall arrest or anchor point.

How do you accomplish this?  The first step is training, followed by practice applying the training with the correct equipment. This is where dual leg energy absorbing lanyards and dual personnel self-retracting lifelines come into play.  Both of these pieces of fall protection equipment allow the user to obtain 100% tie off while making a transition from one anchor point or fall arrest system to the next, which allows excellent mobility.

Understanding the difference between using an Energy Absorbing Lanyard and Self Retracting Lifelines can also assist with overall safety. Both of these options arrest falls.

Here’s how.

Energy absorbing lanyards are designed with stitching that rips as the fall forces are applied to the lanyard. As the lanyard gets taut, the forces start to rip the stitching to absorb the energy. These engineered stitches rip at predetermined locations, allowing the falling worker to come to a controlled arrest.

ANSI rated energy absorbing lanyards are designed for 6 feet or 12 feet free falls meaning they are designed for the worker to either fall 6 ft. or 12 ft. before the equipment is deployed. This allows the user to be connected to anchor points that are not always directly overhead. Energy absorbing lanyards are also light weight, and fairly inexpensive when compared to SRL’s. Lanyards can be easily inspected.

Self-retracting lifelines work similar to car seat belts. They retract and give slack through the housing coil easily under normal conditions, but during a sudden quick jerk, they lock up. Unlike car seat belts, self-retracting lifelines typically have either brakes, an incorporated energy absorbing lanyard or a combination of housing with a locking and braking mechanism that includes an incorporated lanyard. All of these are designed to take force away from the fall.

All of these styles are designed to lock up immediately as the worker experiences a sudden loss of balance and begins to fall. Once they lock up, either the brakes, energy absorbing lanyard, or the combination of brakes and energy absorber are working together to slow the worker down and provide a controlled stop.  Even though these styles lock up immediately, keep in mind that there is still a deployment distance just like a lanyard. One key advantage of an SRL is vertical mobility that allows the user to remain connected and traverse multiple work levels without re-connecting.

So, what’s better? SRLs or lanyards?

In all reality, one is not necessarily better than the other. Every fall hazard is unique and needs to be addressed as such. Both energy absorbing lanyards and self-retracting lifelines are designed to decelerate the fall forces on the body. And most of all, both are designed to ensure the safety of workers at heights and stop a body in motion. Contact us to discuss your application. We can even engineer custom fall protection systems designed to meet your specific needs.