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Is it okay to use a SRL without a shock absorber for fall protection?

First, we will talk about the part of the personal fall arrest system that a self-retracting lifeline belongs to. In the ABCD’s of your personal fall arrest system, self-retracting lifelines fall into category D.

ABCD’s of Your Personal Fall Arrest System

Knowing the ABCD’s of your personal fall arrest system is important. Each letter is explained below. For a free, print ready poster from Malta Dynamics click here.

1. Anchorage – Also referred to as “tie-off points”. Any structure you plan to attach the anchor to (e.g. truss, an I-beam) must be capable of withstanding a 5,000lb impact load in the direction a fall may occur.

2. Body Harness – Only full body harnesses are acceptable for worker-worn fall protection. Harnesses distribute fall forces throughout the body to minimize the force impact on your body and keep you suspended in an upright position. Harness fit should be comfortably snug.

3. Connectors – Connectors are any device that connects your body harness to an anchor point (e.g. shock absorbing lanyards, lifelines, self-retracting lifelines (SRLs), and positioning devices). Account for potential fall distance when choosing a type of connecting device. Adding/using shock absorbing lanyards reduces the fall force impact on your body.

4. Deceleration Device – Any mechanism that serves to dissipate energy during a fall. Suspension trauma can occur in as little as 15 minutes; do you have a rescue plan?

What are Shock Packs?

Many people are familiar with the ABC’s of fall protection, but not all safety trainings include Deceleration Devices. Every deceleration device is designed to perform shock absorption; like from a traditional lanyard or SRL. Sometimes the deceleration occurs in the form of a “shock pack” outside of the lifeline housing. The shock pack is stuffed with layered webbing that is intended to unravel when a fall, or fall-like forces, occur.

Other Forms of Deceleration

Other times, the deceleration occurs inside the housing of a SRL. The internal components are designed to release an additional length of cable when subject to fall-like forces. Even though there are different classes of self-retracting lifelines, you will find internal and external deceleration varies between manufacturers among all classes. There currently is no designation or rule set on where the deceleration occurs during the arrest of a fall.

OSHA and ANSI SRL Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard 1910.140 explains that “Self-retracting lifeline/lanyard means a deceleration device containing a drum-wound line that can be slowly extracted from, or retracted onto, the drum under slight tension during normal movement by the employee. At the onset of a fall, the device automatically locks the drum and arrests the fall.”

OSHA requires the personal fall arrest system to achieve arresting forces that the human body can withstand. In OSHA standard 1910.140(d)(1)(i) it reads that the PFAS should, “Limit the maximum arresting force on the employee to 1,800 pounds (8 kN)”. This is achieved by your deceleration device which is a self-retracting lifeline or shock absorbing lanyard.

In addition to the OSHA standards, we find that the ANSI classification of self-retracting lifelines is extremely helpful as well. Ultimately, the manufacturer of your SRL should have deceleration information clearly marked on the front or rear label of the lifeline housing.

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