Leading Edge vs. Standard Self Retracting Lifelines

On this week’s episode of Dynamic Discussions, Greg and David remind us that there is a difference between a standard and leading edge self-retracting lifeline. Did you know that foot-level tie off requires a specialized type of self-retracting lifeline? The main difference between a standard and leading edge self-retracting lifeline is the application in which the device is certified for. A standard SRL can be used in scenarios in which your anchor point is above the D-Ring on your harness. For instances where your anchor point is at or below the D-Ring on your fall protection harness, you must use a leading edge self-retracting lifeline. If any part of your personal fall arrest system can come in contact with a sharp edge in the event of a fall, you should use a certified leading edge lifeline device. Visually the standard and leading edge self-retracting devices look the same, so always check the manufacturer’s labels to make sure your equipment is tested for your application.

What is a Leading Edge Lifeline? 

A leading edge lifeline is a unit that has been tested to come into contact with an edge. What this means is you can have an edge at foot level, overhead or anywhere the cable has the possibility to come into contact with an edge. There’s a shock pack on Malta Dynamics’ leading edge lifeline that gives an additional energy adsorption device. What this does is that if you were to fall over an edge, it will help to reduce the forces on the body.

External Shock Pack

The leading edge lifeline shock pack is woven fabric that is sewn together in a way so that if a fall occurs the breaking mechanism will shred down and provide the dissipation of the fall force. The standard self retracting lifeline has all elements internally so it’s important that you don’t come into any contact with an edge. Not only could your line shear, but it could arrest your fall improperly. It’s also important to know that not every self-retracting lifeline with a shock pack below the housing is able to be used as a leading edge.

How Do Self-Retracting Lifelines Work?

SRLs are a type of lanyard enabling users to freely move around in an area. It will roll out and retract in response to the user’s movement. It retracts to make sure the lifeline is constantly taut. When the yoyo harness detects an abrupt increase in speed — such as during a fall — an automatic speed brake will be activated, stopping the fall.

Seatbelt-Like Design

For the above reason, the SRL is commonly compared to a seatbelt. If you pull the seatbelt lightly, it rolls out smoothly and retracts to a tight fit once you release it. If you pull it abruptly, such as when the car has to make a sudden stop, the system will lock, which ensures you don’t fly out of your seat. SRLs function in more or less the same way by stopping falls and minimizing the forces imposed on the worker when falling.

SRL Components

An SRL is comprised of a hard casing holding either steel wire rope or polyester webbing. The cable is attached to a carabiner, scaffold hook or snap hook, which attaches the lanyard to a full body harness.

Some devices feature snap hooks with fall indicators, which let users know the device has already been activated and can no longer be used. This fall indicator shows whether an SRL has been involved in a fall. There is usually a red marking activated to signal this.

The casing also houses the braking mechanism that arrests the fall. An inspection of this brake system must be performed every year. If an SRL has been involved in a falling accident, it must be removed from service for re-certification to ensure safe usage and adequate worker protection.

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