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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 fall protection system is tested for your application.

OSHA Requirements for Leading Edge Safety

Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) regulations for fall protection in the construction industry (29 CFR 1926.501) mandate that workers on a leading edge more than 6 feet above a lower level need protection through a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest equipment, like a leading edge lifeline. An exception to this is if an employer can prove that these protective measures are unfeasible or increase danger. In these cases, the employer is required to develop a specific fall protection plan for leading-edge work.

What is a Leading Edge Lifeline? 

A leading-edge lifeline is a unit that has been tested to come into contact with edge work. 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 unprotected edge, it will help to reduce the forces on the body.

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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 edge fall hazards. Not only could your line shear, but it could arrest your potential fall improperly, leading to serious injury. It’s also important to know that not every self-retracting lifeline with a shock pack below the housing can be used as a leading edge.

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How Do Self-Retracting Lifelines Work?

SRLs are a type of lanyard that enables 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.

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SRL Components

An SRL is comprised of a hard casing holding either steel cable 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.

SRL Testing

ANSI Z359.14 standards mandate that SRL-LEs (Self-Retracting Lifelines – Leading Edge) undergo two distinct types of drop tests to maintain compliance: Dynamic Performance Tests and Dynamic Strength Tests.

  • In the Dynamic Performance Test, a test mass weighing 282 pounds is dropped, followed by an unrestricted swing lasting 10 seconds. Then, an extra weight of 675 pounds is added to this test mass after the drop.
  • For the Dynamic Strength Test, the procedure involves dropping a 200-pound test mass and allowing it to swing freely without fall restraint for two minutes.

Malta Dynamics: Your Partners in Edge Protection

Understanding the critical differences between standard and leading-edge self-retracting lifelines is not just a matter of compliance, but a vital aspect of ensuring safety on your job site. The right fall protection equipment can be the defining factor between a secure working environment and a hazardous one. At Malta Dynamics, we pride ourselves not only in meeting but exceeding OSHA and ANSI standards. Our commitment to safety is shown in the design and testing of our products, ensuring that they offer the highest level of protection in various construction scenarios. Trust Malta Dynamics for your safety equipment needs; we’re dedicated to providing solutions that save lives and enhance the safety of your team.

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