PWI Fall Protection Featured Image Reduced


What is a Self-Retracting Lanyard?

Author Headshot - Charles
Feb 13, 2023

When it comes to fall protection systems there are three things you need to remember – A, B, and C. Any effective fall protection system must include an Anchorage point, Body support, and a reliable Connection.

Self-retracting lanyards are secure connection devices that use an extendable safety line to increase the working area. 

Every crew member on-site needs to know their ABCs. No, we’re not talking about Sesame Street, it is the ABC of fall protection: Anchorage, Body Support, and Connection. 

This article will look closely at self-retracting lanyards – a connecting device that provides a dependable attachment to an anchoring point. 

In this article, we will explain how SRLs work, how much they cost, and why they are used in the fall arrest system across a number of industries.

What Is a Self-Retracting Lanyard?

Starke SRL 50

A self-retracting lanyard (SRL) is a vertical fall protection lifeline that gives the user full freedom of movement to undertake tasks with the assurance of a taught safety line.

Image from The Sydney Herald

SRLs function in a very similar way to a car seatbelt. The user can easily retract the line which is usually made from webbing, wire rope, or a cable. The line will remain under tension from the mechanism and can be extended by pulling it further. 

In the event of a fall, the rapid pulling force on the line will cause the internal braking mechanism to engage, effectively stopping the fall.

It works by using a centrifugal clutch assembly with pawls. In the event of a sudden acceleration on the mechanism, the pawls engage with the teeth of the brake hub to prevent any more of the line from being released. This internal pawl and brake hub design is what can be found in most SRLs.

SRLs can vary widely in price from around $130 up to $800. The cost of a self-retracting lanyard will depend on the rope type (usually webbing or cable) and the maximum extendable length.

What Is the Weight Limit of an SRL?

As you might expect, all self-retracting lanyards will have a weight limit that will vary depending on the model. 

Some SRLs are designed to be as lightweight as possible and therefore tend to have a lighter weight capacity of around 310 lbs or less. More heavy-duty SRLs—that can be often identified as having carry handles on the body—tend to have a higher capacity of around 420 lbs, but this may not always be the case.

Before purchasing an SRL, be sure to check the technical specifications to ensure that the weight limit is sufficient for your requirements.

What Industries Use Self-Retracting Lanyards?

PWI Fall Protection Featured Image Reduced

SRLs are suitable for a wide variety of applications in manufacturing, maintenance, and beyond. These include:

  • Construction
  • Steel production
  • Building maintenance and cleaning
  • Oil and gas 
  • Mining
  • Rigging
  • Stunt Work

How do I use a Self-Retracting Lanyard?

Now is a good point to touch back on our ABCs again – anchorage, body support, and connection. All of these three parts must be implemented for fall protection systems to be effective. 

The self-retracting lanyard will provide the connection and is attached to the user with a carabiner clip and a body harness. 

The anchoring point may differ slightly in specific use cases, but a trolley beam is always the best option. Using a trolley beam allows free movement along its length meaning that users can safely work along the length of a work area.

Advantages of an SRL

There are a number of advantages to using a self-retracting lanyard in a fall arrest system.

SRLs are generally longer than other fall protection lanyards, normally extending between 10 and 50 feet. In the event of a fall, the user’s fall will be arrested immediately because the automatic retracting mechanism prevents any slack in the line.
The increased distance also means that SRLs allow workers to access locations at different heights without needing multiple shock-absorbing lanyards of various lengths.

SRLs are relatively compact and lightweight devices meaning that they are practical for carrying up to and installing on an anchoring point.

Disadvantages of an SRL

The main caveat for the generally long length of SRLs is that they must be fitted directly overhead of the user to avoid the risk of a swing fall. This is when the user is working off the plumb line (directly underneath the anchor) and in the event of a fall will swing and potentially hit other objects. Swing falls also dramatically increase the arrest time.

This requirement for a direct overhead anchoring point means that additional engineered fall protection systems—in this case, a trolley beam—need to be installed to enable the user to benefit from the full safety advantage of an SRL.

The line used in self-retracting lanyards is not shock-absorbing, meaning that the fall arrest is more sudden. However, this jolt is reduced by the use of a full-body harness in conjunction with the SRL. 

The user’s body harness must conform to OSHA standards for personal fall protection systems and fall arrest system guidelines set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP).

Components of an SRL

Self-retracting lanyards are constructed with an aluminum housing that encloses the ratchet mechanism. This serves to protect the ratchet, increase the SRLs durability, and protect the SRL from corrosion. 

Exploded SRL View

Attached to the top part of the housing is an anchoring loop used to center the load. In some cases, a carrying handle will be built into the aluminum housing for easier transportation, plus it serves as a secondary anchorage point that is fall arrest rated. 

The line is usually made from either nylon webbing or wire rope. It is drawn out from the bottom of the SRL and at the end is a carabiner hook that attaches to the user’s body harness. 

Where To Get a Self-Retracting Lanyard

If you’re looking for a reliable and OSHA-compliant fall protection system, Hoist Zone carries a selection of industry-leading SRLs that are available for immediate delivery to your jobsite.

And if you still have any questions or queries for specific use situations, the expert team at PWI is here to help. Contact us today and we will be happy to steer you in the right direction.