Self-retracting lifelines are lanyards or ropes that allow users to freely move around within designated areas. Based on how a user moves, lanyards can roll out and retract. The retracting function makes sure that lifelines stay taut all the time. During a fall, when there are sudden increases in speed, an automatic speed brake gets activated to stop the fall. Self-retracting lifelines are known by several names e.g. retractable fall arresters, fall arrest block, automatic fall arrest devices and retracting lanyards however, the functionality of the equipment stays the same.
The concept behind self-retracting lanyards usually gets compared to the concept of seat belts. When lightly pulled, seat belts roll out smoothly, only retracting to a snug fit upon release. A sudden tug on a seatbelt for instance during emergency stops makes the entire system block, which prevents passengers from getting thrown out of their seats. Comparably, retracting lanyards work more or less the same. The only major difference perhaps is that they stop falls and minimise the forces imposed on a user’s body during a fall. Below, we highlight some reasons why self-retracting lifelines are important for workers.
No extra lines are needed for self-retracting lifelines. Standard lanyards are often a serious risk to workers in jobsites, especially those with multiple workers in a single location. The extra lines needed by standard lanyards, even when using six foot lanyards, are bound to create complications in not only looking out for other lines, but also limiting workers’ freedom of movement. Self-retracting lifelines have a mechanism that minimises the risk of lines getting tangled around each other or other items.
A good self-retracting lifeline system has appropriate mechanisms for workers to rescue themselves. Fall arrest systems in self-retracting lifelines can be equipped with self-rescue pulleys that workers can activate to pull themselves back up. The self-rescue pulley may not always be required however, such a system not only makes users capable of rescuing themselves but also makes rescue work easy for co-workers. There is usually a slightly higher risk of swinging following a fall when using self-retracting lanyards. Therefore, it is important that people make the right decisions on matters of lanyard material, from webbing to wire to minimise the risk of swinging.
Generally, less fall distance is needed when using a self-retracting lifeline. A self-retracting lifeline is designed to sense sudden changes of motion on the lanyard, consequently activating a braking system when speeds of roughly 4 and half feet per second are detected. In less than 2 feet, these changes could occur, which is significantly less compared to the standard 6 feet of shock absorbing lanyards.