Construction Work Lifelines: Understanding SRDs, SRLs, SRL-Rs and Lanyards

Construction Work Lifelines: Understanding SRDs, SRLs, SRL-Rs and Lanyards
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Construction Work Lifelines: Understanding SRDs, SRLs, SRL-Rs and Lanyards

*Disclaimer*
The information contained on this page is for promotional and informational purposes only. All equipment should be used by trained professional tradesmen who have been trained how to use the equipment described on this page, and understand the risks of their work. PowerPak assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions in the use or misuse of any product purchased. In no event shall PowerPak be liable for any direct, special, indirect, consequential, or incidental damages or any damages whatsoever, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other torts, arising out of or in connection with the use of this information or the contents of this page. PowerPak reserves the right to make additions, deletions, or modifications to the contents on this page at any time without prior notice.

Staying safe when you’re working at heights is of utmost importance. Every year, workers die while falling on worksites in accidents that are preventable with certain products, like Self-Retracting Devices and Lanyards. The issue is so widespread that in 2019 alone, the U.S Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported 401 people died on worksites from fatal falls to a lower level throughout the country.
Falls to a lower level are also a leading cause of disabling injuries. This costs business owners somewhere in the ballpark of $5.5 billion annually.
While common sense goes a long way, in a busy and complicated workplace where people are focused on the task at hand, it’s easy to make mistakes. That’s where safety equipment comes in.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) states that anyone working higher than 4 feet off the ground faces a fall hazard and needs to be protected.
The ABCs of protecting your workers against falling include proper anchorage, body support, and means of connection. If you want to know more about the ABCs of fall protection, check out this post.

Fall Protection Lanyards

First, let’s talk about fall protection lanyards. Fall protection lanyards are the more popular fall protection option for now. They are economical and very easy to use. They come in different lengths, with various shock absorption technology.
They are very straightforward to use. After you are connected, you will have some slack behind you while you work and move around. Some workers prefer this. Others see it as a hazard. The biggest issue with traditional lanyards is the required fall clearance. More on that later.

SRDs (Self-Retracting Devices)

SRD (self-retracting device) and SRL (self-retracting lifelines/lanyards) are two names for the same thing. Most companies use the term SRD for personal-sized devices and SRL for personal-sized and larger mounted devices. We use the term SRD, but you may hear SRL elsewhere. They are the same device.
Fall protection works in a system, and SRD’s are part of that system. A fall protection system includes a harness, an SRD or lanyard, and any additional hardware needed to connect to an anchor. To put it simply, you can use a Self-Retracting Device instead of using a traditional lanyard to arrest your fall.

How Do Self-Retracting Devices Work?

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) Z359 describes SRDs as a drum wound line that locks automatically when the user falls.
SRDs are cable or web strapping wrapped around the self-retracting spool and fed out of an anchorable enclosure. The mechanism works like a tape measure or a seat belt in the way the cord wraps back into the spring-loaded coil when you feed it back in. Because of this self-retracting feature, SRDs don’t have slack in the line when in use. Again, some workers don’t like feeling the tension of the SRD while they work.
You anchor the SRD enclosure and connect the cable to the D ring on your safety harness. The SRD will automatically engage the brake if there is a sudden pull on the cable. So, if you fall, the SRD will engage the brake and arrest your fall. If the worker has fallen over an edge, the brake will stay engaged until rescued.
A sudden stop like that sounds like it could cause harm, but SRDs are also required by OSHA 29 CFR 1910.140 (d)(1)(i) to limit the force a worker experiences when the brake engages to 1,800 lbs, which, I’ll admit, doesn’t sound great. Most SRD’s operate much more efficiently than that. The goal is that the sudden stop doesn’t cause bodily damage. Self-retracting device manufacturers achieve low force through a combination of friction braking and shock-absorbing material.
PowerPak offers many Self Retracting Devices online.

How Do Self-Retracting Devices Compare to Lanyards?

SRDs are growing in popularity, but traditional lanyards have been the preferred option for a long time because of their affordability.
A traditional 6ft lanyard and SRDs connect the same way. One end is on an anchor, and the other connects to your d ring. The issue is lanyards require more fall clearance than an SRD.
Per ANSI Z359.1, you add four numbers together to calculate the fall clearance needed for a lanyard. The length of the lanyard, the additional length created by the shock pack breaking (3.5ft), the height of the worker, and an extra 3ft for safety.
If you’re a 6ft worker with a 6ft lanyard, you need a total of 18.5ft of fall clearance.
That’s a considerable distance. The needed fall clearance presents a lot of issues. There is a lot to consider, which is one of the main reasons SRDs have grown in popularity. They cost more, but they eliminate a lot of concerns.

Class A And Class B SRD

Knowing that a 6ft lanyard requires a fall clearance of over 18.5ft, the next question is, what’s the required fall clearance of SRDs?
That depends. All fall protection, including SRDs, follow ANSI's standards (American National Standard Institute). ANSI Z359 has two classes for SRDs. It's important to provide the wearer with the most appropriate SRD to protect them from falls in any given situation. The type of SRL you choose to use depends on the distance workers could fall in your work environment, as well as other factors.
Class A – The brake will engage before releasing 24 inches of additional line. Add one foot for harness stretch and another 3 feet for safety. You will need at least 6 feet of fall clearance.
Class B – The brake will engage before 54 inches of additional line is released. Add one foot for harness stretch and another 3 feet for safety. You will need 8.5 feet of fall clearance.
There is one more factor to add on – the Swing Factor. When working with any fall protection, you should always adjust the anchor point so that it is directly above you. Easier said than done. Everyone eventually walks away from their anchor point, and by doing so, you are pulling out extra line. That extra length needs to be added to your fall clearance. A good practice is to try not to walk further than four feet from your anchor point. Even with the additional four feet, both class a and class b SRDs require less fall clearance compared to a traditional lanyard.
Both class A and B SRL devices have a maximum arrest force of 1,800 pounds.
Why do class A and class B devices have different arresting forces? This is because they each stop a person from falling at different rates. The longer device (class B) has more time to stop the fall. It’s a bit like stopping your car by braking slowly over a longer distance rather than slamming the brakes on suddenly when going at the same speed.

SRL-Rs (Self-Retracting Lanyard or Lifeline for Rescue and Retrieval)

Sometimes you need to pull someone out of a dangerous situation. SRL-Rs are self-retracting devices that also have a retrieval function. This type of SRD is typically used to lower workers into a certain area from which they may need to be retrieved if and when the situation becomes hazardous. The retracting function on SRL-Rs can pull someone back out of a sticky situation.

Inspection

Regardless of using a Self Retracting Device or a lanyard, you’ll need to inspect before every use. With both systems, it only takes a couple of minutes.
Both systems require the user to wear a fall protection harness, so let’s start there. Inspecting the harness is easy. You conduct a visual test of all the webbed straps. You are looking for frayed edges, discoloration, cuts, and tears.
Next, check all the hardware, like the D ring and buckles. Check that they aren’t damaged and in working order.
Finally, you check the fall indicator. All fall protection vests have a fall indicator, but some are in different places. They are always clearly marked. If the indicator has been triggered, the vest has been involved in a fall and must be removed from service. If the vest fails ANY inspection, it must be removed from service.
Inspecting your SRD or lanyard is very similar. You’ll start with a visual inspection of the web strap, cord, or lanyard again, looking for abnormalities. With the SRD, you’ll need to pull the web strap or cord out and inspect as you pull. Also, with the SRD, you’ll want to yank on the cable to make sure the brake properly engages.
For both SRDs and lanyards, you’ll inspect the hardware, either carabiners or hooks, on both ends as well as the enclosure of the SRD. Again, you are checking for damage or any abnormalities.
Some SRDs and lanyards have external shock packs that need to be inspected. You are simply checking to see if there are any tears or if you can see any of the inner packings of the shock pack. Manufacturers usually use a contrasting color for the inner packing of the shock pack, so it is easy to inspect.
Lastly, SRD’s and lanyards have a fall indicator on the hook that attaches to the D ring. Check that fall indicator to ensure it hasn’t been engaged. Again, a failure on any of these checks requires the fall protection to be removed from service.

New Advancements and Recommendations With the ASSP

Standards are always being improved. The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) has been working to increase the standards for SRDs. New materials are being recommended for use as well as new ways of constructing retractable lifelines. The ASSP has encouraged organizations using SRDs to go beyond the basic required standards in protecting workers.
Regulation Z359 only requires leading-edge SRLs to be tested above a steel edge but not rough surfaces such as concrete, steel decking, or stone, which is something to note.
And yes, sometimes, injuries occur even when SRDs and construction lifelines are being used. According to the ASSP, the majority of these mistakes happen when the people wearing the equipment don’t know how to use it properly. Proper instruction is key.
Another key factor is that some people place their anchorage point too low. Every inch matters when it comes to falls. By placing your anchor above you and elevating it, you reduce your chances of extreme free fall, and of hitting something when you fall.
Finally, it’s vitally important to always inspect protective equipment for wear and tear before using it.
At Powerpak, our ARRESTA brand self-retracting devices meets the Z359.14 and Z359.12 standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). These standards have meticulous research and highly developed thought behind them and they work to keep you safe. Our premium selection of construction work lifelines can help keep you safe. Check out our selection of SRDs for the best protection.

*Disclaimer*
The information contained on this page is for promotional and informational purposes only. All equipment should be used by trained professional tradesmen who have been trained how to use the equipment described on this page, and understand the risks of their work. PowerPak assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions in the use or misuse of any product purchased. In no event shall PowerPak be liable for any direct, special, indirect, consequential, or incidental damages or any damages whatsoever, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other torts, arising out of or in connection with the use of this information or the contents of this page. PowerPak reserves the right to make additions, deletions, or modifications to the contents on this page at any time without prior notice.

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