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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

Connecting devices are some of the most varied pieces of equipment in the fall protection industry. Length, material, single or double leg, hook design, and shock absorbing functionality are just some of the diverse traits of the connecting devices available on the market. Two of the most common connecting devices are lanyards and self-retracting lifelines (SRLs).

Lanyards are composed of webbing or cable, most commonly a set length of no more than 6’. They are designed with either internal or external shock absorbing functionality for use in fall arrest, work positioning, or restraint, or without a shock absorber for restraint applications only.

SRLs, meanwhile, while also employing a web or cable lifeline, are available in a much wider variety of lengths. The lifeline automatically retracts into the unit housing (as opposed to a lanyard, which hangs freely), and falls are arrested by the engagement of an internal braking mechanism.

Lanyard vs. SRL: A Tale of Two Connectors

It is the operational physics that truly sets lanyards and SRLs apart: a lanyard will allow a worker to fall until any/all slack in the line is gone, while SRLs never allow any slack in the line, a quality which allows them to arrest falls more quickly.

Generally speaking, SRLs offer equivalent or better performance functionality when compared to lanyards. But as is always the case with fall protection, the specific work application will determine best-practice equipment selection. For example, in restraint applications (where equipment must be rigged to prevent the user from reaching the fall hazard) the full length of the connecting device must be taken into account, so for smaller work areas a longer length SRL will not be ideal.

Free fall must also be taken into account. Lanyards offer very simple options in respect to free fall: no free fall (non-shock lanyard), 6’ free fall (standard 6’ shock absorbing lanyard), or 12’ free fall (high capacity lanyard, such as Guardian’s Big Boss Lanyard).

Free fall allowances for SRLs can get more complicated, as everything from lifeline material/shock absorber configuration, ANSI A10.32-12 fall protection compliance, and use in leading edge (LE) applications will all affect the permitted free fall of the system. It is important that the person responsible for selecting fall protection equipment is trained and knowledgeable in free fall and fall clearance calculations.

The key when selecting your connecting device is to understand your specific working conditions and areas of access. Both lanyards and SRLs offer a number of exciting features and benefits, and the better the work is planned, the better they will keep you safe.