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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

Ever wonder, “What’s the difference between a standard shock absorbing lanyard and the Big Boss Extended Free Fall lanyard?” Good question. By just looking at the pictures, or holding the lanyards in your hands, a first reaction might be, “Not much.” There’s some truth to that statement; both lanyards are 6’ long, and both have external shock absorbers that look remarkably similar. So, what is the difference between these two lanyards, and what are the circumstances that make one lanyard a better choice than the other? 

I'm Free...Free Fallin'...



The first thing that should tip you off to the difference between them is their names. We call the Big Boss lanyard an Extended Free Fall lanyard, indicating it is suitable for applications in which there is up 12’ of vertical free fall. But wait… isn’t the lanyard only 6’ long? How on earth can you fall 12’ with a 6’ lanyard? Well, it all depends on your anchor. Here, watch this video.


Breaking Down the Fall

The thing you should pay attention to is the position of the dropped snapped hook relative to the stationary one. Notice that when the two snap hooks are side by side (the stationary snap hook is of course acting as if it is attached to an anchor), as the snap hook drops, it drops the total length of the lanyard – 6’. A lot of people are confused by this because just before the snap hook is released, the 6’ lanyard is folded in half, seeming to infer the distance the snap hook drops is also cut in half. But watch closely. To reach the midpoint of the lanyard, the snap hook must drop 3’. But notice that as the snap hook drops, the once-vertical section of the lanyard (that is connected to the test weight – or D-ring) that was above the midpoint of the lanyard is now below it. As the snap hook continues to fall, this vertical leg feeds downward giving the snap hook more room to fall. So, the snap hook falls 3’ to the lanyard midpoint, then 3’ more as it falls past the midpoint until the lanyard is straight. At this point in the fall, once the lanyard reaches its full length, deceleration occurs, and the internal shock-absorbing component begins to arrest the fall. Remember, free fall does not include deceleration, even though the test weight is still falling. Free fall exists up to the point where a force begins to acts against the fall. Watch the video a few more times if you need to convince yourself. It’s OK, it took me a time or two to get it also.

When 6 is 12

Now that you know what a 6’ free fall looks like, I bet you are wondering what would happen if the snap hook were lifted up until the lanyard was fully extended, pointing straight up to the sky. That, my friends, is a 12’ free fall, and it is why the Big Boss Extended Free Fall Lanyard exists. Watch this video.


The snap hook falls 6’ until it reaches the stationary snap hook, then another 6’ until it bottoms out when all that lanyard that was above the stationary snap hook falls below it, allowing the snap hook to fall an additional 6’ below the stationary snap hook. Got it?

So a standard 6’ shock absorbing lanyard is suitable for falls up to 6’, meaning that at no time can the attachment point on your harness be above the anchor point. As soon as that occurs, you have increased your free fall to something greater than 6’, and you need to either get yourself below your anchor point, or get yourself a Big Boss Extended Free Fall lanyard.

We understand that work conditions can be unpredictable and there may be times you need to tie off at or close to your feet (say for example you are using a trailing I-Beam anchor like our Beamer 3000). In those cases, you are exposing yourself to falls well in excess of 6’ and need a lanyard designed for 12’ free fall.

How it does what it does

How does a Big Boss lanyard accommodate the extra 6’ of free fall? Well, if you remember our previous post diving into the controversy surrounding OSHA and the 42” and 48” deceleration distances, you will no doubt understand that the greater the deceleration distance, the greater the amount of energy that can be shed during deceleration. Want a lanyard that can handle 12’ of free fall? Increase the deceleration distance; and that’s exactly how we do it on the Big Boss lanyard. You’ll notice that our standard 6’ shock absorbing lanyard has a deceleration distance of 48” and our Big Boss lanyard has a deceleration distance of 60”. It isn’t magic, voodoo, or sleight of hand - it’s physics.

Building a shock absorbing lanyard with 60” of deceleration distance also has a side benefit when used in a maximum 6’ free fall situation: it can accommodate heavier workers. Whereas a 6’ free fall lanyard is designed to accommodate a worker from 130-310 lbs., the 12’ free fall lanyard can accommodate workers up to 420 lbs. but only if they work in conditions that limit free fall to 6’.

In A Nutshell

To clarify: A standard shock-absorbing lanyard is suitable for workers from 130-310 lbs. for up to 6’ of free fall.  An Extended Free Fall lanyard is suitable for workers from 130-310 lbs. for up to 12’ of free fall or for workers between 310-420 lbs., for falls up to 6’. If a worker is more than 310 lbs. (total weight) and may be exposed to a free fall in excess of 6’, we’d recommend checking in with the onsite Competent Person to find a more suitable solution. I know it’s kind of confusing, so here’s a graphic that should help cement the esotericism.  



When selecting anchors and lanyards for a fall protection solution, it’s always wise to choose those that minimize free fall as much as possible. But in instances where it is unavoidable to have a potential free fall greater than 6’, isn’t it good to know we’ve got you covered? Be safe up there.