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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

For the (especially first-time) SRL buyer, it might seem a little daunting to pick the “right” SRL for your specific needs. Like many things, there isn’t always a single solution that covers every possible situation. But that doesn’t mean that just any SRL is the right SRL. In the next few posts, we will explore SRLs in depth to help you better determine which features are suited for your specific needs so that you can choose your equipment with confidence. We will also delve into best practices, and go over some of the common questions we get here at Guardian that help direct our product development, technical advice, and usage instructions.

 The Basics

The first thing you’ll notice when you peruse the SRL page on Guardian’s website is the sheer variety of SRLs available. There are web, and cable, and double-leg, and rescue, and (oh my!) Leading Edge (LE) SRLs. And there are models with and without external shock absorbers. I can hear you now… “With so many options, which SRL is for me, and how do I use it properly?”

Each feature of an SRL has a specific advantage that makes it more suitable for one application compared to another. It is best to not think of competing features (lifeline material, for example) as “better or worse,” than its alternate, rather, that it performs a slightly different function that may be more advantageous in certain situations. After all, SRLs (within their own class) are held to the same performance standards, so the differences between them have more to do with application than outright safety.

Let’s take the aforementioned lifeline material as an example. The most apparent difference between a web lifeline and a cable lifeline is wear and the ability to resist abrasion. Given only this factor, it might seem like a no-brainer that the cable lifeline is always a superior choice because of its durability - but then you’d be jumping to conclusions. It is correct that a cable lifeline will resist abrasions and cuts better than a web lifeline (for example when working with concrete), but what about instances where a softer, more pliable (and potentially less scratchy) lifeline is needed? Like where? How about atop the ever-increasing number of roofs having solar panels installed, with their fragile and scratch-prone surfaces?  Or for those working at height around commercial aircraft? Think dragging a steel cable across a winglet or control surface wouldn’t ruffle a few feathers? In cases where you need to combine a softer texture with a steel cable, e.g. LE applications (see below), a nylon-coated steel cable might be the answer.

In addition to the durability/suppleness factor, a web lifeline is also slightly lighter than its steel counterpart. For example our 20’ web Velocity SRL weighs in at 5.6 lbs., while our 20’ steel cable Velocity SRL is 8.6 lbs. Again, in this case, lighter (or heavier) shouldn’t be the sole determining factor in your decision, rather a component in a suite of features that make one SRL ideal for your particular situation. And just as you have a choice of lifeline material, you also have a choice of SRL housing material. Work in a rough environment where your gear seems to be constantly under attack? Consider an SRL with a steel housing. Is overall weight a concern, because you have to lug all your gear up flights of stairs to get to your jobsite? A composite housing eliminates a few of those pounds that seem to keep adding up.

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 The Specialists

There are a few other, more specialized, SRLs that expand our options even further. SRLs with the “LE” designation are considered “Leading Edge Compatible,” and are for use in situations where the lifeline may come into contact with the leading edge of a roof or other work surface.
 
What’s so special about these SRLs, and why should ONLY approved LE SRLs be used in this type of work?  When a fall occurs and the lifeline hits the edge, an enormous amount of energy is generated and is focused on the part of the lifeline that contacts the edge. To reduce this energy, a shock absorber located at the dorsal D-ring disperses forces generated by the falling worker before they travel up the lifeline to this point of contact. Cutting off those forces before they reach this most-vulnerable point in the lifeline is a critical factor in preventing the lifeline from being overloaded and breaking. In addition to the dorsal-located shock absorber, LE-rated SRLs must also: 1) Have a steel lifeline (for greater abrasion resistance), and 2) must be rated for LE use by the manufacturer. Why? Because unless an SRL receives this stamp of approval, there is no proof that the SRL has been tested to ANSI LE specifications – even if the SRL looks to be composed of the requisite parts.

Dual-leg SRLs play a unique role by allowing workers to achieve 100% tie-off. 100% tie-off is the ability to always be tied to an anchor, even when transitioning from one anchor to another. This is of course possible by having two SRLs located at the worker’s back, allowing them to sort of “monkey swing” their way across a worksite while always keeping one leg of their dual-leg SRL connected to a compatible anchor. Unlike standard anchor-mounted SRLs where the anchor bears the weight of the SRL, dual-leg SRLs are mounted at the worker’s back, which means that lighter SRLs are more attractive because the worker will be carrying that weight all day.

Rescue/Retrieval SRLs, for example Guardian’s 3-Way, are advanced units that, like the name implies, performs three distinct tasks. In standard mode, the 3-Way acts as a normal SRL, paying out line and retracting it as needed, and braking during a fall. In the event of a fall, the 3-Way can then be switched to retrieval mode, which allows rescuers to “reel in” the worker with the attached handle. This is an especially handy feature for those working in Confined Spaces (vats or manholes, for example), where a worker may need to be lowered into a space and then perform work, but there might not be enough room for a rescuer to reach the stricken worker in the event of an emergency. Having the ability to retrieve an injured worker without delay is crucial – it’s also the law. By the way, just because the 3-Way has descent and retrieval functionality does NOT mean its primary use should be in that way. If you need regular hoisting functionality, get our accessory winch for those operations.

Like I stated at the top, there is no single SRL that covers every situation. Your job is to know the advantages of each feature, and then choose the suite of features that best matches your specific application. Don’t let bells and whistles guide your decision, match your needs with the options available and let logic and prudence be your guide. When in doubt, give us a call. Join us again next time when we talk a bit about the Dos and Don'ts of using an SRL. Until then, be safe up there!