Questions About Retractables

Quick disclaimer:

This is just to help you make an informed purchase. This is not meant for reference or educational purposes. Please refer to manufacturer’s instructions before use.


Why choose a retractable over a shock absorbing lanyard? 

A typical six-foot lanyard requires almost 18 feet of total fall clearance.  A worker will drop the entire length of the lanyard before the shock absorbing pack engages – and it is common for lanyards to extend an additional 3-4 feet before the fall is even arrested.

A self retracting lanyard/self retracting lifeline begins slowing a fall within a foot. During a fall, the braking mechanism inside the SRL begins to engage within 8 to 9 inches, decelerating the drop.  Within 3-4 feet, a falling worker is at a complete stop.

A retractables fall equation looks like this: 3.5 feet of deceleration + 2 foot OSHA Safety Margin + 6 Foot Worker Height = 12.5 feet total fall distance clearance required.In all reality it would be much shorter than that.

Additionally, a retractable does not hang down and drag like a regular lanyard. I remember a safety orientation I received from American Electric Power where a worker wearing a harness had his lanyard get caught up in a large moving drive shaft. There was a horrific photo of his body twisted and broken.

What is a self retracting lanyard?

A self-retracting lanyard (SRL) also known as a retractable is a kind of lanyard used with a safety harness that utilizes inertia to activate a braking mechanism. This mechanism is typically activated when the fall distance exceeds four and a half feet per second.

A retractable leg is typically six foot long but there are models that are as long as 12 foot. They connect with the solid end of the mechanism on the harness and the retractable end connects to an anchor point. It is ideal for working  off of ladders, in stairwells, and in man lifts. Also anywhere there is snags or moving equipment that you could get caught on.

What is a self retracting lifeline? 

A self retracting lifeline also known as a yoyo is much the same as the self retracting lanyard except:

It is generally much larger than a self-retracting lanyard.

They range in length from 12 feet all the way to 200 feet.

The self retracting lifeline is intended to be connected to the structure with the retractable cable connected to the workers harness.

Generally speaking you want the self retracting lifeline to be hung at shoulder height or higher.

The ideal environment for a self retracting lifeline is for vertical work areas and in situations where mobility from one anchorage point is possible.  Also for some confined entry situations.

What is leading edge?

It is best if a self retracting lifeline can be hung at shoulder height or higher. But if you can’t and have to connect your yoyo lower than shoulder level or at your feet. The use of a leading edge retractable will be necessary.

SRL Safety

Must be vertical

Use precaution when considering this, a self-retracting lifeline must remain in vertical position and cannot lay on its side or it will effect the fall distance(not required with a self-retracting lanyard, as it will be connected to your back). You will need the shock pack to absorb the additional fall energy and a cable line to resist damage from a leading edge. The retractable should clearly be marked as certified for use on a leading edge.

When is 100% tie off required?

Anytime the worker is exposed to  a fall greater than six feet he should be tied off. With the exception of ascending and descending a ladder. So if you are working out in the steel or in a pipe rack you want to have a 100% tie off retractable.