Choosing the Right SRL-The Essential Guide

Introduction: at heights presents inherent risks, making it essential to prioritize safety measures that effectively prevent falls and reduce fall distances. In this article, we will explore the significance of self-retracting lifelines (SRLs) within the Safety Pole System. We will delve into the various types of SRLs, their features, maintenance requirements, and how they seamlessly integrate with harnesses, ensuring a secure and efficient working environment.

Importance of Fall Protection: protection systems are a set of methods and systems meant to prevent falls and injury in the workplace. Falls from heights are a leading cause of workplace injuries and fatalities. OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry, and eight feet in long shoring operations. Understanding the basics of fall protection and its importance can mean the difference between employees getting home safely and taking a trip to the hospital. In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance. By prioritizing fall protection such as the Safety Pole System, employers can safeguard the well-being of workers and minimize the associated risks. The Safety Pole System plays a crucial role in this regard, offering reliable protection against falls and reducing fall distances, thereby mitigating potential injuries.  An integral part of a fall protection system is Self Retracting Lifelines or, SRLs.

How can falls be reduced? There are many ways you can help prevent falls in the workplace. Prior to starting any project or task, it is crucial to analyze and think about the potential fall hazards. Anticipating risks helps you identify potential injuries before they occur. This is called Hazard Assessment. As you assess the work area, based on the trade you are a part of then you can create a fall protection plan based on what fall protection systems are necessary. 

Where does Safety Pole fit into the mix?  The Safety Pole System is utilized primarily in the construction industry and when OSHA regulations require workers to be tied off at 6 feet. 

When utilizing the Safety Pole System the Safety Pole Team conducts a hazard assessment specifically when the framers are walking top plate, sheathing, fascia, and setting, rolling, and sheathing roof trusses. This is why we require all new Safety Pole clients and encourage existing clients to send us their floor plans and elevations because at Safety Pole the system is utilized to cater to each company’s production process and potential budget limitations. We also need to identify project conditions to use the system as fast and efficiently as possible while maintaining 100% tie-off.  Anticipating risks is only half the battle because once potential fall hazards are identified there needs to be proper pre-planning.

Knowing what can immediately contribute to a fall can help in assessing the risk. Working near unguarded edges, lacking safe access, or walking on a slippery or uneven surface are some common examples. These considerations in the pre-planning stage can save the project time, money and liability.  

Here is an example: the key to pre-planning and conducting fall hazard assessments is to mitigate or eliminate the safety risk in the work area. It is key for the safety manager to develop a plan to implement the controls. For example, OSHA’s 1926 Subpart M lays out the criteria for fall protection and applies to workers who are working six feet or more above a lower level. If the worker is above 6 feet from the lower level a fall protection system such as the Safety Pole is required. 

Safety Pole strongly encourages its customers to share their floor plans with our hazard assessment team.  After conducting a Fall Hazard Assessment based on the floor plans and elevations shown to us we can make sound recommendations on the components necessary to establish a safe and efficient workplace. When looking at the floor plans and elevations while conducting a Fall Hazard Assessment, a key thing to look at is wall heights which helps us identify the proper fall clearances required and tells us how far to span the Safety Pole System.  This also suggests where to install the system to identify where the framer is most exposed to falls when using the system and maintain a near 100% tie-off. Once the potential fall hazards are identified, we need to pre-plan the job site coordination and write a catered training plan that can go into the contractor’s Fall Protection Plan before injuries occur. 

Why do all this? To conduct proper training each contractor needs to know the manufacturer’s recommendations and it is the contractor’s responsibility to provide Fall Protection Systems. Implementing safe work practices and providing thorough training can help reduce falls in the workplace. You may have proper fall protection systems in place but without proper training on how to use them, workers are still at risk.

With proper training, the workers understand a given fall protection system’s limitations and capabilities.  

With this training and use, the workers understand the importance of using intermediate products that meet the manufacturer’s recommendations for implementing proper fall protection such as the Safety Pole System. 

Protecting workers from falls without restricting productivity is a delicate balance. When your workers need the ability to move around freely in worksites with fall hazards, the self-retracting lifeline is an essential addition to the Safety Pole System. 

In conclusion, the importance of fall protection cannot be minimized.   Reducing OSHA fines and penalties, optimizing employee up-time, etc., are all good for the bottom line.  When employers embrace a safe workplace, they ensure a good nights sleep. 

When operating the Safety Pole System we recommend Class 1 or 2 Leading Edge SRLs. Self-retracting lifelines are useful for a variety of applications.  These vertical connectors offer both flexibility and security. With the right care and use, self-retracting lifelines allow workers to work productively without threatening their safety.

Understanding Self-Retracting Lifelines (SRLs):

Self Retracting Lifeline (SRL)

Self-retracting lifelines, also known as Yo-Yos, blocks and retractables, are advanced safety devices designed to automatically retract and arrest a fall, providing workers with increased mobility while maintaining optimal protection. The SRL got its name from when you pull out and release the lanyard, it retracts itself into the housing unit, hence SRL. Self-retracting lifelines include two major components, a lanyard and a housing unit.

It helps to think of an SRL like a seat belt, which extends and retracts as needed, but locks when tugged on with sudden force. When a worker falls, the sharp tug on the lifeline engages an automatic braking system inside the SRL’s housing unit and restricts the fall distance to only a few inches. The design of the SRL not only prevents falls but also limits the amount of force placed on the worker’s body if one does occur. It also minimizes the potential injuries and dangers workers face on the job.

The retractors in SRLs we rely on in modern times have undergone significant advancements since their early inception. In the early 20th century, workers utilized rudimentary lanyards to remain connected to the structures they were working on. However, both employees and employers faced a critical dilemma – the absence of connectors that could facilitate workplace mobility while ensuring effective protection against falls.

A groundbreaking breakthrough occurred in 1963 when an automatic braking system was introduced to connectors. This innovative addition incorporated a disk block mechanism, which swiftly halted the payout of lifelines in the event of a fall. Recognizing the need for further improvement, a new design was introduced in 2002, incorporating teeth and pawls to enhance the braking system. This ingenious modification enabled the pawls and teeth to swiftly engage, effectively ceasing the payout of the lifeline if it began to unravel too rapidly. To this day, self-retracting lifelines continue to incorporate this cutting-edge design.

In tandem with technological advancements, regulations surrounding retractors have also progressed. In 2012, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) released the Z359.14-2012 standard, which meticulously outlined the proper usage, maintenance, and performance requirements for these devices. Moreover, this standard introduced two distinct classes for self-retracting lifelines – Class 1 and Class 2 – further emphasizing the importance of safety and efficiency in these crucial tools.

There are various types of SRLs available, each tailored to specific applications and environments. These include:

  1. Durable and Flexible Cable SRLs for Challenging Environments

When it comes to applications that require a longer reach and working radius, Cable SRLs are the perfect choice. Made with resilient stainless steel or galvanized cables, these SRLs offer both flexibility and strength. However, it’s important to consider the impact of environmental factors on their durability and longevity.

In corrosive environments, such as steel mills, the constant high heat and contact with rough edges or machinery can significantly affect the effectiveness of SRL lanyards. This means that your fall safety equipment, including SRLs, will need to be replaced more frequently. For maximum durability, stainless steel cables are the best option, lasting the longest even in extremely corrosive conditions like marine work in seaports, on ships, or offshore platforms where the salty atmosphere can be harsh on equipment.

If you plan to attach the SRL to an outdoor elevated workspace that will be exposed to various weather conditions year-round like a roof, stainless steel is also recommended. On the other hand, galvanized steel cables, while slightly less durable, are still suitable for most corrosive environments. They can withstand constant heat in places like steel mills and boiler rooms, as well as constant cold or outdoor areas like rail yards and truck loading facilities.

When it comes to longevity in corrosive environments, both stainless steel and galvanized steel SRLs outperform those with synthetic webbing. Steel cable lanyards can endure more abuse and repeated use, ensuring they last longer. Unlike synthetic webbing lanyards, steel cable lanyards are not prone to tearing when exposed to sharp edges like roof sheets.

In conclusion, when working in challenging environments that demand durability and longevity, cable SRLs with stainless steel or galvanized steel cables are the reliable choice. They provide the necessary strength and flexibility while withstanding the harsh effects of corrosive elements and rough surfaces, ensuring your safety at all times.

  1. Web SRLs: 

Web SRLs have become increasingly popular in various industries due to their incorporation of high-strength webbing. These SRLs provide a lighter-weight option while maintaining excellent fall arrest capabilities. They are suitable for a range of environments and offer numerous advantages over traditional steel cable SRLs.

One of the main benefits of Web SRLs is their suitability for less corrosive environments. While steel cable SRLs are known for their durability, they may not be necessary in environments where corrosion is not a concern. For instance, in a climate-controlled distribution center with no sharp edges for the lanyard to rub against, a synthetic web SRL works perfectly well. In fact, fall protection equipment tends to last longer in non-corrosive environments, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

Furthermore, there are specific situations where a synthetic Web SRLs is preferred over a steel one. For example, in an airplane hangar or aviation maintenance facility, workers often need to climb on top of an aircraft to service or paint them. Using a steel cable lanyard in such scenarios could damage the aircraft’s paint or even crucial flight components. In contrast, an SRL with a synthetic webbing lanyard is preferred as the material will not cause any damage when it brushes against the aircraft. This ensures both worker safety and the preservation of the aircraft’s integrity.

Similarly, a manufacturing environment in proximity to an electric current necessitates the use of synthetic web SRLs. If a worker using a steel cable SRL accidentally allows the steel lanyard to touch an electrical conductor, it can result in an electric shock, potentially leading to severe injury or even death. The non-conductive properties of synthetic webbing make it a safer choice in such environments, reducing the risk of electrical incidents.

Additionally, the lighter weight of synthetic web SRLs provides an added advantage. This makes them easier and more comfortable for users to carry, particularly when they need to transport the apparatus over longer distances, such as with a horizontal lifeline system. The reduced weight alleviates physical strain and fatigue, promoting better worker productivity and overall safety.

In conclusion, Web SRLs incorporating high-strength webbing offer numerous benefits in comparison to traditional steel cable SRLs. Their suitability for less corrosive environments, non-damaging properties when in contact with aircraft, non-conductive nature in proximity to electric currents, and lighter weight make them a preferred choice in various industries and environments. As technology continues to advance, it is likely that web SRLs will become even more prevalent, ensuring the safety and well-being of workers across different sectors.

Features of SRLs:

The components of a self-retracting lifeline encompass the lifeline itself, the housing unit, and the mechanism employed.

Self-retracting lifelines are primarily crafted from webbing, rope, or cable, with stainless or galvanized steel being the usual materials of choice. The length of these connectors can vary greatly, ranging from as short as 6 feet to as long as 195 feet, contingent upon the specific product.

Encased within a sturdy outer casing, the housing unit’s size can span from a few inches to well over a foot, depending on the lifeline’s length. Alongside the coiled lifeline, this casing accommodates the braking system, mechanisms that enable smooth payout, and a retraction spring that ensures the lifeline remains taut during movement in and out of the housing unit.

The mechanism itself typically takes the form of a snap hook, scaffold hook, or carabiner. These components possess a fall indicator, signaling when the equipment is no longer safe for use. Should you observe a red or orange strip above the clamp, it is a strong indication that the lifeline has previously experienced a fall and is no longer considered safe.

Maintenance Requirements

Before installing the Safety Pole System, it is crucial to have a competent person inspect it.  Before Installation, the horizontal lifeline (HLL) needs to be inspected. The HLL energy absorber needs to be inspected for visible signs of deterioration and damage.  Inspect the Safety Pole’s Horizontal Lifeline Cable Grab. The release bolt should move smoothly without excessive force and the release bolt and jaws should be properly greased with Anti-Seize. The Horizontal Lifeline’s cable must slide smoothly in and out of the cable grab when the release bolt is not engaged. Also, be sure to inspect the turnbuckle ensuring it is properly engaged. With proper maintenance being conducted on the system, SRLs, and harnesses, the workers can extend the lifespan of the equipment, prevent unexpected downtime and disruptions to business operations, and improve product reliability.

To maintain the ongoing effectiveness and reliability of SRLs, regular maintenance is essential. This crucial process encompasses a range of tasks such as inspections, cleaning, lubrication, and functional testing, all of which should be carried out per the manufacturer’s guidelines. By conducting proper maintenance, SRLs can always be relied upon to be in optimal working condition and fully prepared to function as required.

It is the responsibility of workers to inspect their equipment, particularly when it comes to self-retracting lifelines. These lifelines must be thoroughly examined daily before each use, as well as annually by a competent person per ANSI 359 requirements. During these inspections, workers need to carefully check their SRLs for any signs of excessive wear, damage to the external casing, or any other indications of deterioration or defects. If any defects are discovered, immediate action must be taken to remove the SRL from service.

When inspecting the wire rope on each SRL and Safety Pole tie-back cable, it is important to pay close attention to any cuts, abrasions, or broken wires. Additionally, when examining the hardware components, workers should be on the lookout for signs of damage, corrosion, sharp edges, burrs, cracks, and deformation and ensure that gates operate smoothly and close completely. These thorough checks will help to identify and address any potential issues with the SRLs, ensuring their continued reliability and safety.

Integration with Harnesses and Safety Pole Systems

SRLs are designed to seamlessly integrate with harnesses and the Safety Pole System, forming a comprehensive fall protection system. Harnesses provide full-body support and distribute fall forces across the body, while SRLs act as the lifeline retracting automatically to arrest falls and minimize fall distances. 

At the foundation of these fall protection devices, rests the Safety Pole.  An overhead horizontal lifeline, like the Safety Pole, is recognized as the best method of preventing falls in a construction work environment.  Proper training and instruction on the correct use of harnesses, SRLs, and the horizontal lifeline system. are vital to ensure their effective integration and maximize worker safety.


In the realm of fall prevention and working at heights, self-retracting lifelines (SRLs) play a critical role in safeguarding workers and reducing fall distances. By understanding the various types of SRLs available, their features, maintenance requirements, and integration with harnesses and the horizontal lifeline system, employers and workers can prioritize safety and create a secure working environment. Utilizing SRLs in conjunction with other fall protection measures is essential for maintaining a productive and safe workplace at heights.

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