By definition, a “fall arrest system” consists of an anchorage connector, a body harness, a lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline, or a suitable combination of these. This article will discuss one such deceleration device, “The retractable lanyard.” What is it? How should it be used properly and safely? What are its advantages? Are there disadvantages?
OSHA defines a “retractable” as a deceleration device containing a drum-wound line which can be slowly extracted from, or retracted onto, the drum under slight tension during normal employee movement, and which, after onset of a fall, automatically locks the drum and arrests the fall.
Retractable lanyards can be used when working on high buildings, chimneys, bridges, roofs and other workplaces involving fall hazards. They may be chosen over standard six-foot shock-absorbing lanyards for at least a couple of reasons. A self-retracting lanyard allows the worker freedom of movement, not possible with a sixfoot shock absorber. Once tied off to an anchorage point, he can move around easily to accomplish his task.
Of even more importance, consider this: Traditional six-foot shock-absorbing lanyards allow for up to 6 feet of freefall distance prior to activating, and another 3 ½ feet of the deceleration distance prior to arresting a fall. Self-retracting lanyards require less than 2 feet to arrest freefalls and they slowly pull out to a maximum of 54 inches, creating a minimum of impact and stress to the body. With shorter activation distance and shorter overall arresting distance, self-retracting lanyards reduce the risk of hitting the ground or any obstructions at a lower level.
Functionally, a retractable is similar to the seatbelt in your car. A restoring spring keeps the wire rope or Polyamide strap taut, allowing it to respond immediately in the event of a fall. When the working speed (approximately 4 ½ feet per second) is exceeded, the brake pawls activate the brake system, locking into place as a result of centrifugal force. The required fall absorption is attained by a disc brake system which is set internally. Brake values are independent of any weather situation. Retractables are tested in extreme conditions, e.g. cold, heat and moisture.
Among the articles in the November 2020 issue of ISHN Magazine, we discuss what smart factory really means, delve into the perils of water damage, learn how to prevent eye injuries, and take a deep dive into silicosis dangers when working with quartz.