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Safety - Fall Protection - Retractable Lanyards

Updated on March 7, 2009

Fall Arrest Equipment Instructions - Retractable Lanyards

Falls are one of the greatest causes of serious injuries and fatalities in both the work place and at home. This series of lens gives detailed information on fall prevention and fall protection. Specifically this lens has information on the use of Retractable Lanyards.

About the Author

What makes me qualified to tell you about fall prevention and protection?

I have been a Chartered Engineer for about 14 years and have over 20 years experience of working in a variety of industrial environments that have all included working at height. These include Petrochem, Metal Manufacturing, Power Generation and Construction.

In that time I have promoted safe working at height to everybody.

For a number of years I was employed by a large American Corporation and was deemed to be the local Fall Prevention and Protection expert and introduced many new systems and methods of work.

I am now in a position where I would like to share some of the knowledge I have gained over the years.

General Warnings

  1. For Safe and efficient use of the retractable lanyard, it is essential, prior to use, to read, understand and comply with the advice given on this instruction sheet. Additional copies of this sheet are available on request.

  2. Before using, users shall have received adequate training.

  3. The user is responsible for checking the safety devices before use.

  4. Never use equipment that is visibly not in good condition, any equipment showing signs of deterioration shall not be used and will be quarantined until checked.

  5. Replacement of any original parts by parts from other sources is strictly forbidden.

  6. The retractable lanyards described in this instruction sheet shall be used exclusively for personal protection purposes and not for any other purpose including slinging or lifting of tools or materials.

  7. Never use the equipment for the protection of more than one person at a time.

  8. Any equipment involved in a fall arrest event must not be re-used until a competent inspector has inspected it.

  9. Instructions for any other equipment being used in conjunction with the retractable lanyard must also be fully understood prior to use.

Equipment Description

The Retractable Lanyard is a portable personal fall arrest device, with automatic control. The system comprises:

  • A specially designed webbing lanyard complete with a shock absorbing pack. It is fitted with a mounting connector allowing it to be mounted at the upper anchor point. At the lower end there is a standard carabina allowing connection to a fall arrest harness. The shock absorbing pack has a label identifying the date of manufacture, and information in accordance with appropriate standards.
  • A retractable lanyard is primarily for use in the vertical position, or in some circumstances in the horizontal position. In the event of a fall the retractable lanyard will always arrest the fall automatically. If the user falls, locking of the retractable lanyard is activated by the inertia of the ratchet mechanism within the recoiling part of the equipment.
  • This equipment must not be used in association with any other type of lanyard or rope access device.
  • The retractable lanyard must be of a suitable length for the intended travel to ensure continuous protection.


The retractable lanyard may be used in conditions where a standard lanyard would otherwise be employed. It is recommenced that the inertia reel end is attached to the harness preferably to the rear anchor point on the harness. The free end of the retractable lanyard must be anchored to a suitable anchor point using the supplied connector as high as possible above the user. The equipment must be capable of alignment without difficulty along the direction of the load in the event of a fall. A competent person must inspect, prior to use, any assembly requiring the construction of a temporary anchorage point.

Checks Prior to USE

The following Checks must be carried out before each set up:

1: Check the retractable lanyard.

  • Check the inspection date is within the last six months.
  • Check the condition; reject any equipment showing signs of wear, traces of rust, signs of physical damage etc.
  • Check the correct operation of the locking mechanism by pulling the free end of the shock absorber quickly, the reel must lock instantly.
  • Check that the outer cover sleeve of the shock absorber is sound and that no webbing has been pulled from the sleeve.
  • Check that the anchoring of the textile rope is above the user and in line with the working position, within a limit of 30deg.

2: Check the harness.

  • Refer to the instruction sheet for the harness.

3: Check the connectors.

  • Refer to the relevant instruction sheet for the connectors being used.

4: Check the potential fall area.

  • Check that the potential fall area is free from obstacles.
  • Clearance must allow the user's fall to be stopped before encountering any obstacle, allow a 3m safety distance for extension of the shock-absorbing lanyard.

  • Ensure that no obstacle is liable to be struck because of any swinging motion.

5: Check the surrounding area.

  • Check that the webbing of the lanyard is not liable to come into contact with any sharp edges including any tools being carried in a tool belt.

  • Check that the webbing or any connectors will not be exposed to temperature exceeding 100oC or to Mechanical or Chemical corroding agents.

  • Check that there is a competent person nearby to raise the alarm in the event of an emergency.

6: Have a rescue plan in place before starting work.

WARNING - The retractable lanyard is an elastic item requiring a certain amount of clearance to avoid a collision.


  • With the unit correctly attached to the anchor point and connected to the harness the user has no more to do to operate the fall arrest system. The unit will run freely when the user moves away from the anchor point and will automatically retract when the user moves towards the anchor point.

  • Mounting the inertia reel to the harness will allow the user to straighten the lanyard should it become twisted for any reason.

  • In the event of a fall the user will be restrained immediately by the system.

  • In the event of a fall where the fall arrest device has been deployed all equipment being used must be quarantined for inspection.


  • Upon completion of the task, the retractable lanyard must be neatly placed in a suitable storage locker, all connectors must be stored in the closed position.

Checks and Maintenance

To ensure safe operation of the fall arrest equipment it must be kept in good condition.

  • Clean the outside of any components (use soapy water for textiles and De-solv-it for metal parts), allow to dry in air, away from the sun and any direct heat and sheltered from damp.

  • Any metal part showing signs of damage or deformation must be removed from service and be checked by a competent person.

  • When checking the webbing lanyard it must be fully uncoiled and checked visually.

Permissible Attachments

In conformity with EN363 and good standard practices, this equipment may be integrated into a fall arrest system which shall comprise:

  • An anchor point (for roof work this anchor point can be the installed lifeline cable system)

  • A connector

  • Rope grab and textile rope, retractable lanyard

  • A fall arrest harness (a back attachment is recommended)

Any other combination must be authorised by a competent person before use.

Warnings against Hazardous Operations

The following should be avoided:

  • Use of equipment that has not been inspected.

  • Use of the equipment without a minimum clearance of 3m.

  • Anchoring the retractable lanyard below the user.

  • Deviation from the vertical of the anchorage point by more than 30o

  • Use of the equipment where there is a risk of injury due to swinging.

  • Use of a knotted or looped retractable lanyard.

  • Use of equipment that has been put into quarantine for any reason.

  • Use of the equipment for more than one person at a time.

  • Hindrance of free movement of the system.

  • Attaching the equipment by means other than the attachment point.

  • Use of the equipment for purposes other than the intended use.

  • Use of the retractable lanyard for slinging or lifting.

  • Insertion of foreign substances into the equipment.

  • Striking the casing of the retractable lanyard.

  • Playing with the equipment (for example "bungee jumping")


If the equipment appears to be faulty in any way it must not be used and must be inspected by a competent person before being put back into service.


The information in this lens is provided for information only and does not intend to replace any training that a user must receive. The author can accept no responsibility of any kind for any accident, injury, damage or loss resulting from a person or persons using this information.

This information must not be used to replace local standards, procedures and training.

Every job must be fully assessed for risk and method before any works are performed.

Want more information?

Whilst this lens provides load of information, I can understand that you may want to know more. Check out these titles from Amazon for more good information.

Do you have information to add? Is there something more that you would like to see? Have I missed something out?

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wonderful lens!

      Your share of information on safety use and proper maintenance is superb!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wonderful lens!

      Your share of information on safety use and proper maintenance is superb!

    • Robyco profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Hi Funride, thanks fro your comments, I am sorry to read about your injuries, but the information you have provided is very interesting and useful. I hope you are well on the way to making a full recovery.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens Roy, it´s very useful and informative. One year ago I had a big fall from a 2nd floor balcony and fortunately I have survived only with some injuries .

      I´m sure this lens will inform many people and help preventing accidents. 5* ;)


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