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Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a weight limit for SRLs?

The limit is 310 lbs., including all clothing, tools, and other gear. Some units have been tested and certified for additional weight, and these have a notation in the description to that effect.


Can I use a self retracting lifeline on a flat roof or leading edge application?

In general terms we would discourage this use. There are a few problems that come up:

-The cable or webbing becoming frayed or cut when moving across a roof edge.

-The cable speed must reach approximately 4-5 feet per second to activate the brakes on most units, and this may not happen if there is any slope or you encounter other obstructions that slow your fall.

-Swing fall hazards may present themselves. Depending on where you are in relation to the self retracting lifeline anchorage and/or the presence of a corner, you may end up with significant sideways motion. This can increase your fall distance as well as the hazard of swinging into some other obstruction.

-If you do use an SRL for this application, be sure to position the SRL on its edge, rather than laying flat. This will allow the cable or webbing to spool properly. There are brackets available for this. Also, a separate special shock absorber (DBI part number 1220362) may be advisable, since the roof edge may limit the built-in effectiveness of the SRL. Do not use a shock absorbing lanyard for this.


Would I get added protection using a shock absorbing lanyard with a Self Retracting Lifeline?

In almost all cases, this is not recommended practice. The concerns here would include:

-Fall Distance: the addition of a lanyard potentially increases the distance that a free fall can go undetected by the SRL. The momentum gained increases the impact energy that must be dissipated. Also, this added distance makes striking an obstruction (or the ground) more likely.

-Connections: When you attach the snap-hook of the lanyard to the snap-hook on the SRL, this is an incompatible connection and is not recommended. The possibility of roll-out is very real in this situation, possibly disconnecting you from the lifeline at the very moment it is most needed.

-Exceptions: If needed, a short 18” d-ring extension may be used to help with connecting and disconnecting the SRL snap-hook. For applications where the line does not pay out vertically, a separate in-line shock absorber pack (i.e. DBI 1220362) may be used. This might be in the case of a flat roof or leading edge situation.


Which is better – a self retracting lifeline or a shock absorbing lanyard?

This will have a lot to do with your application. In general, we like an SRL over a lanyard because in a properly designed system, the fall distances are shorter. Shorter fall distances usually mean less impact and potential for injury. Of course, jobs such as climbing a cell tower or walking along the cable of a suspension bridge don’t lend themselves to using an SRL. In these cases, a lanyard is the only choice.


Why would I choose an SRL vs. a shock absorbing lanyard?

If you have a work environment that allows you to find a secure overhead anchorage, a self retracting lifeline offers convenience and safety that surpasses a lanyard. Remember, that while a shock absorbing lanyard may expand 10-42” in the event of a fall, it doesn’t start working until pulled taut. If a 6 foot lanyard is secured at waist level, you may travel 3-4 ft before it starts to work. A self retracting lifeline will generally start to arrest your descent within about 12” after the line pulls taut, with a maximum braking distance of approximately 42”. Additionally, the spring action of the cable reel inside the SRL is constantly taking up any slack in the line. This ‘fall distance’ is a very important factor to be taken into account as you plan your work.


How far will I fall before the SRL starts to catch me?

If the retractable block is mounted directly overhead, you should fall no further than 12-18” before the braking action of the SRL engages with most any unit we sell, though the ‘maximum arresting distance’ quoted by the manufacturers is 42”. This does not take into account any offset that may exist between you and the anchorage point for the SRL. To the extent you are out from under this anchor point the fall distance will be increased. Additionally, the chance for a swing fall will increase as well. Swing fall is where you get a pendulum action added to the fall.


Do I need to re-certify my SRL?

If the unit is involved in a fall, whether or not the impact indicator has been activated, it should be returned to an authorized service center for disassembly and inspection. Aside from that, no annual recertification is needed. A ‘Competent Person’ should visually inspect the unit and if applicable, the associated anchor point at least annually. Additional info may be found on our Repair/Recertify page.


What should I do with my retractable after a fall?

Either contact us or the device manufacturer to arrange for the return of the unit. It will be dismantled, cleaned and inspected. All of the parts will be checked for wear or corrosion and will be replaced as needed. The energy absorbing brake mechanism will be adjusted to spec and the fall indicator will be replaced. With a new label and certification, the unit will be returned to you. There are some of the units we sell that are too inexpensive to make this worthwhile, but that will be covered at the time you call.


What types of cable are available?

The majority of cable-type retractable lifelines we sell are shipped with galvanized steel cable. For most applications it provides good service and costs less than stainless steel. Stainless cable is often specified in waste treatment plants and offshore facilities. Here the resistance to chemical and salt spray is critical to extending the useful life of the device. In any event, the cable should be inspected at least annually by a ‘Competent Person’ according to ANSI and all of the manufacturers we represent.


Is it ok to use an SRL on a pitched roof?

There are special brackets made to adapt a self retracting lifeline for use on a pitched roof. However, great care should be taken in training the users about the limitations involved. On a roof with a gentle pitch, sufficient falling speed to activate the unit may not be attained until after reaching the edge. For instance, a slow skid or slide down the roof may not reach the 4-5 feet per second needed to engage the braking mechanism.


How long is the warranty on your lifelines?

Warranties on these devices are against defects in materials and workmanship. Retractables from DBI and Protecta are warranted for 2 years, while Miller units are warranted for 1 year.


Is there a service life on a self retracting lifeline?

With annual inspections and factory service as needed, there is no set service life for a self retracting lifeline.


How often should my SRL be serviced?

With the modern self retracting lifeline, there is no specific service or re-certification interval. Taking into account your work environment, the type of work performed and the frequency of use are among the factors you should consider. An annual inspection by a ‘Competent Person’ is recommended by ANSI and all manufacturers. If you feel that your conditions are particularly harsh, then having the unit inspected more often may be advisable.


Are these devices OSHA approved?

First, we usually say that OSHA does not ‘approve’ safety equipment. OSHA recognizes and insists upon workers using the products tested and approved by a variety of independent testing agencies. In the case of fall protection equipment in the USA, standards agreed upon by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) are what OSHA is looking for. All of the products we sell are certified to comply with one or more of these standards by the manufacturer. In some cases there may be more than one standard that applies to your situation. So blanket statements will only go so far. Please contact us for help with your specific requirements.


What is involved in servicing a retractable?

The SRL is completely disassembled, cleaned and inspected. All components are checked for wear, corrosion or other damage. The braking elements, which are critical to absorbing the energy of a fall, are adjusted to specification. The cable is inspected for wear, frayed wires, kinks or improper twist. Webbing is also closely inspected for wear, burns or chemical degradation. In either case, if wear is found, this part is replaced. According to DBI, this occurs about 40% of the time when retractables are sent in for service. After that, the unit is reassembled and tested to ensure correct operation. A fresh label with new certification is applied and the unit is ready for service. If you have ever taken apart the pull starter on a lawn mower or chain saw, then you know the forces at work trying to put it all back together.


What is a tag line?

A tag line is a separate rope or cable used to allow the SRL’s cable to fully retract back into the unit during non-use. This is most often an issue when the unit is mounted far overhead. When the unit will be out of use for an extended period of time, 24 hours or more, the retractable safety line should be allowed to spool back fully. This relaxes the internal spring and keeps the cable out of the elements. So when it is time to use the SRL, the user pulls the tag line down to the work surface, detaches the tag line and clips the snap-hook on to the full body harness. When the work is finished, the snap-hook is detached from the full body harness and clipped to the tag line. Then the SRL cable is allowed to gently retract up to the unit. Do not allow the cable to free-fly, as this can make the cable spool unevenly within the unit. Once fouled, the unit may have to be sent in for servicing to dislodge the cable. This is an unnecessary and expensive mistake.


Our retractables are mounted outdoors. Are there any special precautions?

Depending on which part of the country you are in, this may be referred to as severe service. Moisture and dirt will eventually foul most units. Pay particular attention to the smooth operation of your SRL(s). They should allow the cable to pay out smoothly, without any undue noises or sticking. Then the cable should return into the housing just as easily. If the units are mounted high above, be sure to use a tag line. Proper use of a tag line will keep the cable inside the unit when not in use. In addition to the recommended annual inspection by a 'Competent Person', you may want to schedule an interim check-up. The ‘Sealed’ series of SRLs from DBI may be something to look into as well. They cost a bit more, but the springs/gears/brakes are kept in a separate side of the housing with a barrier between them and the cable spool. This keeps the dirt and crud out.


What is a swing fall?

When experiencing a fall from height, the equipment you have chosen is intended to stop you. Once this happens, and to the extent you are offset from the anchor point, you will have a pendulum-like swing action. This becomes a problem if there are obstructions for you to run into. Because the forces involved can be quite severe, and depending on how far you swing, the impact may be anything but gentle. You may be wearing a hard hat, but this offers little protection against side impacts. Always take a look around and below you. In the event of a fall, this is where you’re heading.


What do you recommend for working on top of a railcar or trailer?

A self retracting lifeline is ideally suited for this application. However, mounting on a secure anchorage point can be a bit challenging. Many of our customers have opted for an engineered solution. The typical installation has steel poles that support a horizontal cable running parallel with the rail tanker or trailer. The SRL is attached to this cable by a carabiner, allowing it to move along with the worker and stay overhead at all times. Please contact us for a further explanation if this type of application interests you.


Which type of webbing – nylon or polyester - do you recommend?

Both types of webbing have been tested and approved for the use in a self retracting lifeline. However, polyester is more resistant to UV radiation from sunlight and so may be better suited for use outdoors. Also certain chemicals may have more effect on nylon than polyester.


Some models say they are ‘sealed’. What does that mean?

For SRLs intended for use in severe conditions, the springs/brakes/gears are housed in a sealed-off part of the safety block housing. A plastic or rubberized shield keeps moisture and crud out of the works. While a bit more expensive, for those environments where this feature is warranted, the extended service life you will get is likely be worth it.


Can I attach the lifeline to the side d-ring on my harness?

The side d-rings are intended for use with a positioning lanyard only. Never attach a fall arrest device to anything but the back d-ring on your full body harness. The only exception would be if your specific situation has been reviewed by a qualified and 'Competent Person' and they issue specific instructions. Even then, I would be wary, since severe injuries may result.


What happens after I fall? How do I get down?

The best time to plan for this is before beginning work. There are a couple of factors to be aware of. First, once you have fallen and are suspended in your full body harness, you become subject to ‘suspension trauma’. This condition allows the pooling of blood in your lower extremities (legs), and can become quite severe in a short period of time depending on factors such as weight and physical condition. This definitely puts a timer on any solution. We offer specially designed straps for reducing this hazard to be used with your harness in this event. Second, if you are hanging there, what personnel or equipment will be needed to bring you down? Calling 911 is always an option, but making preparations in advance is the better way to go. Working at height should always be supervised by co-workers familiar with and trained in the job at hand. Talk it through prior to starting. Everyone will feel better about tackling a problem with a little time spent on the solution. Of course this solution will be specific to your situation.


How fast does a fall happen?

These things happen quickly. Faster than many people realize. Once you have lost your balance and begin to fall, you will go 4 feet in about a half second. This is quite literally in ‘the blink of an eye’, as many reference listings that I have found say that is how long a typical blink takes. And because our old friend gravity helps you pick up speed, 16 feet will come up in about 1 second. Given this, will you have time (and presence of mind) to grab hold of something secure? And if you did, would you have the strength to arrest this rapid build-up of force? Probably not. This is why fall protection equipment, including a self retracting lifeline, is so important.