August 17, 2015
Personal fall limiters have been around for more than a decade and they offer many advantages over shock-absorbing lanyards, but many people are still not sure what to call them. You may have heard them referred to as “Personal self-retracting devices” or “SRL-Ps” — but those names have not caught on, at least among manufacturers of the devices.
What do these devices do and why have they become so popular?
A personal fall limiter is essentially a compact, lightweight self-retracting lifeline that has a relatively short working length, typically six to nine feet. What makes the devise “personal” is that the body of the retractable unit can be attached directly to the back D-ring on a worker’s full-body harness and can be carried on the worker’s back. This “reverse configuration” offers an advantage over many standard self-retracting lifelines, which must be secured at the anchor point.
Personal fall limiters also have a number of advantages over shock-absorbing lanyards. They are compact and lightweight; they are less likely to interfere with work tasks; and depending how they are used, they can prevent a worker from free-falling as far before the fall is arrested.
Some personal fall limiters are available in single and twin configurations. The twin configurations work like a Y-lanyard, allowing the worker to easily transfer from one anchor point to another.
As with standard self-retracting lifelines and lanyards, personal fall limiters should be mounted to an overhead anchorage that can support 5,000 pounds – and with no slack in the lifeline to minimize the potential for a swing fall.
Always check with the manufacturer before using these devices in non-overhead applications. And, as with any other fall protection device, read the instruction manual and follow the manufacturer's safety warnings before using it.
ANSI standard Z359.14 covers the safety requirements for self-retracting devices. A future revision of Z359.14 will cover the design, performance, and testing of personal fall limiters.
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