A self-retracting lifeline is basically a type of lanyard that allows users to move around freely within a specific area. The lanyard rolls out and retracts on the basis of the movement of the users.
Jason Wible Frenchcreek mentions that the retracting function of these lanyards makes sure that the lifeline is always kept taut. In case a sudden increase in speed or fall is detected, the automatic speed brake is activated and the fall shall be stopped.
Jason Wible Frenchcreek provides a general overview of self-retracting lifelines
Self-retracting lifelines go by several names, such as automatic fall arrest devices, retracting lanyards, retractable fall arresters, or fall arrest blocks. Even though these names differ, the basic equipment functions in the same manner. The whole concept of a self-retracting lanyard is commonly compared to that of a seatbelt. In case a person gives a light pull on the seatbelt, it shall smoothly roll out and retract to a snug fit once released. A sudden tug on the seatbelt, for instance, due to an emergency stop would make the system block and make sure that a person does not fly from the seat. The retracting lanyard pretty much works in a similar manner. Its function essentially is to stop falls and limit forces that are imposed on the body of the workers during a fall.
Self-retracting lifelines are used in situations where work at height is executed, and where users tend to work in fall arrest or fall restraint situations. Users are often unable to reach the area where they have the probability of falling while working in fall restraint. Working with a self-retracting lanyard essentially means that the unrolled length of the lanyard must not exceed the distance from the anchor to the edge. When using a fall arrest system, the users may fall from the structure but the equipment shall stop their fall; in case the user has fallen from a good height, then a rescue plan should kick into use. In order to prevent further injuries, a worker needs to be rescued as safely and swiftly as possible. Self-retracting lifelines are commonly used in fall arrest systems. Their most widely used application is for overhead anchorage.
In the opinion of Jason Wible Frenchcreek most common example of overhead self-retracting lifeline use is while working on steel beams in a factory hall or stadium. The reason for doing so is that the self-retracting lanyard reduces the fall distance by stopping a fall almost instantly. In case the anchor point is right above the user, it shall not only limit the fall distance but also help in preventing swing falls.
Retracting lanyards can be used in combination with permanently installed fall protection systems like a horizontal lifeline system or a single anchor point. It is vital to properly check the specifications of the manufacturer properly before using self-retracting lifelines horizontally. The leading, or sharp, edges are some elements that especially need to be taken into account when using a self-retracting lifeline horizontally. The cable of the retracting lanyard must have sharp edge protection to make sure that it does not tear. If a person is using a self-retracting lifeline horizontally while anchored at foot level, they also must consider the necessary fall clearance carefully.