A Lanyard or a Lifeline?

A lanyard or a lifeline? Worker on roof

Selecting the right connection device can be tricky. There are many variables including length, material and functionality to take into account. So how do you get the right one? Lanyards and Self-Retracting Lifelines (or SRLs) are the two most common connection devices. These devices are used to create connections between a worker’s body harness and their anchor point. We have decoded each type so that you can make an informed decision on which is best suited to your site and working conditions.


Lanyards are made of fixed length (usually 1.8 - 2m) webbing or cable with or without shock absorbing capability. Lanyards are ideal in situations where the full length of the connecting device needs to be taken into account, making lanyards the more ideal choice for smaller work areas. As lanyards are a fixed length, they can only be used in height applications higher than the length of the lanyard, including any shock absorption stretch. Lanyards offer more simplicity, and are usually more hardwearing in harsh, dirty conditions.

Self-Retracting Lifelines

Unlike lanyards, SRLs are available in a much wider range of lengths. The wire or webbing is stored in a central mechanism that lengthens when pulled in a constant fashion then automatically retracts as tension is released. If a fall is to occur, it is arrested by an internal braking mechanising that is activated by a sudden pull, much like a car seatbelt. A worker’s mobility is greater with a SRL connector as they are able to cover a larger work radius around the anchor point.

Lanyard and self-retracting lifeline
Left: Lanyard. Right: Self-retracting lifeline

The real difference between the two is the amount of free fall a worker will experience before the fall is arrested. Free fall refers to the distance a worker falls unimpeded before a force acts to arrest the fall. As the internal braking mechanism is activated as soon as the fall has occurred, SRLs limit free fall, whereas a worker using a lanyard will need to fall the length of the lanyard before the fall is arrested. SRLs therefore generally offer better performance functionality, however it is still important to take into account the specific work application.

Double or Single Lanyard?

Whether you opt for a double or single lanyard is dependent on the job at hand. The benefit of a single lanyard is that it keeps you attached to one point without extra wires that may possibly become tangled, posing an additional hazard. If the work position is generally static and only one anchorage point is necessary to maintain safety, then a single lanyard might be the more suitable option.

Using a double lanyard is beneficial when ascending or descending. The double lanyard allows the wearer to always be attached to a ladder or structure, as one connection can be moved at a time as the worker moves up or down. Accidents can often happen while the worker is making a transition (in-between disconnecting from an anchorage point and reconnecting in a different location). Where moving vertically or horizontally at height is required, the twin lanyard maintains 100% tie off with one point of attachment at all times.

Double lanyard height safety worker

If you are unsure whether you should be using a lanyard or a lifeline, or want more information on single or double lanyards, contact your local ATOM Safety representative.

At ATOM, we have your fall protection equipment covered with lanyard and self-retracting lifeline devices available from world-leading brand 3M. Keep your team safe while working at height with our range of fall protection equipment.

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