Self-Retracting Lifeline (SRL) Inspection Requirements Explained

Self-retracting lifelines (SRLs) are hugely important for preventing injuries and fatalities from falls in the workplace. They attach to the D-ring of the safety harness and lock to stop the worker from freefalling too far in the event of a fall from height and reduce the likelihood of a swing fall. Some SRLs even provide a deceleration device to slow the fall of the body harness or offer a shock absorber effect that slows the fall down over a short distance, usually up to three and a half feet. In this article, we’ll look closely at this piece of safety equipment and go over OSHA’s self-retracting lifeline inspection requirements.

The Importance of SRL Maintenance

When it comes to fall protection equipment, an SRL needs special care and attention. If it is not in perfect condition, even the smallest accident can be fatal. SRL maintenance means inspecting the device before every use and checking over the components to see there are no signs of excessive wear and tear, corrosion, or anything else that could compromise its ability to perform its job. 

If there are any issues with the self-retracting lifeline, you should instigate its removal from operation and send it for servicing immediately. As much as this is a must to keep your workplace safe, it also has the effect of saving money for the business. The sooner the issues are spotted, the easier they are to fix. 

In addition, by correctly looking after, inspecting, cleaning, and storing an SRL, you help it remain operational for as long as possible, meaning you don’t have to buy replacements as often. 

OSHA Self-Retracting Lifelines (SRL) Inspection Requirements

On to the most important part of this article!

OSHA regulations require users to inspect their SRL before every use, with any defective fall protection taken out of service. The agency says that any worker inspecting their self-retracting lanyards and other fall arrest systems should undertake training from a trained competent person before being allowed to do so. 

There are no set rules about how often you should perform more in-depth inspections by a qualified person. However, OSHA explicitly says that 

“Personal fall arrest systems shall be inspected prior to each use for wear, damage, and other deterioration, and defective components shall be removed from service.” 

In addition, the ANSI Z359.14-2014 national standard states that users should service their devices in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines. 3M states that the optimum period of time between servicing its products depends “on the type and conditions of use”. 

This table provides an idea of how frequently you should have a competent person inspect the device:

Type of UseUse FactorsSuggested Inspection Frequency
Occasional to Light Use (Factory/warehouse maintenance, confined spaces, etc.)Mainly indoor use, or infrequent outdoor use. Room temperature in clean areas and stored in a clean environment away from contaminants. Annual inspection.
Medium to Heavy Use (Homebuilding, transport sector, warehouse duties, utility workers)Working both indoors and outdoors for long periods, in both clean and dusty areas and all temperatures. Stored in fair conditions. Six months to a year. 
Very Heavy to Continual Use (Oil or gas industries, commercial building, mining, and similar)Prolonged or even continual use outdoors in dusty locations with lots of dirt and all temperatures. Storage in harsh conditions.  Three to six months

If you are in any doubt about engaging a qualified specialist for an inspection, contact the manufacturer. They will be able to guide you based on the model and nature of use.

Types of Inspection

Type of SRL InspectionWhat it Involves
DailyBefore every use, OSHA Standard 1910.140 says that SRLs and other personal fall protection systems must “be inspected before initial use during each work shift for mildew, wear, damage, and other deterioration, and defective components must be removed from service.”Even if the operator spots damage that does not affect the operation of the device, they should still send it for repair and reclassification, if that is possible with the model in question. 
Annual InspectionA more in-depth inspection, carried out by a competent person. This qualified person should be someone other than the usual operator of the SRL. Some companies have an in-house inspector, but others bring in a third party. The advantage with the latter approach from a safety point of view is that a third-party inspector is completely impartial. They are not concerned about how much it will cost to replace the PPE. Instead, they are solely focused on the safety of the device. 

To understand what you need to look for in daily and annual inspections, read the sections below. 

SRL Daily Inspection Checklist

Here are the steps the SRL user should take to inspect their device before they start their work for the day. If they answer “no” to any of the questions in the below checklist, the SRL should be taken out of service and sent for maintenance. 

Download Printable SRL Inspection Checklist
  1. Make an initial visual external inspection of the SRL, observing the following: 
    1. Is the casing of the SRL intact with no damage visible? 
    2. Are all of the parts in place? 
    3. Can you see the correct labels and markings, and are they legible? 
    4. Does the lanyard extract smoothly? 
    5. Does the lanyard retract smoothly with no slack? 
    6. Does the locking mechanism function as it should when you pull sharply, without slipping?
    7. Is the SRL free from other signs of deterioration?
  1. Take a look at the webbing components, if relevant to your model:
    1. When you bend the webbing into a U, is it free from holes, cuts, and tears? 
    2. Is it free from fraying, discoloration, mold, or abrasions?
    3. Are all of the stitches intact? 
    4. Is it free from brittle or excessively hard areas and other signs of heat damage?
  1. Take a look at the entire length of the wire rope cable, if relevant to your model, including underneath where the cable bumper is:
    1. When you bend the wire into a U, is it free from nicks and cuts? 
    2. Is it free from broken wires, broken strands, knots, twists, bulges, frays, gaps between strands, or kinks?
    3. Can you see any rust or corrosion? 
  1. Take a look at the hardware components of the SRL:
    1. Do carabiners and snap hooks self-close and lock as they should?
    2. Are the carabiners and snap hooks free from distortion, rust, bends, and other signs of wear? 
    3. Are the swivel eye and swiveling connectors swiveling freely as they should without being too loose? 
    4. Are the swiveling connectors free of wear, rust, cracks, and other damage signs?
    5. Are the other hardware components free from damage and corrosion? 
    6. Are the swaged terminations secure? 
    7. Are the thimbles on the swaged terminations tight and free from damage? 
    8. Are sewn terminations secure and free from damage? 

SRL Annual Inspection Checklist 

In addition to carrying out the checks from a daily SRL inspection, the competent person should also look into these areas when performing an annual inspection: 

  • Inspect the device in accordance with the manufacturer’s specific guidelines for that model.
  • Closely examine the SRL to ensure it has not been used in a fall arrest event. If it has been subject to fall arrest forces, the inspector must take it out of service immediately for recertification. 
  • Look at the SRL impact indicator, which should be located on the snap hook or rebar hook. This will indicate whether or not it has been deployed. 
  • Open the housing to check the condition of the springs, brakes, brake pawls, and pressure plates. 

Recertification and Repair

Recertification is the process by which you send the SRL to the manufacturer or an authorized repair center to check that it meets the required safety and performance standards. You also recertify your SRL any time that you send it for repairs. 

Recertification

As the owner of the equipment, you should set a recertification schedule for your SRLs. Manufacturers often guide customers on the ideal period between recertifications, but a general rule of thumb is to send it off every two to three years. 

The ideal recertification schedule depends on the type of SRL and the way you use it. Models in continuous use will need recertification more often than those that you only use occasionally. If your SRL is involved in a fall arrest event, it will need to be sent straight away to be recertified. 

Recertification essentially works as a clock reset for your self retracting devices. Once it returns, it is good to go again for the period of time designated in your company policy, providing regular inspections do not highlight damage. In that case, you would need to send it for repair. 

Repair

Any time you send the SRL for a repair, the center also recertifies it. If the user on a daily inspection or the authorized person on an annual inspection spots any type of damage, they must immediately take the device out of use and send it for repair. 

FAQ

Who should inspect SRLs? 

The user of the SRL must inspect it before every work shift to check that it is in good and safe working order. They should receive training from a competent person. The more in-depth inspections that take place at three, six, or twelve-month intervals must be carried out by a qualified individual.

How long is a self-retracting lifeline good for?

There is no set time frame for how long a self-retracting lifeline should last. But with regular inspections and a set recertification schedule, you can ensure that you only use SRLs that are completely safe. If it is not possible to repair an SRL or for it to pass recertification, you should dispose of it. 

Can self-retracting lifelines be used horizontally? 

If you want to use a self-retracting lifeline horizontally, you need to combine it with items such as a single anchorage point or a horizontal lifeline system. You need to protect the cable against sharp edges and keep an eye out for them at all times, too. If you want to use it horizontally, you should check with the manufacturer’s instructions first to ensure it is possible with the model you have bought. 

Can you connect two lanyards together?

OSHA states that you cannot connect two lanyards together on a personal fall arrest system “unless the snap hook is a locking type and designed for the connections.” Even if this is the case, you need to make sure that the new free fall distance of the load does not prevent a fall arrest from occurring or contravene the guidelines on safe fall clearance.

Conclusion

The self-retracting lifeline inspection requirements laid out by OSHA and ANSI are there to ensure safety on-site so that you avoid a serious injury or worse. With fall hazards causing so many serious injuries every year, the more often you check over your device, the safer you will be. This is why it is important to look after your SRL as part of a personal fall arrest system. The end-user must be trained by an appropriate individual to be able to inspect the SRL daily and why you cannot skip those in-depth checks at regular intervals. 

References and Further Reading