Fall Protection “Yo-Yos” Are No Child’s Play

What's wrong with this picture?

Q: What’s wrong with the use of a self-retracting device in this picture?
A: Anchorage is too low and unstable, both legs of lanyard attached while working, among other things

In the course of our fall protection consulting work at petrochemical sites, we have seen a significant increase in the use of self-retracting devices—or “yo-yos,” as they are often called in the field. While the yo-yo nickname makes sense, these devices are much more complex than a child’s toy.

When used properly, SRDs provide an opportunity to improve safety. But, it can also be challenging to understand—and train personnel on—the proper application and use of these devices. This is especially true since many workers are more familiar with the use of energy-absorbing lanyards, which function much differently.

We have observed some serious misuses of SRDs, such as anchoring at foot level and using the wrong device for a given circumstance. It is clear that with the advantages of these devices—less clearance distance needed, ease of rescue and decreasing cost—also comes a learning curve for workers at heights.

In conjunction with a refinery safety professional, I will be providing a presentation on this subject at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) National Safety Conference on May 14. If you are attending AFPM, I encourage you to attend the presentation to learn about this topic, or stop by booth #211 to discuss any of your fall protection concerns.

If you aren’t attending AFPM, but want to learn more about SRDs or other aspects of a fall protection program, please contact me directly.

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