How to maintain your self-retracting lifeline

How to maintain your self-retracting lifeline


Similar to the torch for a welder or scissors for a hairdresser, workers who need to work at a height have their own essential equipment: the self-retracting lifeline (SRL).

Since your life may depend on your SRL, ensuring it works properly before climbing is essential. This article will explain proper inspection.


According to CSA Z259 standards, inspecting your SRL is not only a question of safety but also mandatory.

CSA requires users to give SRLs a cursory inspection before each use. Manufacturers will provide the inspection criteria in Instruction-For-Use (IFU) manuals. This inspection is not recorded. 

CSA also requires end users’ competent fall protection persons to inspect SRLs routinely. A “Routine Basis” is defined as infrequent usage, frequent usage and continuous usage. This recorded inspection may need to be presented to Provincial Safety Officials and workers upon request. Again, IFUs will contain inspection criteria. 

CSA divides SRLs into repairable and unrepairable. CSA requires repairable SRLs to be “revalidated” by a factory-authorized service center on a routine basis.

This means a certified technician must open the unit and inspect all critical parts. Units that fail inspection can be repaired.  

See below for the CSA table covering the frequency of inspection and revalidation.

Required inspection frequency for self-retracting lifelines

Type of use

Application examples

Example conditions of use

Worker inspection frequency

Competent person inspection frequency

Product revalidation frequency

Infrequent to light

Rescue and confined space, factory maintenance

Good storage conditions, indoor or infrequent outdoor use, room temperature, clean environments.

Before each use


At least every 5 years but not more than intervals required by the manufacturer.

Moderate to heavy

Transportation, residential construction, utilities, warehouse

Fair storage conditions, indoor and extended outdoor use, all temperatures, clean or dusty environments.

Before each use

Semi-annually to annually

At least every 2 years but not more than intervals required by the manufacturer.

Severe to continuous

Commercial construction, oil and gas, mining, foundry

Harsh storage conditions, prolonged or continuous outdoor use, all temperatures, dirty environment

Before each use

Quarterly to semi-annually

At least annually but not more than intervals required by the manufacturer.

CSA also covers non-repairable SRLs and revalidation. SRLs considered non-repairable or not designed for disassembly such that internal inspection is not possible without rendering it unserviceable are not subject to a revalidation inspection. However, these SRLs shall have a service life and other inspection requirements as provided by the manufacturer’s instructions.

Non-repairable SRLs failing competent person inspections shall be removed from service and destroyed (cutting the lifeline hook off) and disposed of properly. 


Companies that are end users of fall protection equipment determine who in their organization are competent persons. 

CSA defines a competent person as someone with the knowledge, training, and experience in fall protection to enable them to perform an assigned duty. In this case, an SRL inspection is what needs to be completed.


Inspection steps are detailed in the manufacturer’s IFUs. These inspection steps may be specific to one product, so always check the manufacturer’s IFU for the most up-to-date recommendations.

Inspections typically include damage to housings, lifelines and connecting hardware, missing parts and fasteners, non-functioning features like self-closing snap hooks or SRL locking functions, as well as ripped or missing shock pack covers and damaged shock packs.

All SRLs also have some sort of fall indicator that must be checked.

Consult the manufacturer’s IFUs to determine where this fall indicator is located and how it looks when indicated/non-indicated.

If an SRL fails an inspection, it shall be removed from service immediately, marked as non-usable and either repaired by a factory-authorized service center or, if non-repairable, destroyed by cutting the snap hook off and being disposed of properly.


Dirty equipment should be cleaned. Use warm, soapy water to clean the SRL exterior housing and lifelines. Do not use chemicals to clean SRLs. Avoid flooding the internal components with water and soap. 

If you know SRLs have excessive dirt/grime/oil internally, it is best to send the units to a factory-authorized service center to have them opened up and cleaned by a certified technician.

Never open these SRLs yourself as they have high-energy springs that may cause severe injury when released.

End users opening these units will also void any product warranties. Modification of these SRLs is not allowed. Modifying SRLs will also void their warranties.

SRLs should be stored in a clean, dry environment and out of the sun and weather elements when not in use.

If you have doubts about proper SRL operation or exposure to chemicals, have it inspected by your competent person before use.

Correct inspection assures a properly functioning SRL and an effective tool for saving lives when working at heights.

If you need more information or want to talk to an SPI expert, we are here for you!