Have Standards, Don’t Cut Lanyards

Amy LavinHigh Rise SafetyLeave a Comment

“Cutting The Lanyard” Myth”

In some industries, the standard practice is to cut the patient’s lanyard once you’ve connected to them. By pulling as much slack out of the connection as possible, the shock to the patient from cutting the lanyard is usually quite small. At first glance, this seems to be a pretty desirable solution. It is simple, fast, and requires a minimum of training. No need to rig up a lifting solution to raise the patient. That’s a good thing, right? Well, for all of the benefits, cutting the patient’s lanyard has some significant problems. For this post, we’ve teamed up again with our buds at Pacific Ropes so we can really get down to the nitty-gritty on this half-assed solution.

For starters, let’s refresh on what a pick off rescue is. There are several main types of rescues (learn about them in this killer post). A pick-off rescue is one of the most robust. Pacific Ropes said pick-off rescues allow you to get up close and help out your injured co-worker. Would you prefer to be lowered from a remote location with no assistance negotiating obstructions on the way down? (“Ouch, ooch, poke, it feels like bleeding…”), or would you prefer to have someone helping keep your body away from all those pointy… pointies.

A pick off rescue follow a few standard steps regardless of the situation:

  1. Rescuer Descends/Ascends to patient.
  2. Rescuer connects to patient’s harness using a pick off strap.
  3. Rescuer removes patient from what they’re stuck on (most likely their fall protection lanyard).
  4. Rescuer and patient descend/ascend to safety. In most cases you’ll be able to descend to safety. Ascending with a two person load presents additional difficulties.

The Problems With Cutting The Lanyard as told by Pacific Ropes:

G-zuz. Where do we start? A great example of what not to do when rescuing a co-worker is good ole Goob. See HERE. With working at height we learn all about fall factors and shock loading. These are basic principles taught in fall protection, rope access, and rope rescue. What happens when you shock load your harness with the weight of another person?

Shock loading your system may have been the only answer back when we climbed dinosaurs to get fruit off of trees (wasn’t that a thing?), but in today’s age, we are lucky to have many options to prevent the cut, therefore preventing the dynamic loading. From the Rope Access and Rope Rescue world, cutting the lanyard is a desperate final attempt when all else fails. Fall Protection professionals teach a raise, disconnect, and lower technique to avoid any cutting and dynamic loading.

If you get to this point during rescue training, you would most likely be excommunicated from the rope access or rescue team, and move on to teaching teens at a climbing gym. (We may have added a little drama to over emphasize the point). Save the kitchen knife for your arts and crafts, don’t bring it out in your rescue kit.

Alternatives For Disconnecting the Patient as told by Rope and Rescue:

The good news is that the alternatives aren’t nearly so complicated as they are made out to be. You will have to create some sort of lifting solution so that you can lift the patient a short distance. Once you’ve lifted them enough you can disconnect them from whatever they are stuck on.

Of course, there are a million and one ways to create the lift. Rope access technicians will nerd out over ways to lift a patient using unconventional techniques. But, you don’t have to get too creative since there are lots of great out-of-the-box solutions. The simplest is to have a mini haul kit like the Cortes 4:1. The haul kit will give you the mechanical advantage that you need to lift the patient.


When thinking about your rescue plan: remember the Goob. Rescue doesn’t mean you have to take a fire/rescue course. Surprise! But it does mean you should risk assess the work location and provide adequate safe resources for the task. For your convenience, abc Window Cleaning Supply and Pacific Ropes carry various out of the box solutions!

Leave a Reply