An accident in Australia has prompted an official warning on the other side of the world. When an Australian worker was killed because his lanyard failed, the UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) was concerned enough to issue a general alert to all users of fall arrest equipment, particularly systems based on twin-tailed energy-absorbing lanyards.

An energy-absorbing lanyard is a line for connecting a full body harness to an anchorage point with an inbuilt in line device that reduces the impact of a fall. Twin tailed lanyards, not to be confused with double lanyards, enable users to move freely while remaining clipped on at all times. Incorrect use can result in the full force of a fall transmitted to the body, which may also cause equipment failure.

A twin-tailed energy-absorbing lanyard, also known as a Y-shaped energy absorber, comprises two lanyards, each terminated at one end with a connector for attachment either to an anchor point or directly to a structure. The other end is attached to a single energy-absorber in such a way that either lanyard can transmit a load to the energy absorber. The energy absorber is fitted with a connector for attachment to the user’s harness.

HSE principal specialist inspector Martin Holden said: ‘It is vital that everyone using fall arrest systems based on twin tailed lanyards understands and follows the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember that when one of the lanyard legs is connected to the anchor point, the second leg should not be attached to the user’s harness, or to their belt or clothing, as this could limit the extension of the energy absorber in the event of a fall.

‘If this happens, excessive arrest forces will be applied to both the user and to the system, which could lead to equipment failure with potentially fatal consequences. Unless the harness has been provided or retro fitted with lanyard “parking” points, which are specifically designed to break away in the event of a fall, the second leg should be left to hang free. Alternatively, on this and only this specific type of lanyard, the second leg can also be connected to the anchor point.

The background and preliminary investigation work into the incident in Australia which prompted the HSE’s warning is contained in ‘Twin tail fall arrest lanyards (interim advice)’, issued by Workplace Health & Safety Queensland. This document is available at