The humble lanyard. You may have encountered them on security, at hospitals, festivals or events. Your business may even ask you to wear one for identification. But at some point, we will all have seen or made use of one. But the Lanyard is a surprisingly versatile tool.
Security & Access Control
For most of us, when we think of lanyards, this is what comes to mind. Used by security personnel around the world in both the public and private sectors, printed lanyards allows members of security to be quickly identifiable. The emergency services use lanyards for the same reason.
Lanyards also have a vital role to play in regards to access control, especially in environments where there is a high contamination risk, such as hospitals. ID’s are already an established part of security, but with medical staff and hospital areas being separated into zones during the pandemic, being quickly identifiable has now become essential. Many NHS hospitals are now using colour coded lanyards to assign different access to various zones.
Festivals and concerts are also making heavy use of traditional neck lanyards and wristbands to quickly assess whether that person has access to the various VIP and backstage areas, and collecting different coloured festival wristbands has become a hobby for many.
Another prime use for lanyards is for identification purposes. A common attachment to the end of a lanyard is a badge holder, or pass. This allows members of staff in any industry to have their ID readily available and easily accessible. This is particularly important in an educational setting, where visitors have to be recognisable as such by children and faculty alike. This provides a safe environment for all involved.
When you think ‘Lanyard’ you may think about a strap around the neck or around the wrist, but they actually come in all sizes. Large lanyards are used for safety purposes in the utilities industry to support workers when working at height. These are commonly called lineman lanyards although they are sometimes referred to as work positioning lanyards. An adjustable strap is attached to a harness or belt on the lineman using a carabiner (a strong metal clip.) The lineman will secure the lanyard around an attachment point, often a wooden pole or structure depending on the job and then tighten the strap. This enables them to be safely supported whilst leaving both hands free to use.
The most modern use for a lanyard is for promotional purposes. It can be customised with any design and is affordable to produce and purchase, making a lanyard an economically viable and popular advertising choice for businesses everywhere. The branding on a lanyard, especially at events and conferences, can increase your company’s exposure without the need for expensive publicity.
Honours and decoration
Over the years militaries the world over have adopted lanyards for recognition and ornamental uses. This was started by Napoleon Bonaparte who had a flair for fashion and began to use intricate, colourful braided lanyards for decorative purposes. The British Royal Artillery have white braided lanyards as part of their uniform to distinguish them from other regiments and the orange lanyard of The Military Order of William is the highest honour awarded by the Netherlands.
As with the lineman lanyards, a mountain climber’s use of a lanyard is for safety and support. There is a high risk of falling when climbing up a mountainside, or climbing up anything! Usually made from rope, climbing lanyards have a loop at one end and a carabiner attached to the other. They can be used for a multitude of purposes including; clipping to the anchor rope, clipping into a bolted belay when bringing climbers up and of course, for abseiling down!
A kill switch or ‘dead man’s switch’ is a switch designed to deactivate dangerous industrial machines if the operator loses consciousness or becomes incapacitated. This is done by a safety lanyard attached to their wrist or clothing, with the other end being fastened to a key on the switch. The idea being that if the worker does become incapacitated, the arm and the lanyard will fall, pulling on the key which in turn activates the kill switch.
In 1950’s France the women started to teach their children the art of lanyard making. Although thankfully more for entertainment purposes than for carrying tools! This pastime became known as ‘scoubidou.’ Originally colourful thread, thin straps of material or even rope were used to create decorative patterns and knots, but during a resurge of popularity in the past few years, the material of choice became hollow, plasticised PVC tubes, more commonly known as ‘loom’ bands. Making lanyards may have turned into creating friendship bracelets, but it still uses the same knots and patterns that were used two hundred years ago by sailors when hauling up rigging.
The lanyard has its origins firmly embedded in the military. Invented by French Sailors as a way to carry their tools and knives whilst climbing the rigging on tall ships, they soon became commonplace in the French Navy. Cuirassiers, a unit of French cavalry, used a type of braided lanyard to hold their swords in place. But they were also frequently used to attach swords, pistols and whistles (both at sea - called a bosun’s pipe - and on land for signaling purposes) to all military uniforms, not just the cuirassiers. This technique was also adopted by both British and American militaries. During World War two the British “gunners” used lanyards for firing artillery and arming the fuze mechanism on aircraft bombs. In America, a lanyard to attach pistols to a uniform is still in use today.
So lanyards have many amazing and wonderful uses, but essentially, they are a strap used to carry things. Such basic functionality may seem boring after the excitement of the “kill switch” and loom bands, but simple means never misplacing your keys! And that is something we can all relate to!