Rope Grabs vs. Cable Grabs

When it comes to fall protection, there are two main types of devices that are used to arrest a fall: rope grabs and cable grabs. But which one is the better option? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each to see which is the best fit for you.

What is a Rope Grab?

Rope grabs are devices that attach to a rope and provide a way to arrest a fall. Also called friction devices or braking devices, they rely on friction between the device and the rope to stop a fall. Some models also have an energy-absorbing feature to help reduce the force of a fall on the user. Rope grabs are typically used in work positioning or personal fall protection systems.

There are two main types of rope grabs: mechanical and camming. Mechanical rope grabs have teeth or jaws that grip the rope when weight is applied to the device, much like a vise grips a piece of wood. Camming rope grabs have cams (rollers) that rotate when weight is applied, which locks the device onto the rope.

What is a Cable Grab?

Cable grabs are fall protection devices that clamp onto a steel cable or wire rope and allow the user to slide down the line while remaining securely attached. Unlike their cousin, the rope grab, which is designed for use on synthetic webbing, cable grabs should never be used on anything other than cable or wire rope. That’s because the teeth on a cable grab can damage synthetic materials, making them unsafe for use.

Cable grabs can be used on either horizontal or vertical lines, and are available in a variety of sizes to accommodate different diameters of cable. When sizing a cable grab, it’s important to select one that is small enough to grip the line snugly, but large enough to allow easy sliding. If the device is too small, it may not grip the line securely and could come off during use. If it’s too large, it will be difficult to move along the line.

The Difference Between Rope Grabs and Cable Grabs

Rope grabs and cable grabs are devices used to help protect a worker in the event of a fall. A rope grab is designed to be used with a lifeline, while a cable grab is designed to be used with a horizontal lifeline. Both devices attach to the worker’s safety harness and can be moved up and down the rope or cable.

Rope grabs are designed to be used with a vertical lifeline, and they function by clamping onto the rope when a fall is detected. This prevents the worker from falling more than a few inches and provides ample time for the arrest to be made.

Cable grabs are similar in design, but they are meant to be used with horizontal lifelines. In most cases, a cable grab will be used in conjunction with an energy-absorbing lanyard to provide the necessary fall protection.

Why Use a Rope Grab?

One of the main advantages of using a safety rope grab is that it can provide a much higher level of safety than other fall arrest devices, such as lanyards and harnesses. This is because safety rope grabs are designed to grip the safety line more securely, making it less likely that the user will be able to fall.

Safety rope grabs are also generally much easier to use than other fall arrest devices. This is because all you need to do is attach the safety grab to your safety line, and then clip it onto your harness. There is no need to thread the safety line through any complex systems of pulleys or carabiners.

Why Use a Cable Grab?

One advantage of using a cable grab over other fall arrest devices, such as body harnesses or lanyards, is that it can be attached directly to the work surface. This means that there is no need to wear any special equipment while working, which can increase safety and comfort.

Additionally, cable grabs are often lighter and less bulky than other types of fall arrest devices, making them easier to transport and use. Another advantage of cable grabs is that they can be used on a variety of different surfaces, including horizontal and vertical ones. This makes them ideal for use in both industrial and construction settings. Additionally, because they do not require the use of anchors, they can be quickly installed and removed as needed.

There are some disadvantages to using cable grabs as well. For example, because they rely on friction to stay in place, they can slip if not used properly. Additionally, if there is any slack in the wire or rope, it can cause the device to come loose.

How to Use a Rope Grab

A rope grab is a type of fall arrest device that is attached to a lanyard or lifeline and is used to help arrest a fall. It is important to note that a rope grab will not stop a fall by itself – it must be used in conjunction with a properly anchored lanyard or lifeline.

When using a rope grab, it is important to ensure that it is properly positioned on the lanyard or lifeline. If possible, attach the rope grab above your head, so that in the event of a fall, the device will engage and arrest the fall before you reach the ground. In addition, always make sure that there is enough slack in the lanyard or lifeline above the rope grab so that it can engage properly in the event of a fall.

How to Use a Cable Grab

To use a cable grab, clip it onto the cable and adjust it so that the teeth grip the cable firmly. Do not over-tighten the grab, as this may damage the teeth or release the worker’s safety line unexpectedly.

Cable grabs have teeth that grip the cable and can be placed on the rope at any time. Cable grabs are usually made of aluminum or steel. They come in different sizes to fit different diameter cables. Most cable grabs have a rating of 400 pounds (180 kg).

Rope Grab vs. Cable Grab: Which is Better?

For personal fall arrest systems (PFAS), there are two main types of devices: rope grabs and cable grabs. Most rope grabs are made with corrosion-resistant stainless steel and aluminum components, whereas most cable grabs are made using polycarbonate resin, nylon, or some other type of polymer.

Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of each type of device to help you decide which is the better choice for your needs.

Rope Grabs: Rope grabs are designed to be used with a horizontal lifeline. They can be attached to the lifeline at any point, making them very versatile. Rope grabs should be inspected regularly, and they should be removed from service if there are any signs of damage.


  • Can be attached at any point on the lifeline.
  • Versatile
  • Regular inspection is easy
  • Relatively affordable


  • Not as strong as cable grabs (can fail under high loads).
  • Can damage the lifeline if not used properly.

Cable Grabs: Cable grabs are designed to be used with a vertical lifeline. They must be attached to the top of the lifeline, making them less versatile than rope grabs. Cable grabs should also be inspected regularly for damage. However, they have a much higher weight capacity than rope grabs and are less likely to damage the lifeline.


  • Very strong (high weight capacity)
  • Less likely to damage the lifeline than rope grabs.


  • Must be attached at the top of the lifeline (less versatile).

Advantages of Rope Grabs

Rope grabs are a type of fall arrest device that is attached to a worker’s safety harness. Unlike cable grabs, which require a separate lifeline, rope grabs can be directly attached to the worker’s safety harness. This provides several advantages, including:

  • Reduced complexity: Because there is no need for a separate lifeline, rope grabs are less complex than cable grabs. This can make them easier to use and more user-friendly.
  • Reduced weight: Rope grabs are typically lighter than cable grabs, which can make them more comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
  • Enhanced durability: Rope grabs are typically made of stronger materials than cable grabs, which can make them more durable and longer lasting.

Advantages of Cable Grabs

Cable grabs are designed to be attached to a static line, and do not move up and down the length of the cable. These devices are typically used in construction or other work environments where the worker will be staying in one spot. There are several advantages of using a cable grab over a rope grab:

  • Cable grabs are easier to use than rope grabs because they do not require the worker to adjust their position on the cable.
  • Cable grabs provide better fall protection than rope grabs because they prevent the worker from sliding down the cable if they fall.
  • Cable grabs can be used with a wider variety of cables than rope grabs because they do not need to be adjusted to fit different-sized cables.
  • Cable grabs have built-in energy absorbers that help reduce the force of a fall, while most rope grabs do not have this feature.

In Closing

Cable grabs and rope grabs are essential pieces of safety equipment for anyone who works at height and are required by law in many jurisdictions. If you’re not sure which type of grab is right for your project, always consult with qualified fall protection professional before selecting and using one.

NEXT UP: Cable Grabs – Key Safety Points

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James Sylvester
About James Sylvester

James S. Sylvester is an experienced OSHA Safety Supervisor with years of experience in the construction and oil & gas industries. He focuses on workplace safety, occupational health and safety systems. Learn more about James' here or connect with him on Twitter