The initial responsibility of selecting a suitable height safety system lies with the building designer and the builder.

Later this responsibility lies with the building owner; they have the ultimate duty of care to provide a safe working environment for anybody required to work on the roof by preventing the risk of a fall or, if this is not possible, ensuring fall protection procedures are in place that will minimise the risk of injury should a fall occur.

Horizontal lifeline systems provide a much safer, more effective and more consistently reliable method of operator protection than the lower cost but higher risk method of using multiple anchor points where there is high dependence on clearly defined work methods as well as operator competency.

Building designers and owners should specify the installation of a “proprietary system” – a system that is made up from components that are designed and tested both individually and as a system. The system will be designed to act in highly predictable way, to minimise the risk of injury in the event of a fall. To suit the specific requirements of the user, including the number of workers operating simultaneously on the system, the manufacturer or accredited installer can configure these components.

A proprietary system will be configured to suit the types of work to be undertaken. It will include safe access connection and disconnection points, “pass through” intermediate support brackets, a connection traveller and an inline cable shock absorber to limit end loadings transferred to the building structure when determined by the calculation software.

Anyone expected to operate on the system should already have been certified as competent to work at height and should be trained by the installer on the correct method of use. A safe work method document should also provide for the ongoing induction and training of new employees.

Building owners should be wary of low-cost “prescribed systems” – systems made up from various rigging components that are assembled to form a type of Horizontal lifeline.

These systems usually result in a tightly restricted method of use as they usually do not have “pass through” intermediate support brackets, requiring the operator to manually pass the supports that require a higher level of skill. These systems also require the building structure to sustain far greater impact loads than most proprietary systems. These limitations frequently make these systems impractical for the user and the building owner.

Similarly, the use of multiple anchor points – while often providing a “compliant” solution – rarely offer an acceptable level of safety, especially to all but highly trained safe working at height experts. While horizontal lifeline systems can be designed to ensure the operator is always in restraint, eliminating the possibility of a fall, this cannot be guaranteed with a system of anchor points used in series.

All horizontal lifeline systems should carry compliance labeling at the entry point to the system on tamper resistant material that will ensure the legibility of the information for the expected life of the system. It should show the following data:

  • manufacturer and installer’s name and the installation date
  • a unique identification number
  • instruction on the need to use personal energy absorber or fall arrest device with energy absorbing capability
  • special instructions on use including the maximum number of users allowed on the system or on any one span
  • service requirements and instructions together with servicing intervals and due dates
  • the month and year when the system shall be taken out of service unless a competent person to the manufacturer’s instruction has recertified it

Horizontal lifelines, like all height safety equipment, should be visually inspected immediately before and after use.

The visual inspection should identify unacceptable sag in the line between the intermediate supports, distortion of intermediate brackets, partial deployment of the inline shock absorber, deployment of any fall indicator in the system, and kinks in the cable. If there is any doubt, the manufacturer or accredited installer should be contacted before further use.

Recertification should be arranged in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and should be carried out by their accredited installer, in most cases annually. The recertification must include detailed inspection of the line, its components, connection equipment, and its supports. This will also include the complete walking of the system using the approved traveller as well as appropriate updating of the system compliance label.

Where the employer has equal concern for the safety of operators and the efficiency of operations on the roof – the installation and correct ongoing recertification of proprietary horizontal lifelines provides a dramatically greater level of safety and comfort for the operators than the use of prescribed systems or individual roof anchor points.

The industry via the Working at Height Association (WAHA) is currently developing an industry code for system design, installation, compliance and certification. This code will greatly assist designers, asset owners/managers and end users as to the best solution for there building.

For any additional information, please refer to the Working at Height Association website at