The heart of a fall arrest system is its anchorage point.
This is the point of attachment between the user and the building or structure. It is vital that the anchor point is correctly designed and tested to withstand the force of arresting a fall.
AS1891.4 specifies minimum load ratings and certification requirements for single point anchors and this is what the height safety industry had used as their bench mark up until last year.
This all changed with the introduction of the new Australian Standard on the 30th of October 2013, AS5532 - Manufacturing requirements for single point anchor device used for harness based work at height.
This Standard now requires certain tests to be undertaken by manufacturers to prove the capabilities of their anchors. A single anchor point must now be tested both statically and dynamically in all directions. Formerly, they only needed to be tested statically in one direction.
They must also be tested in situ, meaning they must have been tested under real life conditions. This means that for an anchor point to be considered compliant for a particular type of roof, it must have been tested on that roofing material.
While this is a fantastic move forward for the height safety industry, it has also caused a lot of confusion. The main point of concern is with existing anchor point systems which were installed prior to October, 2013. As they were installed before the new standard was released, do they need to comply with AS5532?
While there is currently no official answer for this question, it would seem that most industry leaders would suggest that the answer would most likely be yes.
One compelling argument is that under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 a PCBU must do all that is “reasonably practicable” to ensure the safety of workers. Ensuring that an anchor point system complies with new safety standards would certainly fall within the definition of “reasonably practicable.”
Manufacturers of single anchor points are currently undertaking extensive testing in accordance with the new standard. However this process is proving to be enormously expensive and time consuming. Most manufacturers have issued statements that their testing will not be completed for a number of months.
In the meantime, owners of fall arrest systems are left wondering if their anchors are still compliant.
Unfortunately, until all the manufacturers complete their testing and release their results, the answer is unknown.
An example of one of the issues is with ratings. Single point anchors are rated in kilonewtons (kN). The rating will be either 15kN for single person fall arrest or 21kN for two person fall arrest. One of the interesting results which is beginning to emerge is that a surface mounted single anchor point (mental roof type) is failing the dynamic test when taken beyond 15kN. In unconfirmed testing, it would appear that the metal roof sheeting and not the anchor is failing. This suggests that under AS5532, all surface mounted single anchor points (metal roof) will have a maximum rating of 15kN one person fall arrest.
After consultation with two of the largest anchor point manufacturers in Australia, we are recommending that owners of height safety systems contact a reputable height safety company who can properly evaluate their current system. The evaluation must take into consideration:
- The type of anchor point
- The current rating of the anchor
- The type of roof sheeting
- The location of the anchor on the roof
- The roof structure
- The overall design of the system
- How the system has been specified to be used according to the User Manual
- The likely hood of the anchor complying with AS5532
As part of this process, the Height Safety company should contact the manufacturer of the anchor point and ascertain at what stage of testing that particular anchor point is and when they are expecting to release their results.
Armed with this information, an informed decision can be made as to whether the anchor points can be certified for use.
If there is any doubt that your system is unsafe, it should not be used.