Fall arrest anchors

This fact sheet provides advice on fall arrest anchors.

It includes information about AS 1891.4: 2009 Industrial fall-arrest systems and devices Part 4: Selection, use and maintenance  and  AS/NZS  5532:2013  Manufacturing  requirements  for  single  point anchor devices used for harness-based work at height under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation.

BACKGROUND

There have been numerous requests for advice as to the status of Australian Standards under the WHS legislation, especially in relation to these two standards.

This fact sheet has been developed to clarify the situation given the apparent confusion regarding AS/NZS 5532 and subsequent marketing of anchor inspection and replacement services based on assertions that the standard applies retrospectively.

Note that AS/NZS 5532 is a manufacturing standard; it does not address ongoing inspection, testing and maintenance and only addresses installation by way of specifying system design and installation information that is to be supplied with the anchors.

WORK HEALTH AND SAFETY LEGISLATION OBLIGATIONS

WHS legislation is performance based, focusing on achieving safety outcomes. Wherever possible it does not specify prescriptive means by which outcomes are to be achieved, including by not referring to standards.

The Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation places obligations on various parties in relation to falls. The obligation is essentially to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of persons, so includes those who would otherwise be exposed to a risk of injury from a fall.

This includes following the hierarchy of control. For managing the risk of a fall, the reliance on fall-arrest systems is well down the hierarchy, so they should only be used when other higher order controls, such as working from the ground, solid construction or temporary platforms, are not reasonably practicable.

Part 4.4 of the WHS Regulation 2011 provides more prescriptive obligations in relation to falls, and the Code of practice – Managing the risk of falls in workplaces (the falls code) provides additional guidance.

STATUS AND APPLICATION OF AS/NZS 1891.4 AND AS/NZS 5532

Compliance with a standard is mandatory if stated as such in the work health and safety legislation. Neither AS/NZS 1891.4 nor AS/NZS 5532 are mandatory standards in the legislation.

However, the falls code does include references to the AS/NZS 1891 series and ‘relevant Australian/New Zealand Standards’.

The anchorage points section states:

Each anchorage point should comply with the requirements of AS/NZS 1891:4 Industrial fall-arrest systems and devices selection, use and maintenance.

While compliance with a standard that is referenced in a code of practice is not mandatory, a court may have regard to it in determining what is reasonably practicable in the circumstances.  The code should be followed unless following another method provides an equivalent or higher standard of work health and safety.

Although not referenced, as it was not published when the Falls Code was being drafted, AS/NZS 5532 forms part of the industry knowledge that should be known and considered when making decisions about workplace health and safety. 

As at September 2015 we also know that:

  • Some sectors of industry have raised issues concerning NATA certified testing requirements
  • In response to this, Standards Australia held a fall arrest anchor forum in February 2015 to clarify the industry concerns with the Standard.  No clear outcome was derived
  • In the August 2015 call for nominations, Standards Australia has received further proposals calling for review of AS/NZS 5532
  • Until this issue is resolved many manufacturers are yet to complete testing to AS/NZS 5532, and some existing products are failing the test
  • There have been no known instances of a correctly installed and inspected anchor that complies with the strength requirements from AS/NZS 1891.4 failing during a fall arrest incident

Given the above, SafeWork NSW advice is:

  • Product would be expected to comply with the strength requirements of the well-established AS/NZS 1891.4 until the review of AS/NZS 5532 is completed
  • While AS/NZS 5532 is under review, manufacturers will not be expected to produce product complying with AS/NZS 5532; however any complying product would be considered acceptable
  • The fall arrest systems being used with the anchors should provide energy absorbers, or other means, that limit the peak load on the harness connection and thus anchor during a fall to 6kN, as per the AS/NZS 1891 suite of standards
  • Once the issues are resolved with AS/NZS 5532, manufacturers would be expected to be supplying complying product within 2 years
  • AS/NZS 5532 is not expected to apply retrospectively to existing installed anchors; AS/NZS 1891.4 would be the relevant standard to apply
  • Inspection programs based on AS/NZS 1891.4, including annual load testing of chemical and friction anchors, should continue for all installed anchors
  • Where anchors are found to be damaged or not to have been installed in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions - eg roof mounted anchors with insufficient fasteners or installed in roof sheeting that is thinner than specified - the anchors be made compliant with the manufacturer’s instructions, or replaced

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