Ensuring the safety of a roof safety anchor has always been ambiguous. These life-saving devices have their own tests and standards for performance; however, this was never a uniform endeavour. This has changed thanks to the release of AS/NZS 5532:2013, a groundbreaking standard sponsored by the Working At Heights Association that sets a uniform national benchmark for the manufacturing requirements of single-point anchor devices used for harness-based work at height.

Prior to the introduction of AS/NZS 5532, the only requirement for roof safety anchors was that they be rated to withstand 15kN of force for one-person use and 21kN for two-person use. While these ratings provided some assurance, they lacked a comprehensive and standardised approach to testing and certification. This resulted in a fragmented landscape, with suppliers varying interpretations of what constituted a safe anchor point. Let’s dive into the new rules to understand how they create a safer workspace and easier process for building certifiers.

AS/NZS 5532 brings clarity and consistency

By establishing new requirements for height safety anchors, these changes ensure that our crucial devices meet stringent safety standards, ultimately protecting workers engaged in tasks at height.

Sponsored by the Working At Heights Association, AS/NZS 5532 is part of the esteemed AS/NZS 1891 standards specifically addressing fall arrest devices. It represents a significant leap forward in promoting a culture of safety and accountability within the industry. This standardisation provides greater confidence for workers relying on height safety anchors, facilitates regulatory compliance, and reduces the potential for accidents and injuries.

One of the key advancements introduced by AS/NZS 5532 is establishing a national benchmark for testing and certification. As a result, manufacturers must subject their single-point anchor devices to standardised tests, ensuring consistent and accurate performance evaluation. These tests include load capacity, durability, structural integrity, and compatibility with harnesses and other fall arrest systems.

By setting clear guidelines for testing, AS/NZS 5532 eliminates the ambiguity that previously surrounded safety anchor evaluations. With this standardised approach, buyers and users of height safety anchors can now make informed decisions based on reliable and comparable data, thereby promoting the selection of the most appropriate and reliable equipment for their specific needs.

A significant milestone for the industry

We consider this a positive turning point in the quest for improved safety standards. It sets a precedent for other countries and regions to follow, encouraging the adoption of similar national benchmarks prioritising workers’ protection at heights.

Traditionally, manufacturers of height safety anchors relied on static load testing, which involved applying a load to the anchor at a constant rate. While this method provided some insight into the anchor’s capacity, it did not fully replicate the dynamic forces experienced during a sudden fall and subsequent arrest. Recognising the need for more rigorous testing, AS/NZS 5532 now prescribes dynamic testing methods that closely simulate real-life scenarios, ensuring that anchors can withstand the sudden forces exerted when a person falls and is jerked to a halt. 

Under AS/NZS 5532 guidelines, we have single-person fall arrest use; a 100kg load is dropped through a distance of 2 meters, creating a force of 15kN. In the case of two-person use, a 150kg load is dropped through the same distance, generating a force of 21kN. These tests assess the anchor’s ability to hold the load after the sudden drop for three minutes without displaying any signs of breaking or cracking. While the anchors may deform under immense stress, they must not exhibit any permanent damage. 

AS/NZS 5532 mandates that the dynamic testing be performed using the same fixings and underlying structure that will be encountered in real workplaces. This approach acknowledges that an anchor is only as strong as the substrate to which it is attached. By replicating the real-world conditions, the testing provides a more accurate representation of how the anchor will perform in practical scenarios.

The dynamic tests must be conducted in a NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities) laboratory to guarantee adherence to minimum standards and accurate testing procedures. NATA certification ensures that the laboratory meets the stringent requirements outlined in AS/NZS 17025, further enhancing the credibility and reliability of the test results. 

It is worth noting that AS/NZS 5532 also includes a lower rating for limited free fall situations involving a load of 12kN dropped through a distance of 600mm. However, the standard emphasises the importance of designing systems to sustain fall loads, even in these cases of limited free fall. AS/NZS 1891, part of the fall arrest device standards suite dedicates a special appendix to alert users to potential misuse and recommends implementing systems that can withstand fall loads.

Performance, compliance, and inspection

In addition to the requirements for testing and certification, AS/NZS 5532 also addresses specific considerations related to top-fixed (surface-mounted) anchors commonly found in many buildings. These anchors differ from those fixed to structural members, as they are attached directly to a surface. However, their performance is heavily dependent on how they are fixed. 

To accurately evaluate the performance of top-fixed anchors, AS/NZS 5532 mandates using a specific test bed that reflects the installation method commonly used for these anchors. This ensures the testing accurately represents real-world conditions and provides reliable data on the anchor’s performance.

The anchor’s design must consider the equipment that will be used in conjunction with it. For instance, the anchor should be compatible with snap hooks or other connectors that attach lanyards and other fall protection devices. This ensures a secure and reliable connection between the anchor and associated equipment, reducing the risk of accidents or failures during use.

Compliance and certification are crucial in ensuring the effectiveness of lifesaving equipment such as anchors. Building certifiers and workplace controllers ensure that the anchors installed meet Australian Standards. Accepting assurances solely from the installer can be risky, as there is no licensing or recognised training specifically for installing lifesaving equipment. It is advisable to check the installer’s references, accreditations, familiarity with Australian Standards and regulations, and adherence to the manufacturer’s instructions.

A game-changer for the height safety industry

Introducing new requirements and establishing a uniform national benchmark for testing and certification ensures that roof safety anchors meet stringent safety standards. This landmark standard promotes clarity, consistency, and accountability, providing workers with the assurance they deserve when engaging in harness-based work at height.

With AS/NZS 5532, the industry leaps forward in achieving safer working environments and preventing potential accidents and injuries, and the team at JGID are very happy to see it!