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April 14, 2014

A building certifier’s friend: the new AS/NZS 5532 for height safety anchors

What makes a roof safety anchor truly safe? Until now, nobody knew for sure and suppliers of roof safety anchors were able to devise their own test for the performance of this life-saving equipment. All that has changed with the release of AS/NZS 5532:2013 Manufacturing requirements for single-point anchor device used for harness-based work at height.

Sponsored by the Working At Heights Association, AS/NZS 5532 is part of the AS/NZS 1891 suite of standards, which deal with fall arrest devices.

In fact, the only requirement had been that anchor points were rated to 15kN for one person and 21kN for two-person use. AS/NZS 5532 introduced a number of new requirements and set a uniform national benchmark for testing and certification.

Dynamic testing

Traditionally manufacturers applied a static load to the anchor, which placed the least amount of stress on the product. A dynamic test replicates a person suddenly falling and being jerked to a halt.

Accordingly, AS/NZS 5532 prescribes:

–          for 15kN, or single-person fall arrest use, drop a 100kg load through 2 metres.

–          for 21kN or two-person use, drop 150kg through 2 metres.

Watch: Defender™ Anchors tested to AS/NZS 5532

Both tests demand anchors hold the load for three minutes after the sudden drop, without showing any sign of breaking or cracking. The anchors may of course deform, provided there is no sign of permanent damage.

Because an anchor is only as good as the substrate that it’s attached to, the anchors must be tested on the surface and using the same fixings and underlying structure that will be used in real workplaces.

To ensure the results are correct and the testing procedure is applied to the minimum standards ISO 17025, these tests are to be carried out in a NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities) laboratory and certified accordingly.

There is a lower rating for limited free fall of 12kN through 600mm only, however the AS/NZS 1891 standard dedicated a special appendix alerting the users to the likelihood of misuse, and as such the systems should be designed to sustain falls loads.

Top-fixed anchors

Many buildings have top-fixed (also known as “surface-mounted”) anchors installed that are attached to a surface rather than being fixed to structural members of the building. Although they look the same, the performance of top-fixed anchors depends heavily on the way they are fixed.

A specific test bed has been mandated in this new standard to reflect the way top-fixed anchor are installed.

Associated equipment

The design of the anchor has to accommodate equipment that is to be used with it. For example, a snap hook for connection of the lanyard must be compatible with the eyelet of the anchor.

Compliance and certification

When it comes to such lifesaving equipment, it’s essential to ensure that the product is capable of doing what it’s meant to do.

Building certifiers and workplace controllers are obliged to ensure anchors meet Australian Standards.

Accepting assurances from the installer is fraught with danger, since there is no licensing or recognised training for the installation of this lifesaving equipment. Check references, accreditations and the installer’s familiarity with the Australian Standards and regulations as well as the manufacturer’s instructions.

Independent certification of the product by an association that is a member of JAS-ANZ, the government-appointed accreditation body for Australia and New Zealand, such as SAI Global.

The “five ticks” StandardsMark on a product guarantees the manufacturer has been independently audited to ensure consistent quality, traceability and testing.

Inspection and testing

Ongoing testing, inspection and maintenance requirements are to be included with the handover documentation and user information detailed by AS/NZS 5532.

Inspection regimes vary from state to state. Some states reference the AS/NZS 1891 requirement for 12 monthly inspections as a minimum, but most states have mandated more frequent six-monthly inspections due to the LFHQ (low frequency, high consequence) nature of anchors.

Design and layout beyond the scope of AS/NZS 5532

The critical design and layout elements of effective fall prevention systems is excluded from the scope of AS/NZS 5532, which was limited to manufacture.

Incorrect design fails to protect users from falling over the edge and swinging like a pendulum or hitting the ground before the lanyard takes effect. Rescue planning is also critical and this is already well documented and mandated in state-based fall prevention codes of practice.

AS/NZS 5532: a new benchmark to guide workplaces

AS/NZS 5532 brings new rigour to the inherent safety of roof anchors but its effectiveness depends on the vigilance of building certifiers.

The next time you are asked to assess the compliance of a roof safety anchor, remember to ask whether it is certified to meet AS/NZS 5532 and, just as importantly, for the credentials of the testing facility.

*About the author: Carl Sachs is the managing director of fall prevention company, Workplace Access & Safety, and a director of the Working At Heights Association. Mr Sachs was also a member of the committee that drafted AS/NZS 5532.

How Defender Anchors are tested to AS/NZS 5532

– Script –

How Defender roof anchors are tested to AS/NZS 5532

 “Because safety anchors are designed to save lives, rigorous performance testing is absolutely critical.”

“Dropping a 100kg weight just two metres puts a massive load of up to 22kN on an anchor point at the moment it stops the fall – the equivalent of supporting a 2 ton vehicle.”

“Every batch of Defender™ anchors is tested at Workplace Access & Safety’s test facility – the first to become NATA-accredited for AS/NZS 5532 testing in Australia.”

 “The performance benchmarks for the safety of roof anchors are two Australian Standards: AS/NZS 1891 and AS/NZS 5532, so Defender anchors are tested against both.”

“Testing needs to be as realistic as possible. That’s why Defender™ anchors are tested on all sorts of roof types. Today, we will be testing their performance on three different types of roof sheeting over three different supporting structures.”

 “Being NATA-accredited, we apply the same rigour to documentation and calibration as we do to the tests themselves.”

 “The test rig is carefully designed to recreate the different types of roofs Defender™ anchors are installed on.”

“In accordance with AS/NZS 5532, the test rig is mounted vertically so there’s no friction that could distort the results.

“It’s also able to be rotated so we can test the anchor’s ability to arrest a fall from any angle, whether that’s along the rib of the sheeting or at 90 degrees.”

 “We begin with a static test of strength.”

“The anchors and the structures they’re attached to must sustain a force equal to their rated capacity for at least 3 minutes. That’s 15kN for single user anchors and 21kN for two-person anchors.”

 “The newest of the two benchmark Australian Standards, AS/NZS 5532, requires single-person anchors to support a 100kg weight dropped 2 metres.”

 “As with the static test, the anchor must hold the weights for at least three minutes from any angle.

“On completion of the static strength test or dynamic test procedures, the anchor device should show no signs of fracture.  Bending without signs of fracture is permissible.”

 “The rigorous testing detailed in the standards deserves independent oversight. The design, manufacture and installation of Defender™ anchors has also been scrutinised and independently certified by SAI Global experts to comply with AS/NZS 1891 and AS/NZS 5532.”

Included is the Five Ticks StandardsMark­™ for compliance with AS/NZS 5532. All the tests and documentation that confirm your anchors are fit to save lives come together in these very clear, easy to administer and highly credible certificates.”

“You don’t have to take our word for it. Defender is independently certified safety.”

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