A survival guide to the roof anchor safety alert & Australian standard AS/NZS 5532

The following FAQs are the questions and answers provided during our July 2014 webinar on safety anchors. All responses are provided by Carl Sachs, who while involved in drafting AS/NZS5532, is not a legal practitioner and his answers are general in nature. For legal advice regarding your situation, we recommend engaging OHS lawyer, Michael Tooma of Norton Rose Fulbright.

We have questioned installers regarding providing us as a facility operator with documentation that verifies that the anchors comply with 5532. They have responded with providing us with a copy of the WAHA communications regarding the suspension of the safety alert. What should we do in this situation?

If you have unsafe anchors, or anchors that don’t meet AS/NZS 5532, you should isolate them immediately. There’s a handy checklist that you should follow that is in the safety alert which tells you what to ask about testing and other mandatory elements of the standard. There is also a checklist provided which you can use.

How were the anchors that failed tested? Where they tested in a NATA Lab? What type of anchors failed?

Workplace Access & Safety tested the anchors in their NATA accredited laboratory following ISO 17025 standard for testing. Workplace Access & Safety’s fall prevention laboratory is specifically accredited to do the AS/NZS 5532 tests.

I’m a FM, my last inspection was done and documented as per AS1891.4.2009, is this now insufficient?

AS/NZS 1891 simply gives the load rating of an anchor. It doesn’t tell us anything about measuring it. AS/NZS 5532 tells you how to verify that rating through testing and other means.

Could an example be given of a situation when a tenant may be held accountable for an incident involving a faulty / inappropriate access / anchor point?

Accountability for an incident is usually in the hands of the PCBU. This is about controlling workers, whether they are employees or contractors. If a tenant puts a worker into an unsafe work environment, then they are accountable. This is not about leasing arrangements. It’s about controlling workers safety.

If you are leasing a building with anchor points in place and the landlord requires access to work on the roof using the anchor points, who is liable?

Whoever is controlling the workers is liable. If you’re concerned about the safety of the anchors, then it’s a good idea to inform the landlord and to share the knowledge. We want workers going home safely.

Where you indicate that 5532 is mandatory, is it called up in the regulation?

AS/NZS 5532 is a subset of AS/NZS 1891. AS/NZS 1891 is called up in the Code of Practice: Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces. Compliance with a code of practise is how workplaces demonstrate compliance with regulations. It’s through that mechanism that workplaces must comply with AS/NZS 5532, or demonstrate that they’ve come up with another way of meeting or exceeding that standard.

If an installed Anchor Point (prior to 2013) can be proved safe (independent static & dynamic testing), does it need to be removed and replaced with an AS/NZS5532 compliant anchor?

AS/NZS 5532 doesn’t just deal with testing. It deals with all the other elements of anchors that make it safe for use, like user documentation. Anchors are regarded as plant under WHS legislation. If anchors can meet the AS/NZS 5532 test requirements and all of the other AS/NZS 5532 requirements, then it’s reasonable to continue using them.

Is there legislation on how often you should get existing anchor points tagged/tested?

The frequency of testing and inspection varies from state to state. Most states prescribe a minimum 6 monthly inspection through their WHS regulations, but a few are 12 monthly. Here’s a link to an article I wrote which breaks it down for you in more detail.

Why is testing of an installed anchor that does not necessarily comply in regards to batch testing, marking etc., not acceptable?

An appropriate axial load surely is proof enough What we’ve seen in the anchor industry is that manufacturers have copied anchors, making slight modifications along the way. When they were tested, the results varied dramatically. This supports the notion that a model of anchor needs to be type tested. In manufacturing, a small change in material or size can affect the performance of an anchor. Batch testing ensures that the sum of the components works as it was intended at design stage and that it’s consistent. Usually, 3rd party certifiers impose a batch test sample of around 1 per 1000 items, to ensure that it can still perform as designed. For example, if a screw manufacturer changes the thread size slightly in the manufacturing process, this would affect the load rating of the anchor significantly. Marking is intended for traceability.

What about anchor already installed and have been for many years and the manufacturer cannot be identified?

If the manufacturer can’t be identified, then as a first step, a sample anchor could be removed and put through the AS/NZS 5532 test regime to verify that it can meet the safety standards. In practical terms this depends on how many anchors are installed and weighing up the cost against the commercial benefit. At some point it’s worthwhile just putting in new anchors.

If a roof anchor is able to rotate then how many differ directions are to be tested in?

AS/NZS 5532 says that the anchors need to be tested in the different directions that they function. Even if an anchor head rotates through 360 degrees, it would still need to be tested in the different directions. The anchors performance depends on the structure. Unless the structure is being rotated (which it isn’t!), it needs to be tested in at least two directions dynamically, and then in two directions statically.

Is there a time limit for having anchors comply to the new 5532 standard?

The important thing to remember is that workplaces have an obligation to ensure their equipment is truly safe. AS/NZS 5532 provides a means of verifying whether anchors are safe or not and compliance with the standard would be a good defence in court in the event of a tragedy, no matter when the anchor was installed. If a manufacturer is claiming compliance with AS/NZS 1891 after October 2013, then that includes meeting the AS/NZS 5532 test requirements.

Are WorkCover aware that they are the regulator for anchor points, and do they have a contact who is knowledgeable in this area for each state. Are we to report any failed systems to WorkCover? As far as I know WorkCover only get involved if there has been an incident.

WorkCover would be aware that they are the regulator for safety in workplaces. Any reportable incidents should be directed through the regulators incident report number. This can also be done online, and you will get a reference number. My experience is that WorkCover will decide how serious the incident is, and will determine whether they’ll investigate it or not. They don’t get involved in all incidents.

Do we report any manufacture / installer to work cover that will not supply any requested documentation regarding their anchor products?

Under the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act), manufacturers of anchor points (which fall within the meaning of ‘plant’) are obliged to provide certain information to customers that are supplied with the devices. If you can’t get this information then it seems reasonable that you should pursue this with the regulator.

The above information is supplied as guidance material only and does not constitute legal or specific health and safety advice.