We are frequently asked about the difference between an anchor point and a fall arrest anchor. So here goes…
Most of the time to the untrained eye there seems to be no difference at all. There are many designs and types of anchors points available on the market, so it can be even more difficult to visually determine the difference. It would be impossible to show all of them here however what we have shown are typical anchor points installed on many of the commercial buildings in Perth, Western Australia.
So how do you know what type of anchor you have on your building? To give you the answer, the first thing to observe is the certification plaque or certificate that should be provided by the installer. This is best mounted near the exit door to the roof of the building. That way you can easily locate it to find out who installed the system, when it was installed, and what the anchor points are rated for – Fall Arrest or Rope Access. It will also tell you if and when the anchors have been tested since they have been installed, and when the next inspection should take place.
A fall arrest anchor is designed to prevent a fall from the roof by any tradesman or individual that needs to walk around on the roof top. A fall arrest anchor point must hold a 15kN ultimate load but can begin to distort or bend at any load. This way it will bend on impact, thus absorbing the impact of the fall to anyone that has taken a fall. A fall arrest anchor is therefore designed to take a person’s weight only once if they were to fall. There are many types of fall arrest anchors. This photo shows a typical fall arrest anchor.
A rope access anchor point is only required to hold a 12kN ultimate load but shouldn’t distort at under 3kN otherwise the anchor point will bend each time it is used. The rope access anchor point is designed to hold an individual’s weight, to be used and reused as an abseiling point or rope access point. For tradesmen such as window cleaning and façade maintenance staff, anchor points are required to complete high access work. This is a photo of a typical anchor point – notice the shank is not designed to bend.
This is a photo of a load testing tool for anchor points, used during inspections to confirm that systems are capable of withstanding designed loads. Anchor points for working at heights and static lines attached to fall arrest anchors need to be inspected at regular intervals to avoid high risk injury and heavy penalties. Frequency of inspection is addressed by individual state legislation, with regulations in WA stipulating that anchor points must be inspected on a 6 monthly basis.