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Fall-arrest systems for continuous vertical ladders on tower cranes

Issued: 16/10/2020
Last Updated: 16/10/2020

Purpose

The purpose of this safety alert is to highlight that specific fall-arrest systems are required if a continuous vertical ladder is in place for accessing the total length of a crane tower. The Tower crane Code of Practice 2017 (the Code) sets out these requirements.

Background

There have been recent cases of tower cranes using continuous vertical ladders to access the length of the tower without fall-arrest systems in place, prompting Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspectors to visit cranes on sites to ensure compliance.

The Code specifies a fall-arrest system that does not require the person to constantly hook on and off for a continuous vertical ladder used to access the total length of a crane tower. Any fall-arrest system must comply with the requirements for Type 1 fall-arrest devices specified in AS/NZS 1891 Series: Industrial fall-arrest systems and devices.

The Code does not specify that the rope be constructed from a specific material. However, it does note that vertical ropes should be manufactured from a material that is not prone to UV degradation or corrosion (e.g. suitable grade of stainless steel). As UV degradation is associated with exposure to sunlight, the total time a system is expected to be exposed to sunlight will determine whether it is prone to UV degradation during its use.

Fall-arrest systems that use self-retracting devices do not meet the specifications of the Code. While fibre rope fall-arrest systems are Type 1 fall-arrest devices, their long-term susceptibility to UV degradation means they should only be used as an interim control. Steel-wire rope systems are a more effective long-term control to meet the intention of the Code.

Action required

Fibre rope fall-arrest systems should only be used as an interim control while a permanent steel-wire system is obtained.

The rope is only one component of the fall-arrest system. All components should be fit-for-purpose and comply with the requirements for Type 1 fall-arrest devices specified in AS/NZS 1891 Series: Industrial fall-arrest systems and devices. Similarly, a competent person must certify any installed system.

When implementing a fall-arrest system ensure:

  • there is consultation with workers who are directly affected by the change and any other people who have a duty in relation to the change
  • the system, including the rope, hardware, and anchorage systems are suitable for the working environment
  • workers are provided with information, training, instruction, and supervision
  • procedures are in-place for operation, monitoring, maintenance, and inspection to ensure the system is safe for use
  • measures are in-place to ensure the system is not exposed to contaminates that would adversely affect its safety
  • emergency plans are updated, including rescue procedures, to ensure changes are incorporated.

Further information