top of page

When height safety matters

Whilst Secure Anchor Systems’ products and the need for the products we supply may be somewhat ‘simple’ to comprehend, the correct use of these products is of the utmost importance and must not been taken lightly, a life may depend on it.

  1. Safety Introduction

  2. Suspension Trauma

  3. Hierarchy of Controls

  4. Fall Clearance

  5. Anchorages

Hierarchy of Controls.jpeg
Fall Clearance Diagram.png

Safety Introduction

There is no official federal or state based certifying or licensing authority in place for the installation/certification of anchorages but, there is a stipulation that those installing/reviewing height safety products must be ‘competent’.

‘Competency’ is defined in Australian Standards 1891.4 as “a person who has, through a combination of training, education and experience, acquired knowledge and skills enabling that person to correctly perform a specified task.”

Secure Anchor Systems recommends that all persons wishing to use our products ensure that they have familiarised themselves with the technical scope and limitations of all of our products. All of our products must be used with total consideration of the Hierarchy of Controls and relevant Codes of Practice. The information on our site is provided to assist people as a courtesy and by no way does it infer ‘competency’.


Under occupational health and safety (OH&S) and work health and safety (WHS) legislation you are obliged to provide:

  • A safe premises

  • Safe systems of work

  • Information, instruction, training and supervision

  • A suitable working environment and facilities.

Workplace health and safety authorities in each state and territory and Safe Work Australia have responsibilities for enforcing the OH&S legislation. They provide education, training and advice on health and safety at work. You can get information about your OH&S obligations and other valuable OH&S resources both in hard copy and online from their websites.

Please note that legal obligations vary according to circumstances. You should seek independent legal advice on what is applicable to your situation.


Suspension Trauma

Suspension Trauma (now known as ‘Suspension Intolerance (trauma)’ in AS 1891.4) or  in medical terms as Orthostatic Shock, is the term used to describe the effect on victims who are suspended after a fall within a body harness for a prolonged period of time (5 – 30 Minutes).

Suspension trauma presents with the development of a range of symptoms that may result in unconsciousness or death, and is thought to occur as a result of low blood pressure secondary to blood pooling in the legs, pelvis and abdomen of victims who are suspended and motionless.

When presented with a person suspended in a harness, it should be a priority that rescue of the individual be conducted as soon as safely possible.

If a rescue of an individual suspended in a harness has occurred, suspension trauma may present itself with symptoms similar to that of general ‘shock’ and should be considered for anyone that has been suspended for as little as five (5) minutes and shows the following signs:

-  Unconsciousness-  Nausea

-  Faintness-  Sweating

-  Dizziness-  Low Blood Pressure

-  Breathlessness 

 The Australian Resuscitation Council ( recommends the following patient management steps in Guideline 9.1.5 dated July 2009:

  1. Call for an ambulance – dial triple zero – 000,

  2. If unconscious, manage as per ARC Basic Life Support flow chart (Guideline 8),

  3. Rest the conscious victim in a position of comfort, ideally lying down, and provide reassurance,

  4. Loosen or remove harness,

  5. Administer oxygen if available,

  6. Look for and manage associated injuries, but particularly victims who may have fallen or been electrocuted,

  7. Monitor the signs of life at frequent intervals.


Hierarchy of Controls

The Hierarchy of Controls applies to most OH&S hazards and sets out the order that safety issues are to be dealt with to minimise or eliminate the potential for an accident.

The order of the Hierarchy is the top of the list being most effective, as they address the hazard (the thing that could cause harm), rather than just reduce the risk (the harm that the hazard could cause). The order in the Hierarchy of Controls is to be addressed by being ‘reasonably practicable’.

The Hierarchy of Controls for prevention of falls is as follows:

Eliminate the hazard altogether. e.g – work from the ground/solid construction.

  1. Substitute the hazard with a safer alternative. e.g – work with a passive fall protection device

  2. Isolate the hazard from anyone who could be harmed. e.g – work with a work positioning system.

  3. Use engineering controls to reduce the risk. e.g – work with a fall injury prevention system.

  4. Use administrative controls to reduce the risk. e.g – use ladders or administrative measures.

  5. Use Personal Protection Equipment. e.g – wear gloves, goggles or helmets.

When addressing a safety issue and applying the Hierarchy of Controls to determine an appropriate solution, movement to a lower order control is allowed when it is “not practicable” to use the higher order control.

Four factors are used when referring to ‘practicable’ and this is detailed in The National Code of Practice – Prevention of Falls in General Construction as:

  • Severity of the hazard or risk

  • State of knowledge

  • Ways to remove or mitigate the hazard or risk and finally,

  • Cost of removing or mitigating the hazard or risk

The fundamental and most important factor apart from meeting your obligations, is that it good practice to install the higher level controls like guardrials and walkways wherever possible rather than relying on fall prevention and fall arrest systems.


Fall Clearance

Secure Anchor Systems recommends the design or use of any anchorage system when working at heights by way of a fall restraint methodology.  Whenever fall arrest systems are utilised or there is a consideration of designing a fall arrest system, it is absolutely essential that adequate clearance be available below any fall edge.

This is essential as, a user in the event of a fall regardless of equipment and it’s correct usage may suffer injuries due to striking the ground or projections from building facades such as balconies, signage and even windows through the pendulum effect.

The minimum Fall Distance (or Fall Clearance) should be calculated considering a number of theoretical factors apart from the physical site based ones:


  • Length of the Lanyard

  • Extension or travel of fall-arrest equipment

  • Height of the user at harness attachment

  • Residual Clearance



Australian Standard AS1891 Part 4 is the ruling Standard for the requirements and recommendations for the selection, safe use and maintenance of fall arrest systems and devices based on the use of safety harnesses, horizontal life lines and rail, fall arrest devices, and associated lanyards, connectors, anchorages and associated fittings.

The scope AS1891.4 is addressed as follows:

(a) Selection: Requirements and recommendations for determining the types of components of the system that would be appropriate to the envisaged usage.

(b) Safe use: Requirements and recommendations relating to the safe practices to be followed in the use of components and assemblies.

(c) Maintenance: Requirements and recommendations for inspection, storage, servicing and cleaning practices.


The objective and principles of AS1891.4 are based on the following:

(a) Any person at risk of a potentially injury producing fall shall be secured by equipment that is rated for fall arrest

(b) A person suffering a fall when secured by a fall-arrest system shall—

(i) be subjected to an arresting force not exceeding 6 kN;

(ii) be wearing equipment that distributes fall-arrest forces over the body in a way that will minimise the possibility of injury;

(iii) be connected to a system which avoids the user reaching ground or striking any other obstacle that will cause injury, and maintains the user in a suitable post fall-arrest attitude for rescue purposes;

(iv) be wearing a harness with at least a front fall-arrest rated attachment point, which may assist in rescue and which is designed to avoid or reduce the likelihood of suspension intolerance (trauma).

Suspension Trama
Fall Clearance
Secure Anchor Systems - _0008_Corrugator360 Anchor.jpg

Let's Work Together

Our primary focus is to provide compliant products that can be easily applied by our customers and  to assist them satisfy their OH&S obligations.

There are fall hazards in many workplaces, especially where work is carried out at height. The risk of falling is common in construction but may also occur in other industries. Falls from ladders have resulted in many serious and fatal injuries, even when working at low heights. In managing the risk of falls, the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 requires specific control measures to be implemented, where it is reasonably practicable to do so.

Alexa Young, CA

bottom of page