Mixing Components from Different Manufacturers in Height Safety Systems

Anchor Safe height safety technicians installing height safety access systems on a rooftop

In the past few years, there has been a significant increase in height safety systems being installed or retrofitted with mixed components from different manufacturers. Mixing components from different manufacturers on height safety systems may seem like a cost-effective shortcut, but it can jeopardise the safety of those working at height, cause compliance issues and void system warranties with no testing or validation of the ability of these mixed components to work together.   

As leaders in the Height Safety industry, we take a firm stance on this matter and report any mixed component installations as non-compliant. However, we often find ourselves in the challenging position of having to explain to our clients why our recommendations are at odds with previous advice from others and why there appears to be a conflict of opinions among different height safety companies.

The growing concern

More and more often, we’re encountering height safety companies retrofitting or mixing non-proprietary products with various manufacturers’ systems. But you might be wondering, why is mixing height safety system components a problem?

First and foremost, it’s a safety and compliance issue. Manufacturers of height safety systems must rigorously test all their systems and components in accordance with Australian Standards AS1657, AS1891 and AS5532 to ensure the highest level of quality & safety for the user.

When these systems are installed using non-proprietary components, the system is no longer subject to proper testing, significantly increasing the likelihood of system failure. For this reason, a height safety system with mixed components can no longer be relied upon to save lives.

Another significant concern is the manufacturer’s warranty. The manufacturer cannot attest to the quality or suitability of mixing non-approved components within its systems. Doing so can void warranty coverage which could otherwise cover up to 10 years of operation.

Infographic depicting the issues with mixed component height safety systems including; Increases System Failure, Voids Manufacturer's Warranty and Cannot be relied on to save a life.


WAHA’s stance on the issue.

After raising our concerns with the Working At Heights Association (WAHA) they produced this article on Proprietary Systems vs Prescribed Systems to clarify their stance. 

In the article they clearly state; ‘When a manufacturer designs a fall-arrest or access system, the design is tested as a complete and proprietary unit based on key performance requirements aligned with Standards. Changing componentry, even the cable specification, can severely compromise the performance in the event of a fall and place users at significant risk.’

‘Within the parameters of a Prescribed (mixed manufacturer*) System, there is no specific testing of the system to ensure it will function appropriately, only assumptions based on individual components approvals. This approach does not guarantee a safe and appropriate design and could potentially result in a non-compliant fall arrest or access system.’

WAHA further clarified that a mixed manufacturer or prescribed system can only be deemed compliant and safe if engineering documentation can support the compatibility of the system components,  including the fixings and substrate it is mounted to. They state that the onus falls on the installer to provide this documentation for each specific system and that the original manufacturer’s engineering documentation is no longer valid, as Kattsafe confirm below.

Based on this, unless your system has full documentation including engineering and user manuals, it must be deemed non-compliant. WAHA confirmed this stating; ‘Our recommendation is PCBUs request all relevant documentation to support claims of compliance.’

WAHA also acknowledges the increased risk exposure to all parties from mixed manufacturer systems stating; ‘From a WAHA perspective, approaching system design like this (referring to mixed manufacturer designs*) is a large responsibility and opens up significant exposures for all parties’. They go on to state; ‘The easiest way to minimise risk is to specify a Proprietary System.

Kattsafe’s stand on the issue.

We reached out to Kattsafe (formerly Sayfa), a leading manufacturer of height safety and access system components for their stance on the issue. Kattsafe has issued a clear statement regarding the use of non-proprietary products with their systems. They state:

“All products of Kattsafe are proprietary and we do not accept any warranty or system compliance if the system has been changed or had products/components included from other manufacturers unless it has been approved by us in writing

Examples may be, but not limited to:

  • Static Line systems with different SS cable
  • Static Lines with different end swage terminals
  • Ladder systems with alternative parts and /or landings or fall arrest components
  • Walkway Systems with incorrect fixings.

Mixed products could result in a fatal injury and care should be taken not to mix products that have not been tested as part of the proprietary system”

Kattsafe has raised particular concerns about a compromised system our team came across. A ladder had been installed using various fixing methods outside of the manufacturer’s specifications. While it may look okay from a quick glance by a busy worker, a false sense of security is dangerous. The likelihood of this system failing is extremely likely and would cause serious harm to the user.

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Mixed Component Ladder System

Due to the mixed manufacturers components within these systems, they do not meet Australian Standards and greatly increases the chance of system failure due to the following reasons:

  • Mixed ladder body and platform components with incorrect measurements compromising minimum clearance required to meet Australian standards.
  • Existing holes in ladder body compromising structural integrity of the ladder system.
  • Brackets shown bent and incorrect fixing methods used causing a risk of lacerates due to out of place fixings.
  • Platform does not meet minimum 900m length requirement.

Proprietary static line system with mixed products & components 

This is an example of a proprietary system using mixed products and components creating a non-compliant system with no testing or certification. The system has been installed using existing anchor points which is against the manufacturers installation guidelines and the products used have not been tested together according to Australian standards.

What do the standards say?

The Australian Standard 1891.4:2009 states;

  • Fall-arrest equipment shall be fitted and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
    – General safety requirements and recommendations section  2.2.1
  • Combinations of equipment from a single manufacturer shall be used only in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Where it is proposed to combine equipment from more than one manufacturer, each separate item should be used in accordance with its manufacturer’s instructions and the components checked for compatibility with one another, again, obtaining advice from one or both manufacturers
    – Equipment combinations section 2.2.10
  • Equipment shall be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
    – Maintenance 9.9

Anchor Safe height safety technicians conducting a height safety audit

Our commitment to quality and safety.

Quality and care are at the heart of everything we do. From conducting thorough inspections, providing tailored recommendations, and designing custom solutions based on specific infrastructure and access needs to selecting Australian-made products and carrying out installations and training. We’re guided by what’s right – for our clients and their workers.

We understand that trust is the foundation of our clients’ relationships and when there is confusion around the validity of height safety systems and unrest within the industry, it becomes essential for us to take a stand and educate our clients about the risks associated with non-compliant installations.

Watch our brand video where we go through the processes & systems we follow to ensure all those who work at heights can do so safely.

Conclusion

The Anchor Safe team believes that every worker has the right to a safe working environment, especially when working at heights. Mixing components from different manufacturers on height safety systems may seem like a cost-effective shortcut, but it can jeopardise the safety of those working at height and void system warranties.

At Anchor Safe, we are committed to ensuring that our clients receive the highest level of safety and compliance when it comes to their height safety systems. We will continue to support industry bodies and push for more transparency within the industry, ultimately protecting the lives and well-being of workers across Australia.

If you have a concern regarding your height safety system installations, reach out to the team at Anchor Safe to be on the front foot when it comes to safety.

Contact the team

Helpful links 

Working at heights association  

Managing the Risks of a falls at workplaces – NSW 

Compliance code prevention of falls – VIC 

 Managing the risk of falls at workplaces – QLD  

Managing Risk of falls at workplaces codes of practice – WA 

About Anchor Safe

Anchor Safe is a proven and respected name in accredited height safety across Australia. Driven by a dedicated team of highly experienced height safety specialists, Anchor Safe is the 1st choice of Councils, Facility Managers, and Retail to ensure they meet safety compliance standards and their rooftops are kept safe.

 

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