Vertical lifeline

Mechanic on a ladder secured with the ABS SafetyHike System

The term “vertical lifeline” describes a fall arrest device for access routes which is used for climbing up and down. Typical fields of application include masts, chimneys, facades and wind energy turbines. In most cases, a permanently-installed vertical ladder is usually used to climb upwards. Vertical ladders either have two side rails (similar to common household ladders) or a central shaft which bears the load of the rungs attached to the right and left of this shaft. Both ladder models need to be suitably secured to prevent individuals from falling.

Fall arrest devices for vertical ladders

One typical way of securing a vertical ladder is to use a so-called continuous safety cage. This cage-like structure is firmly attached to the vertical ladder. However, this restricts the user’s freedom of movement. A safety cage should be installed from a height of between 2.2 and 3 meters. The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) offers a much greater degree of manoeuvrability. These anchorage devices (AD) are specially designed to arrest falls. Users can attach their safety harnesses to an AD so that this can catch them, if they take a wrong step, thus preventing a fatal fall, resp. considerably reducing the effects of a fall.

Guided type fall arrester with a rigid anchor line

A guided type fall arrester with a rigid anchor line in accordance with EN 353-1 is the most common type of vertical lifeline. This fall arrester device offers the user an anchorage eyelet which glides along a permanently-installed rail, or a steel cable installed parallel to the ladder, as the user moves along. In the case of a fall, the device blocks instantly, thus minimising the fall distance so that the user - in a best-case scenario - can climb back onto the ladder. An additional energy absorber also reduces the ensuing force.

Guided type fall arrester with a flexible anchor line

As an alternative to a vertical lifeline system with a rigid anchor, a guided type fall arrester with a flexible anchor line in accordance with EN 353-2 can also be used to protect individuals from falling off a vertical ladder. This solution, however, is not so common and, contrary to permanently-installed safety systems, should only be used as a temporary safety measure. Accordingly, this PPE component is not part of a vertical ladder system installed onsite but instead often included in the individual equipment carried by the user. Whenever possible, vertical lifelines with a rigid anchor line are to be given preference.