Ask Rigid Lifelines: What’s the Difference between a Cable System and Your Rigid Anchor Track™ System


What’s the Difference between a Cable System and Your Rigid Anchor Track System?


Although many fall protection solutions are available, safety professionals investing in a fall protection system must choose the right system for their specific application. Safety professionals often tell us, “We like the Rigid Lifelines’ system, but it is more expensive than a wire rope system. The wire rope system meets OSHA and ANSI requirements, so we can’t justify spending the extra money.” Let’s take a look at this assumption in more detail.

What they don’t tell you about wire rope systems is that in the event of a fall, a wire rope system requires:

  • The system tagged out
  • The rope replaced
  • All fall arresting components replaced
  • Shock absorber replaced
  • The system must be retensioned
  • System must be recertified by a qualified engineer

After a fall event on one of our rigid Anchor Track Systems, the system can be used immediately after a brief visual inspection for defective components by a competent person. In the event of a fall, wire rope systems impose horizontal forces on structural supports that were only designed to support vertical loads. Many newer buildings utilize a structure that cannot support additional horizontal forces without reinforcement. Reinforcement will cost time and money for engineering inspection, engineering of reinforcing steel, welding, and labor. In comparison, Rigid Lifelines’ Anchor Track Systems eliminate hidden costs because our systems only impose vertical loads. Because structures are commonly designed to accommodate extra vertical loads due to natural events, such as snow, our track can be mounted to existing structures without requiring reinforcement.

Not only do wire systems cost much more than anticipated, but they also require more distance to arrest a fall. For example, if you are working on a tanker or railcar and fall on a wire rope system that is 40 feet long, the deflection distance of the cable, the 42-inch SRL payout, and the tightening of the harness means that the fallen worker will fall seven to eight feet before he or she comes to a stop. A seven to eight foot-fall means that the worker will be subject to many injuries: hitting the side of the truck or railcar, hitting metal outcroppings and ladders, or worse, hitting the ground. In comparison, Rigid Lifelines’ Anchor Track Systems do not deflect downward during a fall event like wire rope or cable systems. Because our systems do not deflect, fall distance and fall forces are dramatically decreased. Decreased fall distance both minimizes injury and increases self-rescue ability.

In addition to increased fall distance, wire rope systems require more maintenance and downtime than our Anchor Track systems. Wire rope systems require re-tensioning, oiling, and lubricating. Our virtually maintenance-free track utilizes an enclosed, “V-shaped” design that prevents dust and debris from accumulating inside the track. Wire rope systems require more downtime because after a fall event, the system must be tagged out, parts replaced, and recertified. Our rigid systems prevent downtime by allowing workers to return to their job after a brief inspection of the system.

For more information, you can visit this ASSE webpage written by Rigid Lifelines’ Engineering Manager, Arnie Galpin.

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Nathan Muller

Senior Technical Writer |
Nathan Muller is the Senior Technical Writer for Spanco and Rigid Lifelines. Nathan has nearly four years of experience in technical communications and copyediting. He graduated from Bob Jones University with a B.A. in English and a minor in Professional Writing. He is also a member of the Society of Technical Communication.