One World Trade Center Custom Horizontal and Vertical Fall Protection System


In May of 2013, the construction of One World Trade Center in New York City was completed as a 758 ton spire was hauled into position. After the 408 foot spire was attached, the building reached a staggering height of 1,776 feet and made One World Trade Center the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The spire will be surrounded by various communication antennas and LED lights that will need to be serviced by maintenance crews. Since crews will need to access the roof to check the equipment, builders felt compelled to investigate fall hazards and applicable fall protection systems.

This led DCM Erectors and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to inquire about fall protection systems. Rigid Lifelines responded by providing sample fall protection program manuals and an outline of system options. After identifying the location of various fall hazards, engineers at Rigid Lifelines worked closely with structural engineers to design a customized fall protection system that protects workers on the spire. Rigid engineers needed to consider additional factors that included safety standards, ease of use, installation requirements, and the customization and combination of two separate systems. The goal was to devise clever solutions that addressed technical problems that would account for potential fall hazards and ensure continuous fall protection.


After ample planning and coordination, Rigid Lifelines designed a horizontal track system for the rings at the base of the spire and a vertical track system that traveled up the ladders to the top of the spire. The entire system consists of 1,206 feet of horizontal track and 769 feet of vertical track, for a total of 1,975 feet of continuous fall protection track and the highest self-retracting lanyards in an occupied building.

The horizontal track system uses rings on three levels to provide fall protection for workers who need to have access to the communication antennas inside of the spire. The first two rings are protected by overhead track that carries a standard eye-bolt trolley. Since the track is attached far above the worker’s reach for the first two fall protection rings, workers will not be able to reach the trolley without some assistance. For this reason, the trolleys on the first two rings have a special extension cable attached that allows workers to easily connect to the trolley. The track for the third ring is mounted to the base of the rings and uses a side mount trolley. Workers will be able to easily reach and connect directly to that trolley with a standard fixed length lanyard. Using a lanyard with a fixed length will limit a worker’s ability to access potentially dangerous areas around the edge of the platform. Since the top track will be limiting the locations that a worker can reach, the top track system is considered more of a fall prevention system as opposed to a fall protection system.  

The vertical track section provides fall protection from the base of the spire to the top of the beacon light. This system was specifically designed to protect maintenance workers who need to access points on the interior and exterior mast of the spire. As workers are traveling along the vertical section of track they will be able to disconnect from the track and re-connect to a temporary anchorage on a rest platform. There are a total of three rest platforms around the spire and each platform has a gate that makes it a fully-enclosed space once the worker has accessed the platform. After workers have traveled all the way to the top of the spire, they will be at the base of the Beacon Assembly. This final section of the fall protection system needed to be customized to fit the narrow Beacon Assembly. The assembly houses a narrow ladder that leads to the top of the spire where workers will be able to change the light bulb as needed. In order for workers to access this section of the spire with protection, Rigid Lifelines decided to incorporate weather and wind resistant self-retracting lanyards to ensure that workers had complete fall protection all the way up the spire.


Climbing the tallest building in the United States would normally involve some serious risk, but engineers at Rigid Lifelines were able to carefully evaluate potential fall hazards and provide a comprehensive fall protection system to keep people safer while working at elevation. This custom designed system ensures that at height workers are continuously protected from potential fall hazards from base to tip of the spire. Rigid Lifelines’ consistent dedication to safer work environments allows them to optimize their fall protection systems for increased efficiency and usability.  And now, workers and safety managers alike will be able to do their job with a higher level of security on a daily basis.