Vertical lifeline systems

What are vertical lifelines?

Regulated in EN 353, l, vertical lifelines are fall arrest systems comprising a cable, rail or rope and a "sliding fall arrester device" or traveller, to provide protection for vertical work involving a fall hazard.

Almost all the vertical lifelines of this type are installed on already existing ladders, or as new ladder incorporating the life line.

On very few occasions, vertical lifelines are directly fixed to lattice structures.

Standards and regulations: Classes

Vertical life lines are regulated in two sections of standard EN 353:  EN 353-1 for rigid lifelines and EN 353-2 for flexible lifelines.

EN 353-1
Vertical rigids lifelines

EN 353-1  Vertical rigids lifelines

EN 353-2
Verticales flexibles lifelines

EN 353-2 Verticales flexibles lifelines

The former, EN 353-1, regulates "rigid anchor lines" whilst the latter, EN 353-2, regulates what are known as "flexible anchor lines”.

Rigid life lines vs. Flexible life lines: differences between EN 795 and EN 353. 

The classification of rigid and flexible lines made in EN 353 is different from that made in EN 795 with regard to horizontal lines.

In the EN 795 the use of the cable implies:

  • That the lifeline is considered to be Flexible.
  • And, consequently, the obligation to make calculations to determine the minimum fall clearance distance.

In EN 353, on the other hand:

  • Although the line is made of cable, this does not mean that the line is flexible.
  • There is no requirement to calculate the free fall distance.

EN 353: Mandatory standard

Amendments to EN 353

Fortunately, section 1 and 2 of standard EN 353, are mandatory within the European Union and, as a result, the CE marking must be incorporated.

As is indicated by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (INSHT) in this document.

Amendments to EN 353


There have been very few changes to EN 353-2 since its enactment back in 1992, given the fact that it was only amended in 2002. On the other hand, EN 353-1, was also amended on another occasion.

The amendment was brought about as the result of a fatal accident in England, caused by the incorrect functioning of the traveller.

This was a vertical life line, certified to EN 353-1. 

  1. The type of fall did not come within the tests required for the certification of lines of this type.
  2. Following the fatal fall, the United Kingdom made a formal complaint, which concluded with a draft text in 2012.
  3. The process ended with the publication of the standard in 2014, increasing the number of tests to be made on the traveller and making these tests more restrictive.

The steel cable in EN 353

The number of users in EN 353

cable de acero de línea de-vida vertical, Elytra v-lyne

Vertical lines comprising anchor rails are regulated in EN 353-1 and rope lines in EN 353-2. Steel cable life lines, on the other hand, can be either rigid or flexible.

EN 353-1 establishes that rigid lines can be made from steel cable or rails. To be included in EN 353-1, the cable lines must:

  • Have a minimum diameter of 8 mm.
  • They can be either stainless or galvanised steel.

On the other hand, EN 353-2 states that "A flexible anchor line must comprise a synthetic fibre rope or metal cable”. And it only adds that the material must comply with sections 4.2.2 and 3 of EN 354.

The number of users in EN 353


While EN 795:2012 regulates single user anchor devices, neither of the two sections of EN 353 make any mention of this subject.

Therefore, it is not clear whether the EN 353 is just for single person lifelines or whether such anchor lines can be simultaneously used by more users. For any doubts and queries on this matter, the manufacturer should be consulted in each particular case.

Differences between EN 353-1 and EN 353-2

In our opinion, the most important difference between EN 353-1 and EN 353-2 lies in the consideration as a unit or as a sub-system.

Moreover, there is the matter of the load tests for the travellers which, in the case of 353-1, are more restrictive.

This is discussed below:

The unit in UNE EN 353-1 vs. The sub-systems of EN 353-2.

The traveller unit EN 353-1 vs. EN 353-2

EN 353-1 establishes that the cable or rail and sliding element or traveller are an inseparable unit. Therefore, all the parts of these lines are related and cannot be separated, one from the other.

Therefore, in this case, it is not possible to incorporate any type of traveller on the life line. Each line must be certified as a complete unit, comprising all the parts taken as a whole.

On the other hand, EN 353-2, considers the line components to be sub-systems or parts that are unrelated to each other. Thus, the sliding parts (travellers), the flexible anchor line and the anchorage point for the line are considered to be separate parts of the flexible anchorage line.

As a result of this consideration, these parts can be certified independently as such, under this standard, and this will not prevent them from being recognised as a fall arrest system under EN 363.

The traveller unit EN 353-1 vs. EN 353-2

As a result of the above-mentioned fatal fall, demonstrating that EN 353-1 did not cover all potential fall risk factors, the standard was reviewed and amendments were introduced to improve it.

Almost all the amendments, if not all, were focused on introducing new tests related to the functioning of the line traveller.

As a result, EN 353-1:2014 is an improvement on the earlier standards, given the fact that it increases the number of tests for the certification of the "rigid" vertical systems and these prior tests are far more restrictive than those contemplated in EN 353-2 and the earlier versions of EN 353-1.

Vertical lifeline applications

Manholes and sewage drains

Telecommunication towers

linea de vida vertical para alcantarillado y arquetas, elytra v-lyne

Access covers to the sewer system require specific access modules.

Moreover, due to the high corrosion in environments of this type and to the explosion hazard, the recommendation is for the installation of lifelines of this type to be in a specific stainless steel alloy; AISI 316 TI regulated in standard EN 1.4571

Telecommunication towers


Telecommunication towers require ongoing maintenance work.

These are extremely high ladders, for which rest platforms need to be mounted at the distances indicated in the standard.

On a very few occasions, our customers have asked us to mount the sections directly to the structure, which Elytra does not recommend.

Installation of lifelines on ladders already in place

Installation of complete ladders in the industry


This is perhaps the most common application for us, when mounting vertical lifelines.

The aim is to install a lifeline on a ladder already in place. The width of the ladder should be taken into account, and the exit should be foreseen. Based on this information, the line should be mounted in one way or another.

Installation of complete ladders in the industry

This is another variant of the same application. In this case, the aim is to mount a new ladder which includes the lifeline.

This is the simplest way when the customer requires the installation of a new ladder. However, this does not make sense when the present ladder is in good condition.

Other topics of interest on vertical lifelines:

Vertical systems and the exit point

Inspection Vs. Replacement of the line, in the event of a fall

Metro de salida línea de vida vertical v-lyne de elytra

Ignored and not installed in many cases, the lifeline exit point is critical and should be the best protected area.

  • At this point, the worker must release the line.
  • And he/she is at the riskiest place to do so.

With regard to the installation, as it has to be mounted as a projection, it is complicated given the fact that the leverage generated in relation to the lower rungs is tremendous.

This makes it necessary to mount a reinforcement post which is generally installed behind the ladder.


Rigid lifelines made of rails are evidently more expensive than steel cable lines. But only up to a point.

A fall deforms the cable and so this generally needs replacing.

This replacement, plus the replacement of any other components damaged by the fall, means that the cost of all the repairs on this life line is greater than that of installing a new rigid system.

In other words, that much-quoted saying that "the cheapest is not necessarily the most economical", holds true in this case.

Summary table

To complete this section, the table below summarises the differences between both sections of the standard. We think you'll find it useful for making a quick comparison between both types of systems:


EN 353-1EN 353-2
UNITTraveller and lifeline form a unitTraveller and lifeline do not form a unit
POSSIBLE MATERIALSMetal cable (greater than 8 mm) / RAILCable / Synthetic rope

Concepts about fall protection systems