Helical tomotherapy has been developed at the University of Wisconsin, and 'Hi-Art II' clinical machines are now commercially manufactured. At the core of each machine lies a ring-gantry-mounted short linear accelerator which generates x-rays that are collimated into a fan beam of intensity-modulated radiation by a binary multileaf, the modulation being variable with gantry angle. Patients are treated lying on a couch which is translated continuously through the bore of the machine as the gantry rotates. Highly conformal dose-distributions can be delivered using this technique, which is the therapy equivalent of spiral computed tomography. The approach requires synchrony of gantry rotation, couch translation, accelerator pulsing and the opening and closing of the leaves of the binary multileaf collimator used to modulate the radiation beam. In the course of clinically implementing helical tomotherapy, we have developed a quality assurance (QA) system for our machine. The system is analogous to that recommended for conventional clinical linear accelerator QA by AAPM Task Group 40 but contains some novel components, reflecting differences between the Hi-Art devices and conventional clinical accelerators. Here the design and dosimetric characteristics of Hi-Art machines are summarized and the QA system is set out along with experimental details of its implementation. Connections between this machine-based QA work, pre-treatment patient-specific delivery QA and fraction-by-fraction dose verification are discussed.