VHNZ Heights Safety Trainer Steve Ritson talks us through the similarities and differences between Height Safety in the Industrial and Recreational worlds.
"Over the past few years I have been involved in training "Industrial Rope Access" courses and "Recreational Rock Climbing and Mountaineering" courses.
The two worlds although totally different are also extremely similar in certain ways.
The equipment we use for both are fundamentally the same but industrial equipment is almost certainly a lot heavier and has additional safety factors built in, for example, a Petzl ID will lock off if you were knocked unconscious and let go of the rope whilst abseiling so that you will remain safe, a belay device or Italian Hitch in climbing will not and so we use a "Prussic" knot to lock off the system if we were knocked unconscious.
The skill set of handling ropes and rigging up anchor points are similar but on the mountain we don't have a "tag" that states 12, 15 or 21kN!!...we use experience and good judgement whilst placing "cams" or "wires" to hold a fall.
Industrial abseilers always have a "back up line" so we use 2 ropes in all systems, this however would be too heavy and slow in the mountaineering world. Dynamic ropes in the mountains versus static ropes in the industrial world are worlds apart and its important that the operator knows the differences.
Through Industry forums you still hear about operators carrying out jobs utilising a single rope technique and not following best practice i.e. using two ropes. Although this would be more than acceptable on the crag or mountain this is certainly not the case in industry where more time and rigging needs to be carried out. In Industry we have the time to be methodical in our approach and time is not the driving force whereas on the side of the mountain time and environmental conditions drive a climbers behavior.
In a nut shell, the skills, rope management, rescues and safety are all very similar. Experience in climbing, mountaineering, rafting, canyoning etc is valuable, but not to be confused by Industrial best practice and certain procedures that we must follow to maintain our safety.
Come and join us on a Level 3 Rope Access Course and see what it's all about!"