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Ascent Newsletter - September 2023

What's new in Graviteq's World of Rope Access

What's in a rope?

Turns out...alot

A little while ago we asked ourselves the question "how to best control the risk of having a double rope failure and avoid resulting catastrophic incidents?" The standard method of Identify (the hazard), Remove, Avoid, Protect is ingrained in IRATA technicians through training, assessment and member companies operating procedures. But in the field, what if a hazard isn't identified, what if it isn't removed, avoided or protected adequately? Can we rely on people albeit, trained and competent people, to always 'make the right call'. It is generally accepted that 80-90% of accidents are due to human error[1]. For example, approximately 70% of aircraft accidents have been attributed to human error[2]. In a Finnish study, human errors were involved in 84% of serious accidents and in 94% of fatal accidents[3]. Knowing this, can we achieve a higher hazard control than what is currently available? Can we add another slice of 'cheese' in the Swiss cheese model to help keep rope access technicians safe?

Let's risk assess this: Hazard: Double rope failure on an unidentified sharp edge. Control: Eliminate - Not practicable, we can't eliminate every surface a rope is ever going to contact. Substitute - Not practicable, in this exercise the ropes are either cut or not cut. The foundation of our safe system of work is 2 independent points of attachment. If one rope fails we substitute a long fall for a short fall onto the back-up rope. The risk of both ropes being cut remains. Administration - Change the way people work. Train and educate on the correct methods for protection of anchor lines using the hierarchal I.R.A.P methodology. Oops, I forgot one: Engineering - This is where things took a turn, I went on a side quest of rope manufacturing, standards, industry bodies and products trying to answer a seemingly absurd but simple question - "Can we (or more to the point), why can't we make a cut and abrasion proof rope?" Short answer ... it's impossible...but.... abrasion & cut resistant rope can be, and is a thing. So we liaised up with an industry leading rope manufacturer and an enthusiastic product material engineer to design an OEM rope that had all the qualities that we needed in the new 'super rope'. The parameters were: it needed to be more cut, abrasion, heat, chemical and UV resistant than anything else on the market whilst keeping the same feel and usability of nylon ropes. The project came to a grinding halt and the wheels fell off... When the fact arose that even when this rope was made, there was no standardised way (or requirement) for a third party laboratory to conduct tests to test against our criteria or test against other ropes on the market albeit a few simple criteria to meet EN 1891. We could claim our rope was the best, just as easy as someone else could say their's was better-er. So we reached out to the Cordage Institute in the USA for advise. They were most helpful and have in fact previously released guidelines for testing the cut resistance of ropes. The voluntary test method is what Edelrid uses. No manufacturing standard currently has abrasion resistance criteria or testing for low-stretch ropes. No manufacturing standard currently has mandatory cut resistance criteria or testing for low-stretch ropes. Conclusion In our efforts, we've identified that there are flaws in the rope system that need to be addressed, piggy backing from mountaineering standards for industrial work is very 1980's. The change needs to start with standards, then the manufacturers, then will flow onto the work site. Following a risk assessment of the work location ropes can be selected based on non-bias testing data detailing test ratings for the aforementioned parameters. We are pleased to say however that this journey has led us to Edelrid HQ who are, as manufacturers, working pro-actively to make their ropes, stronger, more robust, safer and more user friendly through constant innovation. We're in the process of testing the Edelrid Interstatic Protect rope in an extremely rough (geo) environment and our training centres in Perth & Brisbane. We're hopeful it'll perform well before we offer it for sale through our shop. We'll continue this quest and advocate for change on a mission to help keep people in our industry safe.

What else is new?

  • Introducing G-FORCE - Our newest initiative to address the continuing shortage of Tradesmen within Western Australia's mining space. Once a client identifies a forecasted manning shortage, Graviteq will recruit, train, deploy, retain or rotate staff to ensure constant coverage. Ultimately, contributing to the ongoing positive reputation of rope access in WA and widening the gap compared to conventional access methods.

  • The G-BUS has landed!! After the epic maiden voyage from Perth to Brisbane. We're happy to now offer a free premiere shuttle service from Gold-Coast to Brisbane for our IRATA trainees.

  • Our Perth branch has installed our new "Oxygen Production Facility" confined space. This is designed to bridge the gap between 'enter confined spaces & IRATA rope access training, where candidates get first hand experience of the complexities involved accessing a simulated space in a safe, controlled environment.

Stay safe, stay connected! @Graviteq

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