Respect your ropes

by | Apr 6, 2020 | Featured Slider, Latest, News

Reviewing your climbing kit makes sense in the light of the HSE’s renewed insistence on two rope working

Many arborists were up in arms when it was announced that the HSE now expects to see climbers attached to two ropes in almost every situation when in a tree. It was argued that this was an unreasonable demand, that there are occasions when single rope working is acceptable and that accidents largely occur when there is a lack of training and knowledge. 

The Arboricultural Association has been closely involved in the matter and continues to provide guidance, but the HSE’s view remains – in most cases, it wants to see full compliance with Work at Height regulations. 

As Stuart Barry, HM’s Inspector of Health & Safety has said: “Climbing and working with a single rope has remained the custom and practice in the industry for too long and been a factor in many falls from height. Recognising this, some clients in the utility sector have shown the way forward by ensuring their contractors use two ropes. HSE strongly support efforts by the AA to promote this system of work through its publications so that more climbers and businesses understand it is necessary to reduce risk and comply with the law.”

Discussions between the AA and HSE are continuing and formal guidance should be laid out in the forthcoming Industry Code of Practice (ICoP) for Arboriculture (Tree Work at Height). 

There may be some flexibility in the final wordings and according to the AA: “It has now been agreed with the HSE that Arboriculture should take a different approach to other Work At Height industries, because trees are three dimensional, organic structures, which require a variety of different climbing techniques and systems to achieve safe, efficient working.”

Even so, it is being recommended that climbers continue to use two lines wherever practicable and there is an increased focus on safety and compliance. So, what better time than now to ensure your ropes are fit for purpose?

Getting it right

To be compliant, climbers should ensure their secondary climbing line reaches the ground and it is also a sensible idea to ensure it is a different colour from the first, so that they can differentiated. Ensure you have a large enough kit bag for additional ropes and also that they are kept clean – there are specialist cleaners for this. It should also be noted that HSE guidance states that tree climbing ropes should have a minimum diameter of 10mm and not larger than 14mm.

Petzl power

Climbing specialist Petzl has recently launched two new ropes: 

Flow (11.6 mm) is a lightweight low stretch kernmantel rope for tree work. The small diameter ensures strong performance in terms of flexibility and weight and has low stretch when loaded, increasing efficiency when moving through the tree. Petzel’s ‘EverFlex’ technology also ensures good handling over time. It comes with a splice at one end for optimal rope glide through devices like a friction saver or pulley, and through tree branches. The small size of the splice allows it to pass through the friction chain of the Zigzag and Zigzag Plus mechanical Prusiks. The rope is available in two colours and three lengths.

Control (12.5 mm) is a low stretch kernmantel high-strength rope with quality handling and is also suited to tree work. The larger diameter ensures high strength and firm grip. The ‘EverFlex’ again allows flexibility and good handling over time. It also comes with a splice at one end to allow the same functionality with the Flow rope and comes too in two colours and three lengths.