Ropes Course Staples - Technical Update
Course Access Ė Do You Need A Staple Remover?
By Mark Miller, Universal Ropes Course Builders
Do you need to remove staples on your course, even if you can't use them for instructor self-belay (lobster-clawing)?
NO! The importance of metal staples as hand and foot holds for climbing will not change, but they are no longer considered an appropriate anchor point for instructor access. The use of staples as a clip-in anchor point for accessing the high challenge course and climbing tower is becoming a thing of the past.
Why the change? The Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) has been studying staples for some time and released a position statement concluding that when a staple cannot be reasonably verified to comply with the ACCT Standard of 2500 pounds or 11.1 kN minimum for a leading edge anchor point then suitable alternative systems for fall protection must be employed.
No one can verify the strength of every staple. The very process of testing them to the limits required would weaken the staple placement rendering it suspect even if it did meet the strength requirements. Our company, therefore, can not endorse the use of our staples as a life support component on our ropes courses. Individual course owners should check with their particular vendor. The staples will continue to serve as a vital part of climbing around on the challenge course, however the industry is now incorporating other methods for protecting the facilitator who accesses the course for equipment set-up, etc.
What do we do now?
Universal Ropes Course Builders currently endorses three alternative systems for fall protection for the instructor accessing the course:
1. URCB advocates the use of a belay rope to access a high ropes course or climbing tower. Staples are still used for climbing aids, but life support is provided by the belay rope. It may be necessary to install additional haul cords and anchor points for this access method. The standard method for access is to have one facilitator climb while being belayed by a second facilitator. This does require an additional staff member if you have been in the practice of having a single person on course set-up.
2. An alternative method is to wrap the facilitatorís fall protection lanyard (lobster claw) around the tree or pole and back into the facilitatorís harness. The climber still uses the staples for climbing, but a fall is arrested by friction on the tree or pole. This method continues to use your existing equipment, although the new technique will require some practice.
3. Another alternative method is a cable grab system. This uses a mechanical locking device that is connected around a cable which extends from an overhead anchor point to the bottom staple on the access point. The climber is attached to the mechanical grab using a load limiting lanyard. The mechanical grab slides up the cable as the climber ascends. The mechanical grab will arrest a fall by incorporating a camming action on the cable in the event of a fall. The use of mechanical grab systems will move the challenge course industry in-step with OSHA regulations for persons working in the vertical environment. This method requires installation of one or more access cables and the acquisition of a mechanical grab device. Users should be trained and familiar with the new equipment prior to use.
Other factors that I believe will come into play in our industry will be the use of full body harnesses by instructors as part of the access climbing component of the high challenge course and climbing tower structures.
Universal Ropes Course Builders is a Preferred Vendor Member of the Association of Challenge Course Technology (ACCT). Contact Universal Ropes for your ropes course training, construction, and inspection needs. Web address: www.universalropes.com
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