Staff Certification Updates, and My First Time as Trainer

On the left: Patrick Capruso is making his ascent. At right, Kristen Olson is practicing a pick-off rescue of of Michael Patino.

Vertical Access recently conducted an in-house industrial rope access training course in preparation for third-party certification or recertification by the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT). As a Level III Rope Access Supervisor with over 17 years experience in the construction industry and a Vertical Access employee since 2011, I took on the role of trainer for the first time.

I am excited to congratulate the following VA staff on SPRAT advancements and recertifications achieved in April, 2018:

  • Patrick Capruso – Certified to Level II
  • Kristen Olson – Recertified at Level II
  • Evan Kopelson – Recertified at Level II
  • Kelly Streeter – Recertified at Level III

Certified rope access technicians and supervisors must undergo training and recertification every three years. As part of the training, technicians review basic rope access techniques that we most often use during site work as well as more advanced skills that are less often used, such as passing knots, rope-to-rope transfers, redirects, rebelays and horizontal aid traverse. The training also covers rope rescue techniques and mechanical advantage systems used for hauling or lowering a rescue subject or other load.

Following the training course, Vertical Access brought in an independent SPRAT Evaluator to conduct the evaluation. The evaluation and certification process includes written and oral examinations to test knowledge of safe practices for industrial rope access and an understanding of the equipment and principles involved in rope access work. The main part of the evaluation is the skills test, in which each candidate must demonstrate a broad range of rope access skills.

The rest of our technical staff and their certifications are:

  • Michael Patino – Certified to Level I (February, 2018)
  • Berta de Miguel – Recertified at Level I (May, 2017)
  • Mike Russell – Certified to Level II (August, 2017)
  • Kevin Dalton (me) – Recertified to Level III (December, 2016)

What is SPRAT?

SPRAT is a membership organization that promotes the development of safe practices and standards for rope access work in the United States, Canada, Mexico and beyond. Vertical Access is a member of SPRAT and has been active in its leadership committees throughout the years.

  • Level I Technicians are rope access workers with the appropriate training, skills and qualifications to perform work under the direct supervision of a Level II Lead Technician or Level III Supervisor.
  • Level II Lead Technicians are responsible for physically conducting rope access operations and/or safety evaluations of rope access operations, including maintenance of associated access equipment, and are capable of performing all Rope Access Lead Technician duties as assigned in the employer’s rope access work program.  To become a SPRAT Level II certified technician, Mike and Patrick were required to complete the evaluation as described above, in addition to logging 500 performing rope access work as a SPRAT Level I certified professional.
  • Level III Rope Access Supervisors are responsible for overall rope access operations on site and job site safety. Level III candidates should have current First-aid, CPR, and AED certification prior to evaluation and will have logged at least 1000 hours performing rope access work with at least 500 hours and six months as a SPRAT Level II certified professional.

American Society of Safety Engineers – 2016 Professional Development Conference and Exposition – Atlanta, GA

ASSE Professional Development Conference & Exposition takes place in Atlanta, GA from June 26 through June 29, 2016.

For more than 50 years, ASSE’s Professional Development Conference has been and will continue to be the direct reflection of what is taking place in the occupational, safety and health industry.

Source: Safety 2016 – Atlanta, GA

Industrial Rope Access vs. Conventional Fall Protection : National Safety Codes Evolve to Acknowledge Differences

Vertical Access has been a voting member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) / American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Z359 Committee on Fall Protection since 2001.  The mission statement of the committee, in part, is to “produce voluntary national consensus standards to protect workers at height”.

These standards are intended for those involved in general industry fields.  “General Industry”, a term coined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), includes all industries that are outside of the agriculture, construction or maritime industries.  Being classified as general industry, Vertical Access’s work conducting condition inspections falls under the territory of the ANSI Z359 Fall Protection Code. Learn more about the differences between ANSI and OSHA here.

Clockwise from lower left: DMM Double Stop, Rack, Petzl Stop, CMI Rescue 8, Petzl I'D

Descent Controllers. Clockwise from lower left: DMM Double Stop, Rack, Petzl Stop, CMI Rescue 8, Petzl I’D

VA’s primary contribution to the Z359 committee has been to advocate for the inclusion of industrial rope access (IRA) techniques and equipment in this highly respected fall protection code.  For the last three years, Kelly Streeter has been the chairperson responsible for developing the section of the code outlining requirements for descent controllers.  Although a critical component of equipment in the IRA work environment, descent controllers also play a role in other vertical environments including one-time-only rescue situations (from amusement park rides and ski lifts, for example).  Keith Luscinski has been an active member of several committees.

Because industrial rope access techniques and equipment can differ significantly from those employed in conventional fall protection systems, a section of the fall protection code, titled Z359.8, Safety Requirements for Rope Access Systems was created.  Under the chairmanship of Loui McCurley of the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT) the subcommittee has labored to create a comprehensive IRA section of the code, a difficult task because of the significant departures in training requirements, work techniques and equipment selection from conventional fall protection.

For instance, a rope access backup device has different requirements than an ANSI Z359.15 fall arrester. For example, a fall arrest system may allow a worker to fall up to 11 feet, whereas a backup device in rope access would only ever allow a factor 2 fall on a 24” lanyard.  Therefore the design, performance and testing requirements are significantly different.

The repeatedly voiced concern from the full ANSI Z359 committee is that the inclusion of rope access equipment with different performance requirements may be confused on site with similarly marked conventional fall protection equipment.  Finally, after more than a decade of work, which saw much resistance to the inclusion of IRA in the ANSI Z359 code and many reversals of direction from the full committee, a resolution has seemingly been reached.

At the recent October committee meeting in Chicago, a group of rope access professionals, including Sam Terry (Sparkling Clean Window Company), Shaun Reed (US Bureau of Reclamation), Keith and Kelly, presented the Z359.8 document in its current form to the full committee and spent an hour discussing and addressing concerns from the full committee.  Near the end of the hour, an idea was suggested that the Z359.8 standard continue to be a part of the Fall Protection Code but bear a number other than Z359.  This would allow the rope access community to continue to draw upon the knowledge base of the full committee, while assuaging concerns that the equipment markings might be confused.  Also, many of the manufacturers on the full committee make both conventional fall protection equipment and rope access equipment, and the new organizational system will keep all the committees under one roof.

A win for all.