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Tree climbers call for more testing

Richard Tregoweth - Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The sheer number of recent product recalls has tree climbers asking questions about the testing of equipment before it is put into the market.  Obviously, all legitimate PPE products have to reach appropriate standards before they can be sold.

Tree climbing products fitting into recognized PPE categories eg helmets, harnesses, ropes etc are relatively easy, albeit expensive, to test.

However, there are times when a product can be in the field without reaching any specific standard. Eventually, with enough users the product reaches a de facto standard (of acceptance).

These not-so-easily-categorized products serve to exacerbate the 'testing' challenge.

Take the Unicender for example: is it a descender? Ascender? A rope grab? A friction device? And, what 'standard' is it required to adhere to?

In terms of testing, the Unicender had an advantage. It was extensively trialled in the field before Rock Exotica started manufacture. Hell, Johno Smith alone has gone through at least four of them!

The original Unicender , while better suited to experienced climbers, proved to be robust and useful as a tree climbing tool.

The field-tested Unicender had removable chain links on each plate. The 'capture' device on the chain link was sealed with a clear resin to ensure it did not part while in use. The seal also served as a visual cue, allowing the user to simply monitor the integrity of the device.

Presumably the removable chain links also allowed for easy refurbishment of the Unicender when the time came.

Once the Unicender moved into volume manufacture with Rock Exotica things changed.

The removable/sealed chain links were dropped in favor of a standard pressed chain link/pin. The standard chain link would have simplified the manufacturing process and probably lowered production costs.

But… the revised method of attaching the chain links had not been tested in the field. Effectively all the previous years of testing data went out the window!

Mores the pity, because we now have an inspection recall on a product that had already been extensively field tested.



ADDENDUM: CE compliance may be the reason for changes to the Unicender chain link. If so, that in itself also begs a question!

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