Expect the unexpected

If instructing climbing courses has taught me one thing, it is to expect the unexpected – on a number of levels.

For one thing, working with people new to an activity opens your eyes to how they perceive it. Sometimes a beginner’s eyes will see things hidden from an expert, leading to interesting questions. “Why can’t we do this like this?” “Umm, dunno, good question”. Working through such questions I find helpful to identify problem solving-approaches, explain a rationale, and to remain humble, because for all I know the suggestion being made may be totally viable.

And then there are clusters. One thing that happened a number of times during this last course which frankly I found pretty terrifying, was that two people moved the adjuster of their lanyard from the side D to the DMM Vault behind it where you would normally store the end of the lanyard. When I queried them on why they were doing it they said that it reduced clutter for them – but I am absolutely adamant that if this were to become a habit it is an accident waiting to happen: the likelihood of removing the end of the lanyard from the Vault, clipping it to the D-ring on the other side and then forgetting to move the adjuster from the Vault into the correct position on the D-ring is simply too high. So I nipped that one in the bud.

Then also these two situations. The image on the left occurred whilst discussing placing of redirects. Anticipating the trajectory the connector is going to take during the planned movement is a core aspect of setting a redirect. In this instance the contact between the gate and the structure obviously was an issue.

The image on the right made me smile. Just when you think that something is intuitive, along comes someone to prove you are wrong. In this instance it was the kid on the course who seemed to already know quite a bit – and made sure we knew about it too. Needless to say, the pulleySAVER did not retrieve in this configuration.

Yes, certainly, if teaching teaches you one thing, it is to expect the unexpected, trying to anticipate what might go wrong and to express yourself in the most unambiguous way possible.

Event in Italy

Below is an interview I gave during an event in Erba, in the Como area of Italy with our friends from Formazione 3T.

It is always enjoyable doing this kind of thing when someone actually comes up with interesting questions, and I felt the one regarding advice to arborists at the start of their career was highly relevant – maybe now even more so than at other points in time.

Other than that it was great having the opportunity to meet up with old friends and meet new people during this event, so a big thank you to Ezio, Gabri and the whole crew at Formazione 3T.

Getting things right

Getting things right does not seem to be on the top of everybody’s priority list.

I never cease to be surprised how people and companies often are blissfully ignorant or do not seem to care about the quality of the imagery they use for advertising purposes or otherwise associate with their names. How hard can it be to just check whether the image you plan to use in your ad actually depicts best practise? No, actually that is setting the bar high, I would even settle for minimum acceptable standards. Surely even creatives should get that, let alone soi-disant professionals.

Yet time and again… fail after fail.

No prizes for spotting the glaringly obvious in the image above. Poor chap, did it not occur to anyone to point out before he posed for the Stihl photo shoot that his leg loops were open?! Really?!

An image I loved but sadly seem to have lost in the electronic wilderness that is my laptop’s SSD, is an image used by a UK rope manufacturer, the headline of the ad was “Technical Competence” – yet there, right in the centre of the image, in the focal point, was a climber attached to a line by a cross-loaded connector. Umm, yes, I suppose.

Then this one, which I have discussed before, but remain frustrated by…

Berner Kraftwerke, a Swiss utility company ran a series of ads a while ago portraying their employees. What I like about the image is as opposed to using a scantily- or inappropriately-clad woman to promote a totally unrelated product, this shot actually shows one of BKW’s female apprentices professionally kitted out, I have no issues with that. But did no one realise that the leg loops on her harness were twisted? And that the upper assembly was not attached correctly? Or that the screw gate karabiner was not screwed shut?

Argh.

So there you go, that sort of stuff irritates me. But then again, if everybody got it right all the time, what would be left to irritate me?!

Safety first

I am fairly sure most of you will have heard by now, Teufelberger have issued a recall on the past five years’ worth of production of Braided Safety Blue climbing lines due to issues with the termination. But just on the off chance that you may not have, I thought it would be an idea to post it here also. Read the full statement regarding the recall and return procedure here.

It should be noted that this recall does not affect any of Teufelberger’s other climbing lines, e.g. Fly, Tachyon, xStatic or drenaLINE – or, come to that, any of the Braided Safety Blue lines with a traditional splice.

Whilst such an extensive recall is always regrettable, I am glad it was caught before someone got hurt and commend Teufelberger for the pro-active course of action they have decided to pursue in order to sort this out.

So, should you have a Braided Safety Blue with a slaice termination in service produced between 2014 and 2019, follow the steps outlined in the recall document to return it – and if you are unsure whether you might be affected or not, send Teufelberger a mail to safetyfirst@teufelberger.com.

Consequences

Joe Harris commented on a post I wrote a while back on influence, how information is disseminated and what relevance we give it. I thought the points he made were too important not to share here as a follow-up to the original post…

On a recent workshop series, with a planned 208 attendees, we actually saw only 206. Two of the climbers who’d booked to come along had experienced career-ending injuries (luckily neither were killed) between booking and the date of the event. As you would know, arborists are not prone to booking well in advance, so we’re talking about a period of only a month or so. 

In addition, in the last few months, two other climbers that I know of have had career-ending injuries.

All four accidents were associated with complex SRT setups, new devices used in non-manufacturer approved configurations, working from basal anchors, or similar “new-fangled” and YouTube-promoted tree work methods. All four accidents would not have occurred with simple, “old-school” methods*. 

I never used to think that equipment was a major factor in most incidents. It’s usually shortcuts, laziness and sloppy decision making. But in recent years there has been an increase in injuries and deaths due to equipment misconfiguration, misuse, and misunderstanding. The rise of SRT for work positioning means that devices experience more load, ropes are under more tension, there is less margin of error, loads on high-points and redirects are misunderstood, and people are learning from YouTube influencers as you say in your post. 

We’ve had 6 fatalities in arboriculture so far this year in Australia. The highest per-capita fatality rate of any industry in Australia, for the 6th year running. Think somewhere we’re going wrong with the whole way we’re going about this work. 

Good post Mark. Take care,
Joe Harris

* 2 x climber cut anchor line on basal anchor, 1 x device prevented from engaging due to too-tight chest harness, 1 x device opened too far, operator gripped on and went to ground.

Made my day

You remember that gorilla suit I mentioned the other day? Well, it certainly seems to be getting around. Tom and the lads from Top Rope, friends of ours who do rope access work here in Switzerland had a contract to fit climbing holds into the chimp and orang utan enclosure in the Basel zoo, so lending them the suit seemed like a no-brainer.

Fun fact: the hardest thing about climbing in the bloody thing is actually that you get the hair jammed in your friction hitch and descenders. Well, and the fact that you can hardly see, let alone breathe under the mask.

Anyway, be that as it may, the results made me laugh snot, but see for yourself…

Well played, lads, well played 😂

Clusters

Isn’t it funny how things sometimes seem to occur in clusters, such as blunders and bad luck, for instance.

A couple of weeks ago I pulled up in my vehicle to a meeting and managed to clip the curb in an absent-minded fashion. Brilliant! Closer inspection revealed that I had managed to remove a chunk of rubber out of the tire. So the next morning I took the vehicle to the mechanic who changed both front tires.

The following day I was up a tree doing a removal when I noticed considerable abrasion damage to the Platinum line on the rear side of my access systems. Argh! That line was new in May!!! The damage is recent and looks like rope running on rope – and I have absolutely no idea when or how it occurred. Very, very annoying. And yes, it is in the middle of the line in case you were wondering.

So, I remove the line from service and ordered a new one.

Later that day I was cross-cutting the stem of one of the black pines we had just felled. Whilst moving from one cut to the next, with the saw switched off and the hand brake on, I lost my balance in the tangle of branches and managed to impale the knee of my chainsaw trousers on the bucking spikes of the saw I was using. It was the first day of use they had seen…

Was I irritated? Somewhat. What the hell was going on?!

Finally, the next day I was out and about looking at work – aaaaaand of course ended up with a parking ticket…

😡😡😡

¡Basta ya!

It would appear that sometimes I can be quite high maintenance. Having said that, my spate of bad luck and destruction seems to have passed. And I mended the trousers, paid the fine and replaced the line. Worse things happen at sea.

Touché

Sexism is such a pervasive, virulent issue in so many walks of life – needless to say that arboriculture is not spared. The other day a friend of ours called someone for posting video footage on the social media page of a group soi-disant professionals for running a chainsaw aloft without so much as a shred of PPE.

He fired right back at her, mansplaining that she would probably do better to let the guys do the tree work whilst she went to do yoga with her girl friends. To which her response was…

The explanation being that doing yoga in chainsaw PPE makes as much sense as running chainsaws without it.

Ha! Touché! Sometimes anger may be an appropriate response, but other times humour can be highly effective to really ram a point home – with a vengeance.

Nice one, Vane 😊

vertical-connect 2019

As I write this, the 2019 edition of vertical-connect 2019 is once again history.

Another event full of interesting meetings, lasting impressions and insights to mull over. The topics this year where Human Factor and Moving Loads. The former highlighted how central the human factor is to all of our actions, with various speakers examining different facets of the topic: from the fallacy of believing that our brain always feeds us reliable, objective information, sociological dynamics, to the possibility of using virtual reality to train operators to cope with hazardous environments or theatre scenes discussing communication and its pitfalls.

Thursday evening was the traditional vertical-connect party in the Sherlock Pub in Meiringen. Fun fact: Meiringen is where Sherlock Holmes allegedly fell down the waterfall with Professor Moriarty. Which hopefully taught them a lesson about mucking around steep drops without any PPE. I am happy to report that the gorilla suit was not forgotten this time round. This goes back to a presentation I did years ago about subjective mental blind spots, where one of the studies I referenced was Chris Chabris and Dan Simons’ Invisible Gorilla experiment. Don’t worry about the details, but long story short, they initially did the experiment with a pink umbrella but then decided to repeat it with the gorilla suit they had kicking around the psychology facility. And I was like… huh, what, everyone has a gorilla suit handy? Except me?!! Since then, that situation has be remedied:

Which is all fine and good, but resulted in a somewhat subdued start to the second day, where we were discussing the moving of loads in different industries and applications. A broad range of situations were considered such as using crane hooks as PPE anchor points, Richard Delaney reflected upon the interface between the use of PPE and rigging equipment, the Geneva high-angle rescue group did a hands-on demo of their procedural considerations when the mass being rigged is a casualty.

I cannot recommend this event enough, it is certainly one of my annual high-lights, I get to spend a week in beautiful alpine scenery with friends and like-minded folk, consider yourself warmly invited (did I mention we offer simultaneous translation between German, French and English), the dates for next year are 27 and 28 August 2020.