Talking about bomb-proof

A post over on Treebuzz made me think back to the bomb-proof story a couple of months ago…

The post recounts a near failure of an attachment point on a harness due to worn stitching, which luckily enough was caught in the nick of time, as a failure at this point would entail extremely serious consequences…

This report was posted in “Awakenings”, where people report incidents and near-misses.

Do not misunderstand me, I think this is a really good thing – if such reports help to avoid one single accident, a good thing has been achieved, so my intent is by no means to criticize or poke fun at anybody here – in fact, credit to them for sticking their neck out and for being prepared to share the story.

Yet one fact sticks out here: the philosophy behind the construction of this model of harness was to make it bombproof… lots of material, super chunky webbing, loads of stitching – the emphasis being on durability rather than on it being lightweight.

However, nothing lasts forever, any material wears given enough time. Put it this way, the Egyptian Pharaohs probably reckoned their pyramids would last forever, but over the centuries they have worn down considerably… same goes for all the great builders of Antiquity, the Romans, Greek or Persians. Or look at the continuous repair work that takes place on relatively modern concrete structures, apparently built to last for ages, but crumbling after a short while due to exposure to the elements.

Relying on something being bombproof creates a dangerous blind spot, an assumption that the piece of equipment cannot fail. If I am not expecting something to wear or even to fail, I will probably be less diligent in checking it… when the truth of the matter is that nothing is bombproof and anything can fail, given the right (or wrong, depending on your point of view) circumstances. This can be due to overload, continuous fatigue over a long period of time, exposure to the elements, UV, chemical agents and/ or other factors that reduce structural integrity – the list goes on, obviously there numerous other factors, depending on what we are talking about.

Therefore in my opinion there is a sound logic in rather than attempting to make equipment – superficially, at least – bomb-proof, it is preferable to clearly identifying wear parts and to make these easy to inspect, to recognize damage and to replace, if and when the necessity arises.