Gear Check

loaded up harness

A couple of tips by Paul McCathie, Goodleaf Tree Climbing

When it comes to checking gear the number one question I get asked is “When do I know when something is too worn out to use?” 

This is indeed a difficult question to answer. We would all like for this to be a black and white issue but unfortunately it is not! Give a partially worn item to ten people and I’m sure you will get at least five differing opinions – no use to us when deciding on the fitness of any questionable piece of gear!

There are a few factors that come into play when checking gear. One of them is bias. When checking your own gear there is always a temptation to think “I’m sure I could get another year out this piece of gear… well, I think I could and it would be so expensive to replace and I’ve only had it ten months.” This doesn’t make any logical sense I know, but the fact is that money doesn’t grow on trees and this can override a lot of other decision making factors.

I am a LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations) Inspector for Arboricultural Equipment and therefore use their system for gear checking. On top of this, I employ another LOLER Inspector to check every piece of life support equipment I own. This removes the bias and makes sure I’ve had a second set of eyes giving my equipment a thorough inspection. It also helps to give me some black and white answers to those grey questions.

If you don’t have LOLER running in your country it may be an idea to get a buddy system working for gear checks. Check each other’s gear in as much of an unbiased way as possible. If there is still any doubt, I’d recommend getting an opinion from a qualified arborist.

Age of gear can be another issue. “How long should I keep using a harness or a karabiner?” The answer to this question is much easier to answer: “As long as the manufacturer recommends.” What could be easier? However some manufacturer’s instructions can be vague or just straight out hard to find. To help out here is a summary for European gear. I find this a very good summary and useful rule of thumb to go by.

So, number one, buddy up and cross check one another’s equipment and always refer back to the manufacture’s guidelines for length of time to use gear.

One last thought – if there’s not a summary of manufacture’s instructions for US made gear, maybe someone would like to volunteer for the job! It would be a very useful document.