FAQ: Helmets for rope access

One issue that crops up regularly on our courses is helmets – techs are confused over which is the correct EN standard for helmets, how they differ from standard site helmets, and whether mountaineering helmets can be used at work. While the short answer is simple – just use a Petzl Vertex or Alveo ‘Best’, it can be a tricky one to explain to enthusiastic safety officers on site, so we thought we’d add some info for folks to refer back to.

Which is the correct EN standard for work at height helmets?

Unlike most of our equipment nowadays, currently there is no standard for specialist helmets for rope access.

Why can’t I just use a standard site helmet?

The standard for normal site helmets is EN 397 ‘Industrial Safety Helmets’. Unfortunately for our purposes this standard has a few problems. Firstly, EN 397 actually requires that any chinstrap must release at a fairly low load – the opposite of what we want to happen in a fall. Secondly, the impact tests required by EN 397 are pretty tame, with the test loads dropping from the height of one metre, and the helmets are only tested on the centre of their shell (this is the reason many cheap site helmets have a moulded central ridge. Get hit on the side and you’re likely knackered!). The standard also requires the shell is continuous to provide electrical insulation and (optionally) protection against molten metal splash – so no ventilation holes. Beware especially Petzl ‘ST’ helmets which look like typical rope access lids, but conform fully to EN 397’s weak chinstrap requirements, making them unsuitable for work at height.

What about climbing hemets?

The EN standard for mountaineering helmets – En 12492 – actually answers a lot of our problems. It requires a chinstrap that will keep the helmet on our head during a fall (but will release before strangling you), and impact tests from greater heights (2m), and on more places on the shell, including on the sides. However most mountaineering helmets have ventilation holes which means they cannot provide electrical insulation. Thankfully Petzl produce a couple of helmets – the ‘Best’ versions of which combine the most useful elements of each standard, making it an ideal helmet for rope access although no longer fully compliant to either standard.
Many mountaineering helmets nowadays are also more like a cycling helmet – more foam than shell – making them less durable and more suitable for protecting your head in a fall rather than against falling objects. Most of the time that shouldn’t be the priority at work, but its up to you to do a risk assessment and determine which is going to be most suitable for the task in hand.

I’ve got an old Petzl Ecrin Best that’s really comfortable. Can I still use it?

The old Ecrin Best was much loved by many, especially when Petzl replaced it with the wobbly and not very comfortable Vertex. Petzl’s lifespan advice for helmets is a maximum of ten years – and if its been used daily, out in the sun, it should probably be retired well before. Used solely indoors you might justify stretching a couple more years, but realistically most of the helmets are now on their last legs. Thankfully Petzl’s latest helmet – the Alveo – is a big improvement on the Vertex, being lighter, lower profile and much more stable on the head. Well worth a look.

ATL now running courses every week – lots more dates for summer 2012

Due to consistent demand, we’re now running courses every week, bar the odd public holiday (Easter, Christmas etc). Courses have been filling up fast recently so try not to leave it to the last minute to book!

Dates for Summer 2012 below:

18th – 22nd June
25th – 29th June
2nd – 6th July
9th – 13th July
16th – 20th July
23rd – 27th July
30th July – 3rd August
6th – 10th August
13th – 17th August
20th – 24th August
– August Bank Holiday –
3rd – 7th September
10th – 14th September
17th – 21st September
24th – 28th Spetember

Please get in touch for any dates beyond these.

Extra course date for May

Due to demand, we’re running an extra course from the 21st – 25th May. Places are also still available for the week before: 14th – 18th, and the week after: 28th – 1st.

Just give us a ring or send us an email to secure your place.

Dates for Spring and Summer 2012

Now Easter is out of the way, here’s a quick update on upcoming course dates:

April: 23rd – 27th, 30th – 4th May

May: 14th – 18th, 28th – 1st June

June: 11th – 15th, 25th – 29th

July: 9th – 13th, 23rd – 27th, 30th July – 3rd August

August: 6th – 10th, 20th – 24th

As bookings are taken, we are likely to add extra course dates between those listed – please get in touch if the week you want isn’t listed.

Extra courses during February and March

Next week’s course (Feb 6th – 10th) is now fully booked, and other courses are filling up fast, so we have put on an extra course the following week (Feb 13th – 17th). There is plenty of room still available for this week, and a few places still available on the courses in the rest of Feb.

We don’t normally run courses on bank holiday weeks, so be warned availability is a bit patchier over Easter and into May. However, we are running courses pretty much every week between now and then, so its worth getting it done earlier if possible. Just email or give us a ring to book.

FAQ: IRATA Rules for Revalidation

There is often some confusion about when and how folk can revalidate or upgrade their tickets, so I thought I’d try to clear things up here.

Firstly, note IRATA will NOT allow you to upgrade if your certificate has expired (more than three years since last assessment). However they will allow you to revalidate up to 6 months before expiry, and your next three years will run from the original expiry date. So its well worth booking in early if possible.

If you have expired, the rules are as follows:

Level 1: revalidate at any time with a full week’s training course.

Level 2 & 3: You have a further six months after expiry to revalidate at the same level, as long as you do not work as a rope access technician whilst expired.
If you have expired for more than 6 months but less than 2 years, a day of appraisal is required at a training centre before completing a full week’s course.
If you have expired for more than 2 years, you must first revalidate at Level 1, and then ‘fast-track’ back up the system to your original level. 300 logged hours over at least 3 months are required between levels in the ‘fast-track’ system.

If you have any questions, please get in touch and we can clear up any confusion.

A lick of paint and a bit of steel

Over the last few months we’ve made a good few additions to the training centre. On the cosmetic front, painting the floor has made the centre much brighter and smarter, and helped to keep ropes and harnesses clean and handling nicely.

To expand the possibilites of our steelwork, we’ve added a pylon leg with latchway system, to give us a great variety of four different installed fall arrest systems. We’ve also installed a large section of steel tube into the arches at around 6 metres height. This is great for teaching aid climbing and rigging, particularly pull-throughs, and has been specified to take a point load of 6kN at any point with minimal deflection.

We’re also continually expanding our kit store, with special focus on the ever expanding range of devices. With recent Petzl and IRATA statements regarding the Shunt, its essential all operatives, ans especially Level 3s, are experienced and knowledgeable on a variety of descenders and back-up devices.

Dates for Winter – Spring 2012

Over the coming months we will be running courses on the following weeks:

January: 9th – 13th Fully Booked,   23rd – 27th

February: 6th – 10th,  20th – 24th,   27th – 2nd

March: 5th – 9th,   19th – 23rd,   26th – 30th

April: 16th – 20th,   23rd – 27th

May: 14th – 18th,   28th – 1st

Remember, if the week you want isn’t listed give us a call. We will run a course as long as we have two bookings, so there is a good chance we can put on an extra course.