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Q&A: Replacing Your Rescue Harness

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

How often should I replace my rescue harness?



We get many calls asking about the “life expectancy” of harnesses, rope, and other nylon products. Of course, many factors are involved, but a lot depends on how much you use your harness and how you use it.

First of all, NFPA 1858 10.1.2 states that “Software products shall be retired in accordance with 10.2.1 no more than 10 years from the date of manufacture.” Be sure to check the label of your harness, which should tell you when it was manufactured. If it’s beyond this 10-year service life, we recommend that it be taken out of service.

The frequency of use can have significant impact to the service life of a harness.

ASTM F1740-96 (2018) Guide for Inspection of Nylon/Kernmantle Rope also recommends a 10-year service life for rope, which can be applied to a nylon harness as well. Section 5.5.2 states, “Retire any rope which is greater than ten years old, regardless of history and usage.

newharness4revHere are a few examples based on industry use. The fall protection industry generally recommends 2 to 3 years as a service life for a harness or belt in regular use. The Climbing Sports Group of the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America states that a climbing harness should last about 2 years under normal weekend use. The military uses 7 years as a service life for nylon products. Of course, hard use of any product would call for a shorter service life than would normally be expected. Also, the frequency of use can have significant impact to the service life of a harness. It is not only the continual wear and tear a harness receives during use, but the exposure to other factors that exacerbate the degradation of textile fibers such as UV, sweat, or potentially other airborne chemicals. Frequent and rigorous use of a harness could decrease the service life substantially.

Even how and where you store your gear is an important factor. In an industrial environment, for example, atmospheric exposures may be a key consideration for nylon products even while in storage. Storage conditions, heat, light, temperature, and other variables can all impact nylon. NFPA 1858 Section 9.2 references the storage of life safety rope and other nylon products, “Equipment shall be stored in such a manner as to prevent damage contact with other equipment and to prevent exposure to chemicals and atmospheres that can contribute to rust, corrosion, or oxidation.”

How and where you store your gear is also an important factor.

As with all of your rescue gear, it’s very important to account for each use and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for care, use and inspection. As with ropes, if your harness has been subjected to shock loads, fall loads, abuse other than normal use, or fails the inspection for any reason, it should be removed from service and destroyed.

Bottom line…Never take chances when there’s any doubt about the serviceability of a life safety product. It’s simply not worth the risk.

Additional Resources

Q&A: Tactical Product Review

Saturday, October 15, 2022

tactical q&aQUESTION: 

Are there any industrial applications for Roco's Tactical Mini-Tripod?


Yes! We’ve been using the Mini-Tripod for many years in our tactical training, and it’s been in the Pararescue inventory since 2009 thanks to the Guardian Angel Technical Recovery Program. Every PJ team in the world has these tripods, and we were wondering whether there were any useful applications in industry. In response to this question, we commonly hear, “Why would I use that tiny tripod that requires special techniques to get a litter patient out of a hole if I can just bring the full-size version?” Valid point…until you work in a tray column.


Roco Rescue’s Devin Payne evaluates the Skedco/Roco Mini-Tripod inside a tray column. This training prop has engineered anchors and a top portal, but many tray columns have neither.

Configurations vary, and some of these spaces do have interior high points or topside openings. However, many do not. Maneuvering a patient up through the trays and out a side portal, can be a significant challenge without a high-point anchor. In fact, we practiced this exact scenario last month during a 4-day in-house workshop. We had nine of our experienced personnel from our Training, CSRT, and Tactical divisions perform multiple iterations of the scenario, with and without high points. Afterwards, we introduced the Mini-Tripod to the equipment cache – and, boy, was it a hit!

The Mini-Tripod is small enough to fit inside the tray column on the top tray. No other rescue tripod on the market has this capability. Our CSRT Director immediately reserved the tactical program’s tripod and assigned it to a tray column job starting the following week! The Mini-Tripod weighs 35 pounds and the height is 54”. (This is the measurement to the bottom of the head when fully extended where you clip a carabiner, not the top.) These handy little tools will soon become standard on these jobs.


tact tripod-Ish2 DSC_1330Additional Resources


Q&A: 11mm Rope and NFPA Requirements

Friday, April 29, 2022

We’re hearing more about 11mm rope for rescue purposes – does this meet NFPA requirements? 


That is a question we are getting quite often these days. The move from the traditional half-inch rescue rope (12.5mm) to 11mm is rapidly gaining momentum in the urban and industrial rescue world. While it is nothing new to rope access practitioners and back country rescuers, the skinny ropes can seem like a big jump for organizations doing their best to navigate the NFPA world.

At the end of 2017, the National Fire Protection Association released NFPA 1858, The Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services. For the first time, NFPA had an equipment guidance document focused on the end user rather than the manufacturer of rescue equipment.

Most recently, this standard along with two other standards (1670 and 1983) have been consolidated into one comprehensive standard, NFPA 2500: Standard for Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents and Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services, which became effective September 15, 2021.

Tech11-storeA quick look at NFPA 2500 reveals that the end user has significant leeway to determine rope and equipment size and strength. For example, Chapter 30 Selection (NFPA 1858), states in Section 2 Life Safety Rope that

“Specific performance criteria or specific features shall be defined based upon the intended application of the rope and equipment being purchased. If the organization has multiple intended applications for life safety rope, the purchase of multiple ropes shall be considered that best fit those applications.” (30.2.1)

Section 2 goes on to state, “Organizations shall specify and select rope with a minimum breaking strength (MBS) to provide an adequate factor of safety, as defined by the AHJ, for the intended application(s) to ensure adequate strength.” (30.2.5) 

The standard then adds, “Rope diameter shall be considered with prioritization to ensure compatibility with the other components used in the system and the ability to grip the rope.” (30.2.6)

NFPA allows the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) wide latitude to choose 11mm rope and equipment should it meet the needs of your organization. If you need further convincing, the Annex tells us that; Chapters 24 through 28 (of NFPA 2500), which divide life safety rope and equipment into two designations: general use and technical use. NFPA does not establish or endorse a particular safety factor or ratio.

And then goes on to say, “Rescue organizations can elect to use either technical use– or general use–labeled equipment based on the anticipated loads of the incident; training/skill level of responders; and the AHJ’s established acceptable safety factors. What safety factor(s) is deemed appropriate might vary based on the acceptable level of risk, severity of consequences of a potential failure, types of technical rescues, and the corresponding level of operational capability of the organization.” (A.‍

Most major rope manufacturers now offer 11mm kernmantle rescue ropes that are rated for NFPA general use. Add in compatible hardware like the excellent 11mm CMC Clutch by Harken or the Petzl Maestro Small, and you have multiple choices for skinny rope technical rescue that rivals the strength of any half-inch system with a much easier carry burden.

At the end of the day, whatever size rope and equipment you choose to use, it should;

  • meet a given standard (NFPA, ANSI, EN, CE)
  • be used within manufacturer’s recommendations
  • allow your team to complete the required task safely

This 11mm rope feels lighter, faster and rope companies are making it stronger, but is it right for you? Only you or your AHJ can decide.


Is the Petzl Maestro Good for Industrial Rescue?

Monday, November 16, 2020

By Brad Warr, Roco Rescue Chief Instructor

Question: “I noticed that some mountain rescue teams are making the switch to the Petzl Maestro descent device – is this something an industrial rescue team should consider?”

Thanks for the great question. It’s been almost a year since the Petzl Maestro has been on the market, and we have noticed a big uptick in back country teams adopting the Maestro as their primary anchored descend control device. In fact, many of our instructors’ own home-based rescue teams have already made the switch to the Maestro and many of these teams respond to mountain rescue calls.

Petzl_Maestro_RocoTrainingCenter_1To decide whether the Maestro would be a good choice for an urban/industrial rescue team, let’s look at why a mountain rescue team would choose the Maestro. Mountain and back country rescue teams covet light weight, easily transportable equipment. Smaller diameter ropes, lightweight carabiners, pulleys and rope grabs are the norm when you must pack in your own gear. Anyone that has hefted a Petzl Maestro would never consider the device to be petite. At nearly two and a half pounds, the device is far from the featherlight kit usually found in back country response packs. Yet despite the rotund nature of the device, it continues to find its way into the equipment caches that ride on the shoulders of mountain rescue teams. That says a lot about how these teams feel about the Maestro’s performance.

The “intuitive nature” of the Maestro is one of the descender’s strong suits. This is also one of the reasons we chose it for use in our new entry level Roco Urban/Industrial Rescue Essentials™ course. Often attended by brand new rescuers taking their first steps into technical rescue, the Maestro was the perfect fit. At the completion of the first 50-hour course, all Roco instructors commented on how much easier it was to train new rescuers to use the Petzl Maestro compared to other popular descent control devices. It allowed our students to progress quickly while increasing their safety as well.

Petzl_Maestro_RocoTrainingCenter_2Mountain rescue teams are also very aware of the corollary between “friction management” and system efficiency. When you are working in small teams with potential for lots of friction running over rock and dirt, a device that can greatly increase friction reduction during hauls is very appealing. The Maestro delivers friction reduction in spades. The faceted sheave in the Maestro delivers up to 95% pulley efficiency.

The Maestro’s ease of use, consistent control and efficient operation were a few of the reasons we chose it for our courses. While Roco’s advanced classes delve into other personal and anchored descenders, we feel the Maestro gives the highest likelihood of success for new and experienced rescuers. The Petzl name behind the device gives us confidence in its dependability.

As an Urban/Industrial rescuer, we can take the experiences of top mountain rescue teams in the country to heart. If they are willing to carry the extra weight of the Maestro based on its performance, then perhaps we should carefully consider the Maestro as our primary choice for descent control.

To learn more about the Petzl Maestro, read our full review or join us for one of our newly designed rescue courses for 2021. Roco’s new Urban/Industrial Rescue Essentials™ 50-hour entry level course strives to create rescue team members that can contribute from Day 1.

Check out our current open-enrollment course schedule for upcoming training dates, or review our complete course descriptions to find the right course for your needs.


Brad Warr

Brad Warr is a Chief Instructor for Roco Rescue and a Captain at the Nampa Fire Department. Brad joined Roco Rescue in 2003, teaching a wide variety of technical rescue classes including rope rescue, confined space rescue, trench rescue, and structural collapse. Brad became a firefighter for the Nampa Fire Department in 1998 and was promoted to Captain in 2006. Before joining the fire department, Brad worked for three years as an Emergency Response Technician for a large computer chip manufacturer in Boise, Idaho, where he was responsible for OSHA compliance, emergency medical response, confined space/rope rescue response and hazardous materials response.

Q&A: Energy Absorber Systems and Safety Lines

Friday, September 28, 2018

Q&A: Energy Absorber Systems and Safety LinesREADER QUESTION: 
Is an energy absorber system needed on the safety line to help limit the impact forces should the belay system be engaged to arrest the falling load?


Thank you for your question. Roco uses traditional untensioned safety lines in most all of our rescue systems, and we do indeed incorporate an energy absorber (shock) in those belay systems. While OSHA does not address specifics when it comes to rescue systems, there is some overlap from the OSHA as well as the ANSI standards that is helpful when considering the belay system during rescue. 

NFPA 1006 Standard for Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications, sections 5.2.9 through 5.2.11, provides guidance for the construction of a belay (safety line) system. Specifically, the 5.2.11 objective statement calls for the belay system to ensure “the fall is arrested in a manner that minimizes the force transmitted to the load.” The annex information to 5.2.9 adds: “A.5.2.9 Belay systems are a component of single-tensioned rope systems that apply a tensioned main system on which the entire load is suspended and a non-tensioned system with minimal slack (belay) designed, constructed, and operated to arrest a falling load in the event of a main system malfunction or failure. 

While these traditional systems used for lowering and raising are in common use, two-tensioned rope systems can also be used to suspend the load  while maintaining near equal tension on each rope, theoretically reducing the fall distance and shock force in the event of a singular rope failure. To be effective, two-tensioned rope systems must utilize devices that will compensate appropriately for the immediate transfer of additional force associated with such failures.”

Additionally the NFPA 1006 definition of belay is “3.3.9* Belay. The method by which a potential fall distance is controlled to minimize damage to equipment and/or injury to a live load.” And Annex information “A.3.3.9 Belay. This method can be accomplished by a second line in a raise or lowering system or by managing a single line with a friction device in fixed-rope ascent or descent. Belays also protect personnel exposed to the risk  of falling who are not otherwise attached to the rope rescue system."

So, where can OSHA help in all of this? OSHA requires the maximum force of a fall arrest system not to exceed 1,800 pounds. ANSI is more protective and requires arresting forces not to exceed 900 pounds. NFPA does not state what the arresting forces need to be limited to, but the performance measurement is to “minimize damage to equipment and/or injury to a live load.” OSHA and ANSI have already done the homework on this and stated their performance requirements. One proven way to meet NFPA 1006 as well as OSHA and ANSI requirements is to incorporate an energy absorber in the belay (fall arrest) system. Whether 1,800 pounds or the ANSI required 900 pounds is appropriate, or if you use a two tensioned system, this is up to your AHJ. 

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