Saturday, March 22, 2014

Understanding "Pitched Roof Rope Access"


Pitched Roofing System Rope Access

WHAT IS IT?:

Pitched Roof System Rope Access is the safest and the most effective means for workers to gain access of a pitched roofing system. A form of rope access for Property Claims Adjusters, Forensic Engineers, Home Inspectors, maintenance and service providers that allows them to construct a system of fall protection from the safety of ground level that will provide them with the access that they need to complete their work.

What Is The General History Of Rope Access?:

The worldwide Rope Access Community began to get organized in the late 80’s with the founding of IRATA (the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association). IRATA started out as a rope access resource in the UK for the offshore Oil & Gas Industry however since then has merged into the mainstream of most all industries who struggle on a daily basis with work that is difficult to access.

1996 marked the emergence of SPRAT (the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians) a North American group of rope access professionals who were tired of getting hassled by OSHA for using rope access equipment and techniques on the job site that would have otherwise required massive amounts of scaffolding to complete.

SPRAT’s “Safe Practices for Rope Access Work” is THE North American Rope Access Worker’s Constitution. It is the most valid assembly of rope access information based on the consensus of the leaders of the North American Rope Access Industry.   It is also very similar to that which is documented in IRATA’s “International Code of Practice”.

ACRABAT (The Association for Certified Rope Access Building Assessment Technicians) was created in 2008 by Property Claims Adjusters were fed up with being forced to inspect the increasingly aggressive pitched roofing systems of the modern housing construction industry.

ACRABAT is currently the only professional association dedicated to developing guidelines for rope access on “Pitched Roof” systems that operates within the SPRAT standards for “Safe Practices for Rope Access Work”. ACRABAT currently holds the lead seat in SPRAT’s committee for developing pitched roof rope access guidelines under the category of “Buildings and Urban Environments”.

Pitched roof specific rope access guidelines will establish much needed criteria for equipment, worker management, standard operating procedures and training , slated to be available sometime in 2014.

WHO Is OSHA And What Is Their Opinion Of Rope Access?:

OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration) an agency of The United States Department of Labor, was established in 1971 to reduce the rate of worker injuries and fatalities by setting and enforcing safety standards within the workplace. OSHA impact on safety within the workplace is an estimated 84.5% reduction in worker fatalities (based on comparison of worker fatalities from 1970 – 2009) .

Fact: Human Beings in general are willing to put themselves at great risk for injury in order to provide for the financial wellbeing of themselves and their families. To put it in its simplest terms, OSHA put all employers on notice that there would be real consequences for exploiting this human tendency.

Please Note:  Rope Access is a relatively new concept that has only been around for a couple of decades now and is NOT YET recognized by OSHA 1926.500 standards for fall protection.

However, since 1996, SPRAT has successfully taken on OSHA by educating them and getting them to agree to what is called a “variance” for rope access as a valid form of fall protection.  To qualify for this so called “variance” employers must comply with what is written in SPRAT’s signature standards document; “Safe Practices for Rope Access Work”.

WHO Is ANSI And What Is Their Opinion Of Rope Access?:

ANSI (American National Standards Institute) was started over 100 years ago when they began assembling a system of voluntary safety standards based on science and fact. Today, ANSI is recognized as the most professional and valid North American safety standards organization. ANSI has established standards for Fall Protection as well listed under the title of ANSI Z359..  When it comes to the topic of Fall Protection, ANSI safety standards are considered so valid that OSHA in fact will often simply copy and paste them into their own 1926.500 updates.

Please Note:  Rope Access is not yet formally recognized by ANSI under their “Fall Protection” code yet…HOWEVER, ANSI has announced that Z359 will be updated this year to include Z359.8 Rope Access Systems, which will finally sanction the use of Rope Access as a form of fall protection as it is outlined in SPRAT’s “Safe Practices for Rope Access Work”.

What Does The Future of Pitched Roof Rope Access Look Like?:

“Rope & Harness” / Rope Access certification is a very valuable tool for all Property Claims Adjusters AND one of the hottest topics at this year’s PLRB (Property & Liability Resource Bureau) conference (the nation’s largest Insurance claims education & exhibition event). Property Claims service employers are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that a properly trained  rope access workforce offers significant reductions in worker injuries AND the negative consequences associated with product liability.

Please Note: Claim decisions made on roofing systems without the benefit of human access and touch are difficult at best to justify.

Choose Your Rope Access Certification Vendor Wisely: Do not select a rope access training company that does not base their program on the foundation of what has been established by IRATA or SPRAT. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The 411 On Adjuster Fall Protection Training / Rope & Harness

Fall Protection Training – Most Property Adjusters with three plus years of experience have (on their own and out of necessity) incorporated half a dozen “Rope & Harness”  techniques that allow for varying degrees of high angle roof access. Our industry’s leaders have coined the term “Rope & Harness” to represent the process required for high angle access roofs that exceed the capabilities of the “Cougar Paw”.  The term “Rope & Harness” is however, part of the problem because it represents an oversimplification of Fall Protection training (as defined by ANSI) much in the same way that “Road & Throttle” would be an oversimplification of the act of driver education training. Wade through the million plus man hours that went into ANSI’s Fall Protection Code and you find a whole new language that very few adjusters have come to understand.  

Several major Insurance carriers currently require specific percentages of Independent adjusters with “formalized rope and harness training” from the independent companies with whom they contract. My predictions for the future encompass all carriers replacing such verbiage to that which bears greater resemblance to ANSI based Fall Protection standards and then eventually to ANSI standards that will be written and adopted specifically for our own unique (roof inspection) industry (similar to the Window Washing Industry who now has their own ANSI Standards that encompass fall protection).


 Numerous lifeline assisted roof inspection advancements (too numerous to mention in this blog) in equipment, set-up and technique have taken place in the last two years alone. If you have not used a “pivot line”, have no idea how to build a portable anchor, or never even heard of a “rope caddy” then you are missing out on just three of many tools that have already made a significant industry wide impact on individual risk management strategy.


AVOID  the “Rubber Stamp” Rope & Harness training programs created primarily as a knee-jerk response to the carrier’s recent “formalized training” requirements. The fact that they even call themselves “Rope & Harness” should be your first clue that they have not put much research or effort into building a complete, accurate or effective curriculum for keeping you safe. Remember, the best strategies for preventing injuries and fatalities are created by those whose very lives depend on them, not the big business executives who face little more personal risks than a coffee stain on their favorite tie.



What you should consider before purchasing a Rope Access training program:


Is the training entity qualified to be providing Rope Access Training?

Does the training entity openly display the qualification of their rope access training instructors or have they simply saddled their in-house Xactimate or adjuster 101 training instructor with this extra task?
Does the training entity provide an appropriate training facility venue to duplicate the variety of pitch and height that we as property adjusters are likely to encounter within the theater of our claims?
Does the training entity incorporate skills testing as a means for ensuring that their participants can duplicate class training objectives in the field?
Is the training entity’s equipment use curriculum consistent with manufacturer’s recommendations for the products that they use?  
Will the independent company you hope to work for accept the training program you plan to complete?

Does the training entity allow all who enter the program to pass and will the participants that do pass receive a certificate of successful completion for their own personal records?

BEWARE: Most Independent Company who provide this type of training in house WILL NOT provide documentation of rope access training for liabillity reasons and to prevent their independents from using it for employment with another company.
R&H certification can pay big dividends but can be very pricey to obtain ($300 - $1200 class cost plus travel and lodging) don’t make the mistake of choosing the wrong program.
In the spring of 2011 we attended a  one day Rope & Harness training Oklahoma being held by a well known independent company. This company was looking to rapidly expand their roster of "Rope & Harness" workers by providing free classes at their recently expanded training center. What we witnessed and documented with over 100 photos was shocking:
1) An instructor who showed up with an undeclared Managed Fall Protection credential status.
 

2) A collection of incorrectly tied knots instructed as such in the classroom AND applied to the lifelines that the trainees were required to climb on.
Improperly Tied Anchor Knot (Water Knot)
Correctly Tied Anchor Knot (Water Knot)
Improperly Constructed Prusik Cord
Correctly Constructed Prusik Cord
3) Ladders w/ no rating that appeared to be unsuitable for the 250 lb + participants who climbed on them.
1/2 of a Type II or Type III Ladder?

4) Independent company trainer improperly instructing their adjusters on how to apply a seat harness and load an ATC (acronym for Air Traffic Controller belay device). 
Harness Manufacturers Instructions on Properly Fastened Buckles
Participant Belaying Instructor w/ Incorrectly Applied Sport Climbing Harness
Leg Loop Inside Out and Buckles Not Double Passed!
Instructor Belaying Student w/ Improperly Loaded ATC

Manufacturers Instructions on How To Properly Load Their ATC
5) Impropper use of ridge protectors causing severe damage to ridge cap and lifeline ropes.
Asphalt Ground Into Lifeline Rope
At a separate Independent company’s training facility in the Dallas area, we have witnessed rope and harness programs instructing their participants to use a Grigri descender (quite possibly the most popular belay device for roof inspection) in a hands-free fashion.  
Recreated Picture of Dallas R&H Training Promotional Website Photo
Grigri Manufacturer's Warning Against Hands-Free Use
Such behavior is not only sufficient evidence that these companies are unqualified to provide this form of high risk training, it also represents the equivalent of first hand testimony that their instructors didn’t even take the time to read the equipment manufacturers product use manual! 
Knowledge and tangible tools are the most powerful of resources with respect to all aspects of an independent’s career but just like any resource, you cannot use what you do not own. Successful Independents have come to understand that tools and knowledge are investments that should be selected based on their probability for return, not on the price tag for acquiring them.  

Take The Time To Choose Your Managed Fall Protection Training Company Wisely, Your Very Life Is Depending On It!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Outsourcing The Risk of Roof Inspection

   Take note and let the records show that the rumors are true, the property claims industry has finally acknowledged that the process of steep roof inspection involves a great deal of risk.  Far too much risk for many of the carrier’s staff employees that is but not too much for the Independents and ladder assist type vendors they routinely rely on to fill the voids of what they cannot, and now it seems, what they will not complete.
Pretty interesting stuff if you (like myself) happen to be one of the 100,000+ who make a living as an Independent claims adjuster and welcome the thought of increased work opportunities. After all, Independents are a fearless bunch of warriors well known for their willingness to exchange risk for reward.  But why should we be so eager to expand our inventory to include all of the high angle roof claims that have proven time and again to be too risky for the carrier’s own staff? Are we somehow better equipped to deal with the challenges of high angle roof inspection or could it be that the carriers have identified us as a more readily replaceable  resource with a much smaller signature for their own legal liability?
Debate that if you must but this situation is not likely to change any time soon. Modern home construction has to a great extent traded the virtues of the no-nonsense roofing system for the magnificence of the extremely steep and uniquely defined. The Carriers are responding to this trend with a well-known strategy commonly referred to in today’s corporate world as “Risk Management.”

Risk Management is defined by Wikipedia as:
the identification, assessment, and prioritization of risks followed by coordinated and economical application of resources to minimize, monitor, and control the probability and/or impact of unfortunate events or to maximize the realization of opportunities. The strategies to manage risk include transferring the risk to another party, avoiding the risk, reducing the negative effect or probability of the risk, or even accepting some or all of the consequences of a particular risk.”
It is quite obvious that the Carriers I speak of are using a strategy of avoidance whereby they are transferring the risk away from their own staff. This move (according to my carrier clients) does not remove the threat of legal liability altogether however, does substantially mitigate the negative consequences associated with a fall related injury.
Independents are free to pursue the whole avoidance strategy too if they choose. Proof of such can be located in the Insurance Carrier’s copy of Politically Correct Code for Plausibly Deniable Fact chapter 12, section 7b that states:
“Both staff and Independent level management and above are forbidden from openly discriminating against those claims adjusters who refuse to complete their own steep roof inspections.” (Please note that the existence of such code is purely speculative in nature based on the carrier’s un-concealable distaste for any and all delays in the claims handling process.)
The key word here being “openly”. Returning incomplete claim files to your manager for reassignment may be the right move for personal safety sake, it is not however, characteristic of those adjusters who represent the ‘first and best choice” to remain on site or to deploy for the next assignment.
    Enough about those who fit into the category of avoiders, let’s talk about our own risk management plan. Let’s talk about the strategy that we as Independents, the undeclared backbone of the industry can do to capitalize on this situation. Let’s explore the critical components for meeting the risk as it stands and reaping a positive consequence for our efforts.

Risk Managed High Angled Roof Inspection 101
1)      Mobility – The average Independent is neither young or what most would consider fit. Though there is little that we can do about our age, we are capable of making great strides in the category of physical wellness. As claims professionals, we represent one of the few groups who can legitimately place a fitness club membership expense on our list of tax deductions. Regular participation in a fitness program is a proven means for improving balance and flexibility.
2)      Assessment – Most claims adjuster have absolutely no developed plan in place for roof structure assessment, more often than not, our ladders meet the risks we inspect at a point which is most convenient to the proximity of our vehicles. Steep roofs merit more effort towards access strategy. Many people are unaware of the fact that hip ridge and valley systems make for good access points because they have less pitch than directional slopes. Take full advantage of the very best roof access point by completing a 360° tour of the risk before attempting to climb it.

Hip Roof


7/12 Pitch on Main Slope


10/12 Hip End Slope


5.75/12 Hip Ridge


3)     Ladders – are the most critical component to safe roof inspection yet there are currently no stock ladders on the market designed specifically for roof access use as all portable ladders are considered to be multi-purpose ladders. Extension ladders represent the very best choice for accessing roof structures only because they are available in the greatest variety of lengths, materials, and safety features. Furthermore, and of greatest importance, extension ladders are compatible with several very useful upgrades capable of transforming them into roof access specific ladders.  If you are a member of the vast majority of adjusters who have not used a “Ladder Max” ladder stabilizer or a “Guardian” walk through ladder extension rail system, then you are missing a paradigm shift in ladder use technology. Incorporating these two products can all but eliminate the threat of ladder kick-out and lateral slippage, the two leading causes of roof specific ladder use injuries.

Types
Of
 Ladders

Adjustable
rubber
footing
w/ cleats

Adjustable
In increments
of 1’ or less

Available
In sizes
12’ – 60’

Compatible
w/ ladder
leveling leg
extensions


Compatible
w/ roof
contact
ladder
stabilizer

Compatible
w/ walk-
through
safety rail
system


Available
In non-ele
conductive
fiberglass
Articulated Ladders
NO
SOME
NO
NO
SOME
NO
NO
Extension Ladders
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
Telescoping Ladders
NO
SOME
NO
NO
SOME
NO
NO








__________________________________________________________________________
The two greatest causes for roof access ladder injuries are lateral slippage and kick-out
The simple act of adding a Ladder Max to your roof inspection process can reduce your chances of a lateral slippage incident by almost ten fold!
   
 
·     Ladder-Max ladder attachment provides both lateral stability and unparalleled qualities for resisting the forces of kick-out.   
 ·          The Guardian Safe T Rail system keeps climbers center of gravity between ladder rails and extends ladder’s reach by 3 ft.

WARNING: These photo illustrations were completed while using a full personal fall restraint system for the purpose of demonstrating resistance to the forces of kick-out.  CCS LLC does not recommend the use of any ladder or attachment in any manner which is inconsistent with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

BEWARE of what I like to call “ladders of convenience”, i.e. articulated or telescoping ladders that are either designed for compact storage, many different uses or both. Sound risk management strategy does not compromise with convenience.
4)   Roof Specific Rope Access Training – Most Property Adjusters with three plus years of experience have (on their own and out of necessity) incorporated half a dozen rope related  techniques that allow for varying degrees of high angle roof access. Our industry’s leaders have coined the term “Rope & Harness” to represent the process required for high angle access roofs that exceed the capabilities of the “Cougar Paw”.  The term “Rope & Harness” is however, part of the problem because it represents an oversimplification of the act of Managed fall Protection (as defined by ANSI), much in the same way that “Road & Throttle” would be an oversimplification of the act of driver education training. Complete a little on-line research of Rope Access training requirements for the construction industry (as well as that which is now emerging for our own industry) and you find a whole new language that very few adjusters have come to understand.  Several major Insurance carriers currently require specific percentages of Independent adjusters with “formalized rope and harness training” from the independent companies with whom they contract. My predictions for the future encompass all carriers replacing such verbiage to that which bears greater resemblance to ANSI based Construction Industry Fall Protection standards and then to ANSI standards that will eventually be written and adopted for our own unique (roof inspection) industry. Numerous roof specific rope access inspection advancements (too numerous to mention in this article) in equipment, set-up and technique have taken place in the last two years alone. If you have not used a “pivot line”, have no idea how to build a portable anchor, or never even heard of a “rope caddy” then you are missing out on just three of many tools that have already made a significant industry wide impact on individual risk management strategy. Make no mistake, roof specific rope access training is for EVERYONE, especially those who fit into the politically correct categories of experienced and nutritionally enhanced (two terms which should never be confused with old or overweight).
BEWARE of the “Rubber Stamp” Rope & Harness training programs created primarily as a knee-jerk response to the carrier’s recent “formalized training” requirements. The fact that they even call themselves “Rope & Harness” should be your first clue that they have not put much research or effort into building a complete, accurate or effective curriculum for keeping you safe. Remember, the best strategies for preventing injuries and fatalities are created by those whose very lives depend on them, not the big business executives who risk little more each day than a coffee stain on their tie.

____________________
____________________
 
   Risk has always been a critical component to determining which Independents get deployed to work, a decision that will be even more critical in the years to come as all Independent employers seek to decrease their own legal liability and that of the carriers they service.Let’s not forget that it is only our jobs that are defined by the Insurance carrier’s call for assistance. Our risks are defined by the way that we choose to respond to our jobs.