Thursday, September 1, 2016

Ladder Assist Workers Gorging on the Work Opportunities Typically Reserved for the Independent Claims Adjuster

If you happen to be among the group of Property Adjusters who believe that Ladder Assist industry is not gaining a foothold and gobbling up roof inspection claims assignments in this country then it is time to take a closer look.   
Ten years ago we had one Ladder Assist company and that was run by Pilot for Allstate Ins but today we have: 
Assist All, Austin SW Ladder Assist, Camco, Certified Ladder Assist, Cornerstone, Delta Claims Svs, First Choice Ladder Assist, GRIP, Hancock Claims Consultants, KMK, Ladder Assist Pro, Ladder Assist Team, Ladder Now, Manta, Maxus, Miller Enterprises, MT Ladder Assist, Property Medic, Southern Roof Tops, Superior Ladder Assist, TruLine Roof Consultants 
…and more throwing their hat into the ring every day. 
Facts are that the climate for the growth of these service organizations could not be more perfect: 
Fact # 1 – The days of the 4/12 Ranch style houses are dead and no longer a part of the modern housing construction industry. 
Like it or not, the simple but simple 4/12 pitched Ranch style home roofing system has now been surpassed by mega pitched architectural masterpieces that now dominate the modern housing construction industry.  Shame on you (and me) for the foolish assumption that shedding water would always be priority #1 with respect to roof system design because today’s priority is all about catering to the uneducated masses who want the curb appeal that these cut-up leak monuments provide.  
Fact # 2 – Fear is a crippling condition which can impair judgment that facilitates mistakes that can initiate a fall. Acrophobia (the fear of heights) is the most common form of irrational fear found amongst humans. Many might argue the fact that the act of falling is not irrational at all to which I would agree hower, fear for the sake of being at height alone while in control defaults to the category of a legitimate phobia.    
It is important to note that all people are NOT created equal with respect to both their comfort level and inherent god given abilities for working at height. Comprehensive Fall Protection Program strategy indicates that careful selection of your workforce is a critical requirement for limiting falls, something the Ladder Assist industry appears to do very well.  Property Adjusters are scrutinized on many different levels to determine the depth of their claims handling skills however, not for their inherent abilities to work at height. 
Fact # 3   Liability for personal injuryinaccurate work product and the damage that can be caused from steep roof inspection process itself is costly and requires more than a ready, fire, aim management strategy.  
Ladder Assist organizations manage their liability in several different ways: 
For liability resulting from federal and state OSHA laws they use an independently contracted work force that is required to provide their own individual LLC. This is required for the simple reason that if you own your own companyyou are your own employee and therefore exempt from OSHA 1926.5 regulation for providing fall protection. Furthermore, many LA organizations also require their workers to provide their own workman’s comp insurance. 
For liability resulting from damage to property, LA organizations require each independently contracted worker provide their own two million dollar liability policy that specifically names and protects LA organization in the event of an incident. 
For liability resulting from work product the LA companies guarantee that all information on the roofing system will be gathered from the roofing system then reviewed for compliance prior to being handed over to insurance adjuster… 

My ultimate goal here is to stress the point that if the IA industry as a whole does not develop and implement a comprehensive managed fall protection program that: 
  1. Recognizes real Rope Access training is very different than “Sport Climbing” based training. An important detail when you consider the fact that most IAs are employees and "Sport Climbing" gear and technique is not OSHA compliant at the local level in a growing number of states across the country. 
  1. Identifies those select workers within their ranks who have the appropriate physical and psychological attributes to successfully limit company liability and the liability of the Carriers they serve. 
  1. Appropriately solicits, hires and cultivates a high angle service component that recognizes and rewards those capable workers who are willing to accept the risks of high angle roof inspection. Rewarding appropriately trained and capable workforce by saddling them with more responsibilities at the same or lower pay rate as other Property Adjusters WILL NEVER appropriately incentivize an effective program and allow it to take hold. 
…… then they will continue to see Ins Carrier based work opportunities get outsourced around them to the Ladder Assist organizations that appear to be here to stay...

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Rope & Harness "Certification" is probably the most misused term in the Property Claims industry.

Rope & Harness Trainings were first offered to staff adjusters around 20 years ago by individual Ins. Carriers and to Independent Adjusters around 2004 by a company named K-Squared Catastrophe Svs. that later became Catastrophe Career Specialties LLC who today are known under the company name of Reality Rope Access LLC. Around 2008, Rope & Harness “Training” also started to be offered to Independents by Eberl, Pilot, CATI, AI Tech, Pacesetters, Adjuster Academy of Texas and Vale following the Ins. Carrier request that claims overflow vendors deliver a percentage of their workforce with formalized R&H training. All programs mentioned are beneficial (i.e. certainly better than no R&H training at all) yet make no mistake, some programs are without question much better than others.

In order for any training process to be officially recognized as a "Certification" it must be based on a declared set of standards or features. Such declarations are mandatory for delivering critical information to potential employers pertaining to the capabilities of those they “Certify”.

No intelligent person would buy an automobile based only on the information that it is simply an automobile. Most would want the details of horsepower, fuel consumption, towing capacity, public road compliance and safety features…. But then again most consumers of this product know that such details are important while those shopping for the most return on a R&H class simply do not.

Today, ANYONE can offer “Rope & Harness Certification Training” HOWEVER, as of Aug 23rd 2016, only one has went through the trouble of removing the mystery of what that actually means.

 Asking Eberl, Pilot, CATI, AI Tech, Pacesetters, Adjuster Academy of Texas and Vale "What Standards are Your Rope & Harness Certification Based on?" will only produce a short sales narrative that includes the words “Good” “Safe” and maybe even “Worthwhile” however, most people do not have the background education to comprehend what exactly these programs actually are:

1)   Based loosely on a “Sport Climbing” Model and have no affiliation to the professional worldwide Fall Protection OR Rope Access community

2)   Undeclared or No declared set of standards for training, equipment, ethics, completeness or comprehension of critical skills

3)   100% attendance to pass ratio that enhance the likeliness of injury for those with health or height phobia related issues that make them a poor candidate limiting employer liability

4)   Most instructors have not completed any formalized training in Fall Protection, Rope Access or EVEN Sport Climbing

5)   AND MOST IMPORTANTLY……No compliance with OSHA or ANSI which is rapidly becoming extremely important in more and more states like Washington that requires full state OSHA (not just Federal OSHA) fall protection compliance for all employees EVEN Claims Adjusters that are otherwise exempt under Federal OSHA laws (Ask Mark Harter, Vice Presedent of Operations at Worley Co. about the cost of non-compliance on just a handful of adjusters on a single cat assignment)

In conclusion, I would say to read and consider all the feedback you can about R&H training for pitched roofing systems, even those that would have you believe  it is “simply a matter of common sense”, “can be learned with a visit to any REI / Sport Climbing retail store” should be purchased “based on the size vendor” or “cost of the class”……just remember that the Insurance Carriers know a thing or two about risk and their position on the subject is that any slope that is two story or greater than a 7/12 pitch is not safe for the average adjuster to inspect……….SO………..what would make you think that what is not safe for everyone else would somehow be safe for you???

For more information on Rope Access Standards for pitched roof access please take the time to educate yourself at Not just the best information on this subject, it is the ONLY attempt at establishing ethical standards for “First Man Up” pitched roof specific fall protection standards.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

WARNING: Choose Your Rope and Harness Training Provider Carefully


Ask the CEO of any Major Insurance Carrier or IA provider company and you will learn that crippling injuries and fatality falls from modern roof structures are a credible threat to Property Claims Adjusters. In proof of this fact many Insurance Carriers have outsourced their high risk roof claims to Ladder Assist type organizations and at least a dozen or more “Rope and Harness” training vendors have sprung up to capitalize on the situation.

WARNING: Most “Rope and Harness” training programs are based on a “Sport Climbing” model and have NO connection with modern Fall Protection as it is spelled out in OSHA regulations 1926.5 OR ANSI Standards Z-359 and NO affiliation with today’s worldwide Professional Rope Access Community. 

PLEASE: Take time to educate yourself on the facts before selecting a “Rope and Harness” training program.

Fact #1 – Sport Climbing and Rope Access are two distinctly different industries with one dedicated to the recreational act of climbing a structure and the other dedicated to climbing a rope for the hands free access of a structure.

To illustrate this point consider Sport Climbers Kevin Jorgenson and Tommy Caldwell who recently completed a 19 day, 3000ft climb up El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Had this same ascent been completed using Rope Access it would have been completed in a couple of hours with less than one tenth of one percent of the risk of injury that Kevin and Tommy encountered.

Fact #2 – Legitimate Rope Access / Fall Protection Instructors should hold a certification title as “Competent Instructors” from an accredited training program recognized by the worldwide Rope Access and/or Fall Protection training communities.  The companies they work for should operate under the direction of an accredited “Qualified Person” and proudly display the exact standards of fall protection to which their program complies with.

Fact #3 – Rope and Harness training vendors are not required to comply with OSHA standards for fall protection with respect to their program attendees because attendees are not considered “employees” of their company. Unscrupulous vendors count on the fact that most Property Adjusters are ignorant of real fall protection facts and therefore have no point of reference to call them on their errors.

ACRABAT (The Assoc. for Certified Rope Access Building Assessment Technicians) is currently the ONLY professional organization dedicated to the promotion of ethical access / fall protection training and practice for Property Claims Adjusters that is in full compliance with the worldwide Rope Access & Fall Protection Communities. Their leaders are active and participating members of the SPRAT (Society for Professional Rope Access Technicians)  committees that develop Rope Access Guidelines for today’s “Urban Environment”. Their standards for safe practice are available for all to see at .

What Can Be Done to Impact Positive Fall Protection Reform for the Property Claims Industry:

• Individual Property Adjusters should educate themselves and others that “Sport Climbing” is not a viable substitute for Rope Access forms of Fall Protection as it is spelled out in ANSI standard Z-359.8 OR as recognized in SPRAT’s constitution document “Safe Practices for Rope Access Work” or OSHA regulations for Fall Protection 1926.5 or ACRABAT’s constitutional document “Rope Access Standards for Pitched Roofing Systems” or any other credible document published on the subject of “fall protection” in a work setting.

 • Do Not accept or take part in any form of Fall Protection training program that does not proudly display their training credentials or compliance to ANSI/ OSHA work setting approved process. Let the Sport Climbing training companies dry up and blow away from lack of patronage. Sport Climbing Based Rope and Harness training vendors are easy to spot because they do not use full body harnesses, helmets or rope climbing gear rated by the manufacturer for hands free use (e.g. ATCs, Fig 8s or Grigris).

 • Property Claims and Ladder Assist Employers wield great power with respect for their conditions for worker candidates. These employers should educate themselves on the facts of real Fall Protection training and insist on compliance as a condition of employment.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Understanding "Pitched Roof Rope Access"

Pitched Roofing System Rope Access


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!