Edge Protection on a Budget
Whenever ropes are used for climbing in industry, edge protection is crucial. OSHA refers to it as “softeners”. Edge protection comes in many forms. From simple and economic sleeves that start at $25 to advanced machined rollers that start at $260. Edge protection comes in many forms.
Edge protection is of utmost concern when working on ropes. Under normal circumstances, ropes do not break: They are cut. Ropes today can hold tremendous amounts of weight before failing. But under stress they cut VERY easily. I remember working in a climbing gym. Every three to four months we would replace the ropes. When discarding the ropes, we would cut them to ensure they were not used again. The process was simple: Stand on one end and pull the rope tight. Then slash it with a pocketknife. I remember being shocked at how easily the ropes cut. The tighter it was pulled, the easier it was to cut. At one point I even realized that you really didn’t need a sharp knife to cut them with.
Since rope descents are not as common in the tower industry as other work at heights industries, often edge protection is not of great concern. Oftentimes scrap cardboard is used as a softener. But there are also economic alternatives that do a much better job and are available in all of our trailers.
By using the D-rings that we commonly attach to the tower with, we can avoid the edge altogether, creating a very safe form of edge protection. In both the safety line and the descent line, an Alpine Butterfly is tied and attached to the D-ring. Pull out extra length, and attach the rope to the other end of the D-ring. You have now placed all of the stress of the edge on the D-ring strap, saving the rope completely. You have also created two handles to help navigate the edge with.
Another very simple edge protector is simple pipe insulation. I like using this when the rope may scrape sharp edges. Typically this is a one-and-done edge protector, but at the price of pipe insulation, it creates a great alternative.
The purpose of edge protection is to protect the ropes from scraping and cuts. For an at heights company that works daily on ropes, more permanent and fixed methods are obviously more suitable. For many tower companies, these ideas can be utilized when needed as an economically effective but safe solution.
One option is to actually avoid the edge completely.