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Near-miss: safety device (hard link) damaged during hot work

A member has reported an incident in which a rope access technician (RAT) damaged his safety equipment during hot work. The technician was gouging out the weld connection around 8 metres above deck. He was working next to his two climbing ropes and was also secured with a hard link. This hard link was connected to the D-link of the technician’s harness and to a secure point above the technician.

At the moment the RAT opened the air flow to start gouging, water streamed out of the nozzle instead of air. This resulted in the technician instinctively pulling back the gouging torch. During this uncontrolled movement, the gouging torch connected with the stop descender -a steel part of the technician’s climbing gear. Since the technician was connected using a hard metal link to a beam on the platform, the technician’s metal climbing equipment made an electrical circuit to earth and current flowed from the gouging torch. As a result, three of the six strands of the hard link were burnt through.

The RAT descended safely to the walkway 8 meters below to check and replace the damaged equipment and subsequently was able to safely resume work. There were no injuries.

Following investigation, the following was suggested:

  • Replace metal hard-link with a non-conductive nylon climber’s sling;
  • Ensure water is drained out of air supply before use with gouging torch.
Typical metal 'hard-link' for rope access technicians
Typical metal ‘hard-link’ for rope access technicians

Safety Event

Published: 27 September 2010
Download: IMCA SF 06/10

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