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An overview of equipment standards

NFPA 1983 - Standards for Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services - 2012 Edition

What it IS?  The purpose of this standard is to establish minimum levels of performance for rope, cord and webbing, harnesses, and auxiliary equipment used by emergency services personnel.  It specifies minimum design, labeling, performance, testing and certifications for this equipment. 

This standard defines auxiliary equipment as items that are load bearing and designed to be utilized with life safety rope and harness, such as ascending devices, carabiners, descent control devices, belay devices, rope grabs and snap links. 

What is it NOT?  This standard does not specify requirements for any rope or associated equipment designed for mountain rescue, cave rescue, lead climbing operations or equipment designed for fall protection. 

It is not intended as a “use” standard for the rescuer.  It is primarily used by manufacturers for minimum design performance, testing and certification requirements. It is however a GOOD reference when considering best practices.

The NFPA 1983 standard does not specify what Static System Safety Factor (SSSF) rescue personnel should use.  The Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) should determine the SSSF personnel should use and direct the application of General Use or Technical Use rope and equipment accordingly.  This decision should be based on a number of factors including the complexity of a rescue operation and the skill level of the personnel performing the rescue.   

General Use - The NFPA defines general use as “a designation of equipment item or manufactured systems designed for general use loads, technical use loads, and escape based on design loads that are calculated and understood.”

Technical Use - The NFPA defines technical use as “a designation of equipment item or manufactured systems designed for technical use loads, and escape based on design loads that are calculated and understood.”

When obtaining the actual weight (Kn) of the rescuers, patients or both to be suspended by a system or a component of a system is unpractical a single person load is generally calculated at 1.33kN (300lbf).  A two person load is generally calculated at 2.67Kn (600lbf).

No blanket safe working load (SWL) recommendations should be made for any line because SWL's must be calculated based on application, conditions of use, and potential danger to personnel among other considerations. It is recommended that the end user establish working loads and safety factors based on best practices established by the end user's industry; by professional judgment and personal experience; and after thorough assessment of all risks. The SWL is a guideline for the use of a rope in good condition for non-critical applications and should be reduced where life, limb, or valuable property is involved, or in cases of exceptional service such as shock loading, sustained loading, severe vibration, etc.
The Cordage Institute specifies that the SWL of a rope shall be determined by dividing the Minimum Tensile Strength of the rope by a SSSF. The SSSF ranges from 5:1 to 12:1 for non-critical uses. It is widely accepted that a SSSF of 10:1 is ideal for emergency services personnel. A typical Component Safety Factor (CSF) for rope is 15:1.  The CSF for rope is higher than the 10:1 SSSF because as soon as we put a knot in the rope we lose roughly 30% of its strength.  This may not always be feasible for mountain or cave rescue teams.

NFPA 1983 - Standards for Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services - 2012 Edition Summary

Life Safety Rope Performance Requirements

General Info: 
Made from virgin fiber, block creel construction and constructed of continuous filament fiber
Must have a melting point of not less than 204oC or 400oF

Technical Use Life Safety Rope:
Minimum breaking strength of 20kN (4496 lbf)
Elongation - minimum of 1% at 10% of breaking strength
- maximum of 10% at 10% of breaking strength
Diameter not less than 9.5mm and not more than 12.5mm

General Use Life Safety Rope:
Minimum breaking strength of 40kN (8992 lbf)
Elongation - minimum of 1% at 10% of breaking strength
- maximum of 10% at 10% of breaking strength
Diameter not less than 11mm and not more than 16mm

Note: When fall factors greater than 0.25 are anticipated, possible when lead climbing, dynamic ropes specifically designed for climbing should be used. 

Escape Rope Performance Requirements

Minimum breaking strength of 13.5kN (3034 lbf)
Elongation - minimum of 1% at 10% of breaking strength
- maximum of 10% at 10% of breaking strength
Diameter not less than 7.5mm and not more than 9.5mm

Throw Line Performance Requirements

Minimum breaking strength of 13kN (2923 lbf)
Diameter not less than 7mm and not more than 9.5mm
Must Float

Technical Use Anchor Straps

Multiple Configuration Straps must have a min breaking strength of 32kN (7194 lbf)
End To End (pick off) straps must have a min breaking strength of 20kN (4500 lbf)

General Use Anchor Straps

Multiple Configuration Straps must have a minimum breaking strength of 45kN (10120 lbf)
End To End (pick off) straps must have a minimum breaking strength of 27kN (6070 lbf)

Carabiners

Technical Use Carabiners:
Minimum breaking strength of 27kN (6069 lbf) along the major axis
Must also have a minimum breaking strength of 7kN along the minor axis or with the gate open

General Use Carabiners:
Minimum breaking strength of 40kN (8992 lbf) along the major axis
Must also have a minimum breaking strength of 11kN along the minor axis or with the gate open

Note: Carabiners are also tested to the ASTM F 1956, Standard Specification for Rescue Carabiners.

Decent Control Devices (DCD)

Technical Use DCDs:
Must withstand a minimum test load of at least 5kN (1124 lbf) without failure of the device or rope

General Use DCDs
Must withstand a minimum test load of at least 11kN (2500 lbf) without failure of the device or rope
Must also have a minimum breaking strength of 22kN (4946lbs)

Note: Devices with a hands free locking mechanism or panic-locking element are also tested to ISO 22159 Personal Equipment for Protection Against Falls.

Pulleys

Technical Use Pulleys:
Minimum breaking strength of 22kN (4946 lbf)
If the pulley has a becket it must have a tensile breaking strength of at least 12kN

General Use Pulleys:
Minimum breaking strength of 36kN (8093 lbf)
If the pulley has a becket it must have a tensile breaking strength of at least 19.5kN

Rope Grab and Ascending Devices

These devices are tested by administering a slow pull to the device while it is attached to a rope
The force is sustained on the device for at least 30 sec and then slowly released, there must be no damage to the rope or device upon completion of the pull test
Technical Use devices are tested with a load of 5kN
General Use devices are tested with a load of 11kN
 
Belay Devices

In addition to the passing the same tests as Rope Grabs and Ascending devices belay devices will also be tested for function according to ASTM F 2436, Standard Test Method for Measuring the Performance of Synthetic Rope Rescue Belay Systems Using a Drop test.  This test specifies a drop height of 60cm.  Maximum extension of the belay system shall be no more than 1m. The device will still need to be able to release the load in a controlled manner.

The 1983 standard uses corresponding weight during drop tests for belay devices (as defined in 8.6.4.4.3). The standard uses a test mass of 300lbs (136kg) for technical use belay devices and a mass of 617lbs (200kg) for general use devices. General Use Devices will also need to minimize the impact force to no more than 15kN (3372 lbf).

Some devices (such as the CMC MPD) have also been tested to and pass the British Columbia Council of Technical Rescue (BCCTR ) Belay Competency Drop Test.  The BCCTR Belay Competency Drop Test specifies a 1m drop onto 3m of kernmantle rescue rope with less than 1m of additional travel and less than 15kN peak force. For a general Use rated device, a 280kg load and a 12.7mm rope are generally used. For a Technical Use device, a 200kg load and an 11.1mm rope are used.

Auxiliary Use Equipment

Other Technical Use Auxiliary equipment must have a minimum breaking strength of 22kN (4946 lbf)
Other General Use Auxiliary equipment must have a minimum breaking strength of 36kN 


References and Resources

NFPA
NFPA 1983 - Standards for Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services - 2012 Edition.

The Cordage Institute
Cordage Institute Standard CI 1801 Low Stretch and Static Kernmantle Life Safety Rope

ASTM International
ASTM F 1956, Standard Specification for Rescue Carabiners
ASTM F 2436, Standard Test Method for Measuring the Performance of Synthetic Rope Rescue Belay Systems Using a Drop test

International Standards Organization
ISO 22159 Personal Equipment for Protection Against Falls

UIAA International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation
UIAA 102 Mountaineering and Climbing Equipment Accessory Cord

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