STANDARD ISSUE DEBATE As the candidate American National Standard Institute (ANSI) standard being developed by the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) inches closer to approval, it is about to join the alphabet soup of other standards: ASTM F2959-14, EN 15567-1:2015, ACCT 8th (or 9th) edition, and ANSI 1.0-.3-2014. Not surprisingly, the question, “Which standard is best?” is being asked more and more.
ACCT has prepared a detailed response to this question, which it graciously shared with us, and which we refer to liberally below. In addition, the Professional Ropes Course Association (PRCA), which spearheaded ANSI 1.0-.3-2014, has been talking with us about this subject for months. Thanks for your patience, Mike Barker.
So, the short answer: it’s complicated. Let’s start with ANSI 1.0-.3-2014. Barker, spokesman and PRCA VP, says it is harmonized with OSHA regulations and the ANSI/ASSE Z359 fall protection codes. As a result, he says, it incorporates recognized standards for materials, construction, and maintenance, which make it virtually bombproof from a regulatory standpoint.
ANSI 1.0-.3-2014 includes a training program that allows operators to perform their own training and to certify their staff. To help operators put that into practice, PRCA has launched a formal certification program for trainers, evaluators and instructors. “The training itself is no different than good training has been in the past,” Barker says. “It’s just formalized and standardized so that whoever is being trained is receiving the same information.”
In comparison to ANSI 1.0-.3-2014, Barker says that the ACCT 8th edition standard and the ACCT candidate ANSI standard do not meet recognized OSHA/ASSE standards in at least a few instances. (These have been the source of some of PRCA’s challenges to ACCT’s candidate ANSI standard.) In particular, he cites
• a lack of employee safety requirements
• equipment and anchor strength requirements below OSHA regulations and fall protection codes
• allowance of connections which are susceptible to roll-out detachment of lanyards.
ACCT says that the answer is not that simple. Although no one at ACCT has said as much, its statement implies (we’re simplifying here, always a dicey step when talking about standards) that the ACCT 8th edition standards and the ANSI candidate standard are tailored to meet the safety needs of guests and operators in a way that provides room for innovation and evolution in technology, and that the definitions and scope of its standards are more finely tuned to the reality and needs of aerial adventure parks and zip lines than the OSHA and ANSI codes that underpin ANSI 1.0-.3-2014, which are based on materials and fall-protection standards that apply to myriad circumstances.
One example: ACCT points out that ANSI 1.0-.3-2014 defines self-belay as a type of fall arrest. And it limits maximum arresting force to 1,800 pounds, free fall to less than 6 feet, and maximum deceleration distance to 3.5 feet. This leads PRCA to require a 5,000 pound minimum breaking strength for lanyards.
ACCT standards, on the other hand, define the maximum allowable free fall distance as less than 2 feet. That means the fall-stopping system is considered a fall restraint, not fall arrest, and is subject to different rules. And under those rules, the ACCT standards call for lanyards for personal safety to have a minimum rated breaking strength of 3,375 pounds, which is “consistent with U.S. worker safety definitions,” ACCT says. And this “allows for the use of many interlocking lanyards and safety systems that have been designed and tested in Europe and meet European norms,” it adds, referring to EN 15567-1:2015, which has been adopted in 33 countries worldwide.
In short: by mandating a more strict limit on free fall distance, ACCT can require a lower breaking strength for lanyards and still meet applicable safety standards.
Point is, both PRCA and ACCT seek the same goal but take different paths which, if followed, are very successful. That’s the big “if,” of course; human error can creep into the best of procedures and processes.
In the final analysis, it’s up to park builders and operators or, perhaps, jurisdictions to determine which standard suits them best, and then follow it rigorously.