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Faulty Outdoor Activities Rope Leaves Instructor Paralysed
Posted by David Cant on August 22, 2013
1 Comment

safety -ropeAccidents in the workplace and in public areas can happen under circumstances that might be considered to be hard to foresee, which is why health and safety inspections and risk assessments need to be so thorough, often considering circumstances and situations which are outside of the normal, expected parameters.

However, there are also some situations in which a high degree of risk is obvious, making it apparently obvious that safety checks need to be doubly secure. Unfortunately for one young man just such an oversight was made, resulting in devastating, life-changing consequences.

Parachute Simulation Accident

Joshua Senior, 25, was taking part in a simulated parachute jump at an outdoor activities centre in Kent. The jump involved him being fitted with a harness to which was attached a number of ropes which were in turn connected to a device known as a parafan. This would help to recreate the speed and flight of a real parachute jump, but starting from a height of just 9 metres.

Unfortunately the batch of ropes supplied by Pfiefer Rope & Tackle Ltd had been manufactured incorrectly. The eye hoop ends of the rope had not been compressed and secured in the right way, and this fact had not been picked up during the inspections which would have been necessary.

As a result when Mr Senior jumped from the platform the ropes immediately broke loose, resulting in him falling 9 metres. The fall left him paralysed from the waist down, and although after six months of rehabilitation he regained some movement of his lower limbs the accident resulted in such damage to his foot that it had to be amputated.

Pfiefer Rope & Tackle Ltd were subsequently fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,348, although of course Mr Senior has ultimately paid a much higher price having now had to have a prosthetic foot, and is still undergoing physiotherapy to try to improve his lower body movement. For someone who was an outdoor sports instructor and who was previously highly active this has clearly had lifelong implications for him in terms of both his career and his hobby.

Safety Inspection Concerns

It is worrying to think that a company which manufactures rope and safety equipment for use in some extremely dangerous situations, from parachuting to rock climbing, could allow an entire batch of faulty rope to pass through its safety checks. Safety inspections always have to be rigorously implemented, because whilst 99.9% of the products might sail through perfectly well, it only requires one faulty piece of equipment to slip through to result in the loss of or devastating change to somebody’s life.

Exactly how it was possible for the batch of faulty ropes to pass through inspection and end up being used in such a risky situation isn’t clear, but it does demonstrate the fact that companies involved in the manufacture of equipment that could potentially be used in risky situations have an absolute cast iron obligation to be extremely stringent as far as safety inspections and tests are concerned.

Secondary Safety Check Verification Recommendation

We would be inclined to suggest that a secondary level of inspection or testing should probably have been necessary, so that measures would be implemented to verify that the correct safety checks or inspections had been carried out appropriately. Simply having safety checks or inspections listed on a checklist in an office somewhere isn’t enough. On the ground it is imperative that the right people are involved in the right kind of testing, and that the company is able to guarantee that those tests or inspections have been carried out in the right way and to the appropriate standard.

For advice or help with designing, implementing or assessing safety checks or inspection checks please call one of our highly experienced Health and Safety Advisors free on 0800 1488 677 who will be happy to help discuss any concerns you have, provide clarification or arrange a site inspection.


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting. David also Blogs about Health and Safety here Health and Safety Consultants

His aim is to flavour Health and Safety with integrity, served with a side of humour You can find David on - Twitter and Google also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Health and Safety, Health and Safety Consultancy, Health and Safety Services, Health and Safety Support

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