Aspiring Enterprises

HARNESS AND PPE STANDARDS

Safety harness standards
Rope standards
Hardware standards
CE Standards list
Glossary

There are two different types of standards for harnesses: those for climbing harnesses, and those for height safety. These are fundamentally different because of the requirements of each market area.

Outdoor education and adventure activities lie somewhere between the two. On one hand they are professional activities, and have to pay attention to health and safety requirements.  However the products used in them are largely derived from climbing harnesses, as well as, in some cases,  from height-safety harnesses.


Climbing harness standards

World-wide there are only two climbing harness standards - the UIAA standard, and the European standard, EN 12277. The UIAA (International Federation of Mountaineering Associations) standard is based upon the European standard, with variations.

In recent years the CEN (European Committee for Standardisation) has become the most important standards organisation, and any products sold in Europe must by law be third-party certified to the relevant standards. (See Compliance and certification for an explanation of third-party certification). There is no such requirement in other countries. Many harnesses manufactured outside the EC, (in Australia, Canada, and the United States) are not certified to the European standard, or in fact to any standard, although major American manufacturers now certify to the CE standard so that they can sell their products in Europe.

Aspiring Safety Product's climbing harnesses are designed to comply with the general requirements of the European harness standard, EN 12277. Our harnesses are constructed to substantially exceed other requirements of the standard. For example, most of our harnesses have a minimum strength of 24 kN rather than the 15 kN specified by the harness standard, and we have certain requirements of our products which are not included in the standard.

(A kilonewton (kN) is roughly equivalent to 100 kg force, so 15 kN equals 1.5 tonnes).


Height safety harness standards

In the height safety field there is a joint Australian and New Zealand standard, AS/NZS 1891.1 (2007 version). From 1999 to 2008 our height-safety harnesses were certified against the former standard, AS/NZS 1891.1 (1995 version). Although this standard is now superseded, harnesses supplied during the period when it is valid can still be used for a period of ten years.

Aspiring Safety Products has had a significant role in the development of the new height safety standard, as have represented New Zealand interests on the committee which formulated this standard since 1994.


European versus Australian/NZ Standard

There are four European standards, EN 354 (Lanyards), EN 358 (Work-positioning), EN 361 (Fall-arrest), and EN 364 (Testing), which are collectively equivalent to the Australian/New Zealand standard AS/NZS 1891.1, (2007 edition).  AS/NZS 1891.1 is based on the European series of standards, and some of the requirements, such as the tests for lanyards, are virtually identical.

The European harness standard is much softer in two important aspects. For the harness drop test AS/NZS 1891.1 uses a rope lanyard made from 12mm twisted rope, whereas EN 364 specifies that the test lanyard is made from a dynamic climbing rope complying with EN 892. The use of a dynamic rope reduces the impact on the harness significantly, typically from about 16 kN to about 10 kN.

The second important difference is that although the actual drop test for height-safety harnesses is the same, there are major differences in the pass/fail criteria. In the European standards the harness merely has to retain the test dummy, whereas in AS/NZS 1891.1 there must be no breakage of components or load-bearing webbing, and no more than 20% of a stitch pattern is allowed to rupture. This makes a huge difference in whether or not a harness meets the standard.

There are a number of extra requirements for AS/NZS 1891.1, such as the webbing having to be tested for resistance to ultra-violet light, as well as specific labelling of all tested attachment points.
In summary, a harness made to AS/NZS 1891 is of a far higher standard than a European harness, and is built to suit the work environment and conditions that we face here in New Zealand.

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Rope standards
 

Note: All underlined references are hyperlinks to the Glossary at the end of this page.

dynamic ropes made to the CE standard EN 892. There is also another standard; the UIAA standard. (UIAA is the International Federation of Mountaineering Associations) is sometimes shown.  The CE standard was based on the previous UIAA standard, which was developed during the 1960s. Since then the UIAA standard has added some minor requirements of its own which are superimposed on the European standard.

The success of the EN standard (and previously UIAA standard) is demonstrated by the fact that no certified climbing rope has ever been known to break, other than by being loaded over a sharp edge of rock. The EN is developing requirements for cutting resistance of ropes, so that they would incorporate more resistance to this type of failure.

The most important requirement of the standard is the impact force requirement, under which the impact loads under standardised drop tests with a
fall factor of about 1.8 must not exceed 12 kN for single ropes and twin ropes using an 80 kg load, and 800 kN for half ropes using a 55 kg load. The number of standard falls that a rope sustains without breaking must be at least five for single and half ropes, and 12 for twin ropes. There are also requirements for sheath slippage, sheath content, knot flexibility, and elongation under an 80 kg load.

Ropes used for caving, rescue, and height safety are
static ropes which are designed to have very low stretch under body weight. There are three standards which are relevant in the New Zealand situation: 

  •  The European static rope standard, EN 1891
  •  The Australian standard for rescue ropes, AS 4142.3
  •  The American Cordage Institute standard CE 1801


These have varying requirements and are not entirely compatible with each other. Generally ropes for professional use, including rescue and height safety, should be 11mm in diameter with a strength rating of 30 kN, and comply with one of these three standards. Thinner ropes, of 9 -10 mm diameter, are normally used for caving.

There is also a rope standard developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in the United States, which is mainly relevant to fire-fighting organisations.  NFPA classifies 11 mm ropes as "light use", which is generally a single-person load, and "general use", which is a two-person load.

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Hardware standards

The European Community has a range of climbing equipment standards which covers most of the hardware commonly used in climbing, abseiling, caving, and rescue. There is also a separate standard for connectors used as PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) in the height safety field. See the lists below.

In addition the NPFA hardware standards are sometimes referenced in the absence of other suitable standards, and are widely used in the rescue industry. "Light use" ratings for hardware are 22 kN, and "general use" ratings are 36 kN.

Compliance and certification

Many people are not aware of the difference between standard certification and standard compliance. "Compliance" means that the manufacturer and/or distributor of the product claims that the product complies with the standard in question, which means that if it was evaluated by an independent assessment agency against the standard, it would pass the evaluation and could become certified against the standard.

"Third-party certification" means that this process has actually been carried out - at considerable expense to the manufacturer. Claims of compliance should be treated with a degree of scepticism, especially if the supplier does not display a detailed knowledge of the content of the standard.
In the European community no product may be sold without certification to the relevant European standard.

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CE Standards list

The European community has extensive collections of standards for both mountaineering equipment and for personal protective equipment (PPE) used in industry. Most of these are listed below. 

Mountaineering standards PPE standards
EN 564 Accessory cords EN 341 Descenders
EN 565 Webbing EN 353-1 Fall arrestors, rigid line
EN 566 Slings EN 353-2 Fall arrestors, flexible line
EN 567 Rope clamps (ascenders) EN 354 Lanyards
EN 568 Ice anchors EN 355 Energy absorbers
EN 569 Pitons EN 358 Work-positioning belts & lanyards
EN 892 Dynamic ropes EN 360 Retractable fall arrestors
EN 893 Crampons EN 361 Full body harness
EN 958 Energy absorbing systems (via ferrata) EN 362 Connectors
EN 959 Rock anchors EN 363 Fall arrest systems
EN 12270 Chocks EN 364 Test methods
EN 12275 Karabiners EN 365 Instructions and marking
EN 12276 Frictional anchors EN 795 Anchor devices
EN 12277 Harnesses EN 813 Sit harnesses
EN 12278 Pulleys EN 1891 Low stretch kernmantel ropes
EN 12492 Helmets    
EN 13089 Ice tools    
EN 15151 Descenders    

 

 

 

GLOSSARY


Dynamic rope:
Climbing rope designed to have high elongation in a fall, which acts to absorb the energy of the fall.

Static rope (also called "low stretch rope")
Rope designed to have minimal stretch so that it does not bounce during prusiking operations. In the USA Cordage Institute standard CI 1801, there are specific amounts of elongation that define "Static" and "Low-stretch".

Fall factor:
Ratio between amount of rope in under load in a fall and the distance of the fall. Strictly speaking this should only be applied to dynamic ropes , as for other ropes the figure obtained is not independent of the rope length, and is not indicative of the impact on the rope.

Single rope:
Dynamic rope certified under EN 892 for use in lead climbing as a single strand

Half rope:
Dynamic rope certified under EN 892 for use in lead climbing with two strands used together but not "twinned".

Twin rope:
Dynamic rope certified under EN 892 for use in lead climbing when "twinned", that is both ropes pass through all protection elements and are subject to exactly the same impacts in a fall.

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