Following the September 13th, 2012 joint statement of Czech manufacturers regarding the August fatality during use of a via Ferrata set, Rock Empire Ltd has adopted the following conclusions regarding the security of the woven elastic straps:
Rock Empire Ltd. declares that its Via Ferrata sets: Inhibitor Tech and Dynastop have been tested according to the mandatory standards (EN 958) and are in compliance and safe when used according to the instruction manual.
Legend: Left photo: Type A strap is the strap with a hollow structure used in older versions of Rock Empire Via Ferrata sets. The safety of this strap has not been questioned, and is safe to use. Type B strap is a woven elastic strap used by Rock Empire in Inhibitor Tech and Dynastop starting in 2010. This strap is the subject of this statement.
The instruction manual is an integral part of the certification and contains all the information necessary for the safe use of the products. An important factor is the duration of use, which is usually calculated from the date of sale, but is more correctly calculated from the date of first use. With personal protection equipment (PPE), the manual also includes a place for adding dates of use and the state of the product after periodic reviews. Via Ferrata sets do not currently have such requirements. We believe this evidence of use is one of the ways to promote safer use of Via Ferrata products.
From the results of our joint tests and accumulated data, we want to establish the life of all Via Ferrata sets at 3 years (some markets have requested a different product life) or 100 Via Ferrata routes (assuming that 100 routes can be completed only when used in rental businesses). This use compares to our testing the stress load at 7000 cycles. This degree of wear is still above the strength limit of 6kN, which is necessary for fall absorber to function correctly. Of course, a specified degree of wear is critical to consider when reviewing the product for further use. Any fall, extreme stress or an unknown history are always reasons to no longer use the product, and explanation of these reasons will always be included as part of the instruction manual.
With a view to addressing the situation after the tragic August event and the uncertainty surrounding the safety of the elastic straps, we did not order an immediate recall of all Rock Empire Via Ferrata sets regardless of the various stages of life and wear as some of other producers have. In our opinion, this does not address the risk of incorrect use; it just postpones until a later time the fixed life. Those who do not use the Via Ferrata sets according to the conditions in the instruction manual accept the risk of accidents. Complete ignorance of the properties of the product and a non-serious attitude of the user unfortunately caused the accident on August 5th, 2012. For many years now, we write in our official materials that, „climbing, caving, canyoning, working at heights and similar activities are dangerous and can cause injury or death. Each user is responsible for the correct and safe use of products developer for these activities.“ We design products according to our best experiences, and our responsibilities as a manufacturer include assessing and indicating the utility properties and lifetime as a whole. This is part of the certified instruction manual. But it is up to each user to decide when to discard a product. For Via Ferrata sets, there is no required inspection and review like that which is required for PPE, where the owner may be someone other than the user. Via Ferrata sets are certified for personal use, where the owner is assumed to be the user, so the responsibility to no longer use a product is on the user. Manufacturers help with this decision by providing an instruction manual.
We at Rock Empire understand the seriousness of the situation and agree that the use of the woven elastic strap is inappropriate for anonymous rentals without any record of use. Because we cannot control the history of use, we will discuss with our distributors the importance of stopping sales to rental businesses. Specific recommendations for rental businesses (which can only be required by legislation) will be formulated in a forthcoming amendment (registration, instruction, respecting the life of the product, review). The owners of Via Ferrata sets with the woven elastic strap used for personal use may send the product back to use to check the wear and test the static load (which is a destructive test). As compensation and acknowledgement of their cooperation, we will send a new Via Ferrata set (always the most recent model) for 30 Euro. This COD price includes delivery postage from our factory in the Czech Republic. This review offer applies to the woven elastic (accordion) straps used on Rock Empire Via Ferrata sets (Inhibitor Tech and Dynastop) manufactured starting in 2010, which have not been used to arrest a fall (on sets used to arrest a fall there is no longer anything to check) and which are in use for more than 3 years (no more than 4 years from the date of production) or used in 100 Via Ferrata climbs. For better communication regarding the Via Ferrata sets, we have established a specific email: email@example.com . We ask that users with Via Ferrata sets as described above complete and send us the simple table as shown below. The data collected will only be used to inform users about the product life and offer inspection. The summary of the inspection results will be shown as a histogram of the strength shown on our website.
Legend: The production year is indicated by the two numbers after the slash.
We consulted with a certified testing authority regarding this process, and we believe that it is the best way to ensure awareness and safe use of our products.
On behalf of Rock Empire Ltd.