Rescue Equipment Inspections: Lessons From Petzl

Raven Rescue Ontario Regional Manager attended Petzl’s three-day Competent Person course recently. The course broadened his understanding of proper methods for rescue equipment inspections of Petzl gear, while simultaneously expanding his ability to perform better inspections on all types of technical rescue equipment.

“The certification I have now allows me to inspect Petzl hard and soft goods,” says Dan.  “This really includes quite a spectrum of gear. From carabiners, connectors, rope grabs and helmets to harnesses, rope, webbing, anchor straps, and shock absorbers.”

Each piece of equipment is subjected to the same general inspection criteria, with specific additions for every item.  And certain types of equipment require a very critical eye to make sure nothing sneaks under the radar.

“For soft goods, glazing is a big one that gets by inspection – be it by heat that glazes the webbing on your harness, or from prussiks that grab.  A big clue is in the daily logs to see if there was an event that might have led to this kind of wear.  

“However, meticulous inspection needs to be done regardless.  Stitching is another big one, and when inspecting it is critical to look for loose or popped stitches both visually and by feel.”

Hard goods have their own potential pitfalls, says Dan.  

“One of the biggest ones that gets missed in a mass gear inspection is a function test – to actually put rope in the device and run it through to ensure that it functions as it should.  Many of the pieces we tested during the course would pass the visual/tactile tests. However, it would fail the function test by letting rope slip through or not properly grabbing.”

To be fair, many of gear inspection issues are fairly obvious.

They’re things that we check regularly on our gear before, after and during use.  Gear failure during a rescue is not really a common occurance for those that are actively using their equipment caches.  “The problem is that we don’t document these inspections properly,” Dan explains.

“That means that, in the eyes of the law,

the inspection never happened.”

Ultimately, just as important as the gear inspection itself is to have the proper paperwork on each piece of gear – if the paperwork is missing, according to Petzl, the equipment fails.

“You can download inspection forms for every type of gear from Petzl’s website,” a benefit which Dan highlights.  “Although the forms are geared towards Petzl’s equipment, the main points are all the same, and the forms may help people inspect all their different types of gear.”

Dan walked away from the Petzl course with a new level of confidence in his gear inspection abilities.  “I liked the fact that the final test was real, and something you can fail.  It is graded at Petzl headquarters, so the instructor can’t pass you if you fail.  We had three hours to inspect 20 pieces of equipment that either had issues or were fine.  If you failed something that was good, it was just as bad as passing from something that was a fail.”

For a topic that may not sound spicy, Dan found each day of the rescue equipment inspection training to be jam-packed and useful.  He’ll be applying his new knowledge to his personal equipment cache, and to his Raven teaching cache as well.

Raven Safety Petzl Equipment Inspection Tower Work

Want to pump up your own equipment inspection program? Visit our knowledge hub to download our equipment inspection template to add to your safety program.