Saturday, January 16, 2010

ISA HK/China --- IRATA

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Dear Station Members,

After a busy rainy season for most Tree Workers in our territory, Tree Work has practically dropped to a trickle when the winter season began again. Tree Work in our territory appears to be similar to selling ice creams, whereas traditional belief is that trees should only be cared for during stormy seasons, which is utterly wrong. Past planting season was even required to be between April to October for 'Instant Effect', whereas the best time to move trees around is really in the dormant season. Old habits die hard in our territory indeed .

In view of the 'dormant season' for Tree Work in our territory, the Station Manager (SM) has embarked on a series of training to continuously upgrade himself. One of which worth mentioning is the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA) climbing training (see attached & for which the SM has regarded as a supplement to Tree Climbing & Tree Work from a different perspective.

In simple term, Industrial Rope Access Techniques was developed to conduct works in places where conventional lifting or scaffolding methods can not or is ineffective to be deployed. Examples include working in Offshore Oil Rigs, Civil Engineering Structures like bridges, Petroleum Facilities like Gas Tanks, etc. The organization recognized internationally for Industrial Rope Access Techniques is the IRATA which has a professional training program & assessment method to qualify all those who can practice to their guidelines. The relying standards are usually British & European Standards.

Whereas in HK where Industrial Rope Access is practically banned or restricted by a number of Labour Regulations & Safety Requirements due to high accident rates in the older days when the concept of Rope Access was introduced, the Rope Access Techniques can be seen as a suitable alternative to bamboo scaffolding & steel scaffolding in many congested areas in our city. Rope Access would take up less space & cause less disturbance to public when compared to setting up platforms or placing lifting equipment underneath in confined spaces in HK.

On the other hand, Industrial Rope Access would rely upon the skills & physiques of the Industrial Climbers in operation. Many more equipment & techniques are usually required in Industrial Rope access if compared with common Tree Work with Tree Climbing in our territory. Just for a standard climbing uniform for an IRATA climber, the basic equipment weighing 10 kg+ would include 1 full body hardness with chest ascender & shoulder strap, 1 hand held ascender, 1 descender, 2 leg straps, 3 lanyards & 6 karabiners; whereas a basic kit weighing 5 kg+ for Tree Climbing would include 1 seat hardness, 1 lanyard, 1 split tail & 2 karabiners.

The Rope System between IRATA & ISA Tree Climbing is also totally different. IRATA would use a Static Rope System where the ropes would not move on the anchor points, whereas Tree Climbing would require the rope to glide along crotches in the Dynamic Rope System. In fact, IRATA climbers are not even allowed to swing due to their hazardous working environment, & Controlled Swing is a common practice in ISA Tree Climbing. IRATA ropes are usually made of nylon for stretch, whereas Tree Climbing Ropes are usually made from polyester of low stretch. Common Tree Climbing operation in our territory would usually only deploy a rope or two, but IRATA has no limitation on the number of ropes as anchors which would depend on the working requirement.

It is difficult to compare the two climbing systems since each is using techniques & equipment evolved from the actual needs of its own unique working environment. However, as an ISA Tree Climber, the SM has found it beneficial to learn of the skills & concepts of IRATA to broaden his knowledge on Rope Access Techniques, in which Tree Climbing is one of them. The SM would recommend our regular ISA Tree Climbers to take up the IRATA training to supplement their knowledge, & credentials are also available in the IRATA system.

For anyone interested in IRATA training in our territory, please contact Global Remote Ltd at

You may wish to mention the name of the SM who insisted to the end to complete his training last week despite his 50+ age & 38 inch waist. Besides to learn & to compare, the SM has thoroughly enjoyed the week to find Climbers, be they Industrial or arboricultural, have common characters of resilient, helping & friendly. Climbers of the world indeed belong to a special breed.

The SM is now trying to bring over knowledge gained from Industrial Climbing to benefit our own Tree Work. After all, what's wrong with combining the best of both worlds to make a bigger & better world?

best regards,

Sammy Au
Station Manager

"If a tree is not designed, installed, maintained & inspected properly, it is likely to become a liability rather than an asset."

"Trees are good for the community. Trees need care like human beings. Arborists are the Tree Care Professionals."