Testing/Verification of Rope Access Anchors

Project ID: 6390
Principal Investigator: Shaun Reed
Research Topic: Public and Employee Safety
Funded Fiscal Years: 2012 and 2013
Keywords: None

Research Question

Rope Access is a key component to the Bureau of Reclamation and its facilities due to the presence of features which are otherwise inaccessible. Anchors are at the root of any Rope Access system, yet have the most uncertainty and lack general guidelines. The three most common anchor types are existing structural supports, concrete anchor bolts, and vehicle anchors, all of which rely on the experience and judgment of a Rope Access Technician for proper assembly and installation. This may at times result in uncertainty in the anchor's strength and safety characteristics. Although the authors are unaware of any anchor failure incident resulting in injury, this is an area of practice that would benefit from additional testing. The goal of this project is to continue investigations of the various anchors used within the Bureau of Reclamation's Rope Access Team. The focus will be to evaluate these anchors and configurations and the failure modes associated with them to determine "best practices" to be followed consistently throughout all of Reclamations regional and Denver Rope Access teams.

Need and Benefit

Rope Access was started in its modern form after the spillway radial gate failure at Folsom Dam in 1995 which caused Reclamation to realize the need for a safe and cost-effective method for accessing normally inaccessible features. Since specific standards for Rope Access did not exist in the United States, the Bureau of Reclamation initiated the formation of the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT). Over the years, Reclamation and SPRAT developed safe practices and standard equipment to be used in Rope Access. As development continues, the various anchoring systems used in Rope Access continue to come under scrutiny. Anchoring can be difficult to standardize because many factors contribute to its strength, such as the condition of the concrete where a bolt is placed or the size and configuration of a vehicle anchor. Rope Access continues to gain maturity in the United States, and many of the techniques and equipment have been critiqued and streamlined over the years. Anchors are the backbone of any rope access system, yet have retained an undeniable amount of uncertainty.

As mentioned in the "Research Strategy" section, an extensive scoping process has been initiated near the beginning of FY 2011. Initial research and data collection was begun for the main types of anchors used within the Bureau of Reclamation's Rope Access Team. Discussion within the Rope Access Board, standards committees such as ANSI and SPRAT, rope access technicians, and anchor manufacturers have helped to gain a general understanding of the existing knowledge on anchors and how this project can provide useful research and testing that would not only benefit Reclamation, but Rope Access as a whole. This project was proposed during the SPRAT conference in January 2011 to evaluate the need in the community, and it received a lot of positive feedback and interest among the Rope Access Technicians, safety officials and manufacturers. The general attitude expressed was that the research proposed would provide a greater understanding for safe anchor systems. While it is not the goal of this research project to provide a fixed standard for every anchoring situation, the focus will be to provide general guidelines to aid the experienced Rope Access Technician to more effectively build safe anchor systems.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Document ID 1018: this document contains protected information and it cannot be freely downloaded from USBR.gov. Contact the Principal Investigator to request a copy of this document.

Testing and Verifying Rope Access Anchors (final, PDF, 1.2MB)
By David Tordonato
Publication completed on September 30, 2014

This bulletin summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20