Dangerous Flaw discovered in several Via Ferrata Energy- Absorbing systems

Home Forum Accidents, near-misses and mishaps Dangerous Flaw discovered in several Via Ferrata Energy- Absorbing systems

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    Peter Thomas

    Following comes from an email from Austrian Alpine Club. Take note if you fancy doing some via ferratas with appropriate modern gear:

    DANGEROUS FLAW DISCOVERED IN VIA FERRATA ENERGY-ABSORBING SYSTEMS (EAS, ALSO KNOWN AS KLETTERSTEIGSETS)

    AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATION OF THE ALPINE CLUBS’ PRESS RELEASE “GEFAEHRLICHER MANGEL BEI KLETTERSTEIGSETS ENTDECKT” 30 AUGUST 2012

    A dangerous flaw has been discovered in a number of via ferrata energy-absorbing devices (referred to here as “EAS”, and also known as Klettersteigsets). This discovery is the result of an investigation into a fatal Via Ferrata accident in Tirol that occurred in August (2012). In addition to the EAS model implicated in this accident, several other EAS models with so-called “elastic” lanyards that connect the energy absorber unit to the karabiners that clip to the Via Ferrata cables have also been found to be defective. The German, Austrian, Swiss, and South Tirol alpine clubs are alerting all Via Ferrata users to use devices with elastic lanyards only if they are listed as “not affected” in the table accessed by the following URL:

    http://www.alpenverein.at/portal_wAssets/docs/news/klettersteigsets_via-ferrata_recalls_english-version.pdf

    In Table 1 (as via the above URL) “betroffen” means “affected”, “nicht betroffen” means “not affected”.

    THE ACCIDENT
    On August 5, 2012, a fatal accident occurred on a Via Ferrata in the vicinity of Walchsee in Tirol. The climber fell several meters and both lanyards severed — a failure mode that had never before been observed. Such an accident seemed not be possible with correct use, in the absence of previous damage to the EAS, and without contact with sharp edges. The Innsbruck district attorney’s office has initiated an investigation into the cause of the accident. The following information is independent of the Innsbruck DA investigation and instead is the result of the investigation and research undertaken by the German Alpine Club in conjunction with manufacturers.
     
    THE ALPINE CLUBS’ INVESTIGATION AND ITS RESULT
    An investigation of the model of EAS used in the accident indicates that repeated stretching of the elastic lanyard leads to a reduction in the strength of the fibres. Such stretching occurs during normal Via Ferrata travel. When the elastic and strength bearing threads are woven together the two types of fibres move differently and the resulting rubbing commonly causes a reduction in fibre strength. Depending on the construction, it is possible to reduce the strength of the elastic lanyard. The mixing of the elastic and non-elastic fibres occurs not only in the lanyards of the EAS involved in the Walchsee accident but also in models produced by other manufacturers. The manufacturers Austrialpin, Edelrid, Edelweiss, and Singing Rock have issued recalls for affected EAS.

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