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Roped Work Ethics Question

Original Post
Brady3 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 15

I have a friend that brought up an ethics question about a project he is working on for work, I'm curious of others opinions on this.

The project requires that my friend traverse across a rock face to a flat spot above a retaining wall to get a reading off a sensor.  This is all above a 50 foot drop off.  For the traverse there is a steel cable that runs the whole length of the traverse, but he is not sure what the cable attaches to on the other side.  There are also rock anchors (literally for anchoring the rock in place, not like climbing bolts) that are above the cable (not attached to it) that he can sling as protection.  In the past he has done this on lead, the people that did it before he started working there did it unprotected (he said it is a very easy traverse).  When he gets to the sensor there are a variety of things that he can anchor himself to and he has his belayer tie a stopper knot on the break strand of the rope (the belayer also needs his hands free for doing things while taking the reading, the belayer is anchored in as well)  Recently he talked to his company's safety officer to make sure that if anything did happen to him while out there then the company would cover medical bills.  The safety officer decided that the company will pay for my friend and his belayer to take a lead climbing lesson at a local climbing gym and then say that they are certified to do this (he will also have to start wearing a full body harness and clip to the cable.  There are points across the traverse where the cable is anchored to the rock face, so he can't do a via ferreta setup).  It is clear the safety officer knows very little about climbing, and has not actually been to the site to see the setup.  My friend said that while he is comfortable with the setup that he has used before, a lead climbing lesson at a gym would not be sufficient for someone to do this with no prior knowledge of climbing systems.  A third friend that's a lawyer said that he is covered legally even though the training is not really sufficient, it's the training the company has decided is sufficient so he will be covered if something does happen.  My friend has told the safety officer that he does not think the training is sufficient.

So my friend thinks that he is off the hook legally and morally, his wife and I both think that he should not do it until he gets proper training for moral reasons.

Our argument is that while he said in writing that he does not think the training is sufficient, him agreeing to still do the project is the same as him condoning the inadequate training.  And in the future there may be someone else doing this project instead of my friend, and that other person may not have the prior knowledge that my friend does and thus could be put in a dangerous situation that could result in their death.

My friend insists that if he does end up leaving the company for what ever reason, then he will again mention the training is inadequate and would be dangerous for someone else to do the project.

I do agree my friend is off the hook legally (though the company may not be), but I think he should still not do it for the ethical reason mentioned above.


(Sorry if my description of the area/setup isn't clear, I haven't actually been there since I have no affiliation with the company) 

Daniel Hamilton · · Iron Range, MN · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 0

Your friend is getting into rope access work. He should be looking for education from that sort of education organization rather than recreation climbing.

Eplumer400 · · Cleveland, OH · Joined May 2016 · Points: 115

How large are these "points across the traverse where the cable is anchored to the rock face" that he couldn't do a via ferrata setup? Also I would say that your friend would be covered legally in case of medical emergency because he was "trained" for the task, but this safety officer may be liable because he instructed your friend to take training that was insufficient for the task.

Also, your friend may end up getting fired for refusing to do his job, which he has been doing up until this point. I would suggest that your friend stress the importance of the training being inadequate, and/or working with the company to get a safer way of doing this job. Installing one steel cable from the beginning to the end point without anchor points in the middle could be one solution for this.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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