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Jump with confidence - Safety Notices..

Allan Hewitt - BPA Advanced Rigger/Examiner & AFF Instructor

As skydivers “you” are ultimately responsible for your own safety

Your Reserve Packer

Your reserve packer and rigger are responsible for helping “you” to prevent an equipment failure during a skydive. They are without doubt the best trained and the most qualified in the industry when it comes to knowing your equipment. They have proven this by going through a rigorous training syllabus which has been developed over many years.

My research has proven that “you” as skydivers can make a huge difference. You can help to prevent yourself, from becoming one of the many skydiving statistics with just a little bit of knowledge about equipment incidents and how to prevent them.

Skydivers encounter equipment failures on a regular basis, but the majority of accidents caused by an equipment failure can be prevented. I know this because I have investigated thousands of skydiving accidents, and as a result I have made many proposals to update the BPA rigging system to prevent them from being repeated. I will continue to do this along with other riggers who strive to make sure our system continues to improve. However, improving our systems is not the only thing we can do to prevent accidents.

How can you help? First of all you have to accept that virtually every equipment failure is just a repetition of a previous equipment failure experienced by someone else.

Learning about these will help you recognise a potential problem, and enable you to discuss it with your rigger to ensure you do not encounter the same problem.

This is the first of a collection of articles called “Jump with Confidence”. Each one will cover a specific topic that will help you learn more about your own equipment, and greatly reduce your chances of ever having an equipment failure. My first topic is how to ensure the equipment you are jumping is free from any known defects, by checking your personal equipment against the safety information database.

You can rely on your rigger/reserve packer to do this for you, but it’s also easy to do yourself. I recommend you do a safety notice search to double check and learn more about your own equipment. It’s a fact that skydivers have jumped, and are still jumping equipment that has not been updated or modified after a safety notice has been issued against it.

The Safety Notice Database

This web based, Safety Information Database has been designed for use by the skydiving industry. It allows for a quick search of safety reports relevant to specific products. Also for the education and training of reserve packers & riggers, to learn from previous incidents and prevent repetitive mistakes from recurring.

The Safety Information Database (SID for short), includes thousands of safety notices on parachute equipment from 106 parachute manufacturers and 24 parachute associations from around the world. There are over 2,000 safety notices in the database. Some are minor advisory notices which are optional, but others are mandatory and require an immediate remedy prior to your next skydive to keep you safe.

Safety notices are a fact of life, they are issued by manufactures, parachute associations or government agencies to keep skydivers updated and safe. Your equipment then gets upgraded or modified accordingly. However, the system of ensuring your equipment is free from any safety notice has many problems. In the past riggers relied heavily on memory or had to spend many hours looking through the increasing list of safety notices which resulted in a very un-reliable system.

My previous solution to solve this problem was to compile an index of every safety notice ever published, it took me many years of talking to every manufacturer and parachute association to collect the information, I presented this list to the BPA who adopted it as an official BPA document and have kept it up to date ever since. Every BPA reserve packer and rigger was given this “index of safety notices” so they can check your equipment against this list before inspecting and packing your reserve.

The BPA index of safety notices has definitely helped, but it has not solved the problem and it is now obvious that the index of safety notices is not as effective as hoped. To improve the system every rigger would need a copy of all safety notices not just the index. When stacked on top of each other the pile of safety notices are over 18” high (45cm), manually searching this increases the time it takes your reserve packer to inspect your equipment prior to packing it. It is also very easy to miss a critical safety notice which could save your life, even with the help of the BPA index to help narrow the search. Only a “minority” of reserve packers and riggers have a copy of all safety notices.

My next solution was to develop a database so that riggers have direct access to every safety notice. However, every time Microsoft upgraded from Windows 95 to 98 and then again to XP, Vista etc I had to pay for another piece of installation software and struggled to keep it active, let alone up to date.

I have now developed the database so that it is permanently on line and can be updated directly by parachute manufacturers and parachute associations. It is easy to use, always up to date and extremely accurate. This new database is the first stage to try and completely eradicate skydiving accidents caused by equipment failures.

For the first time ever, you can now go online to to check to see if your personal set of equipment is free from any known safety notices. This is free of charge; all you need is your equipment details. You complete the online form by simply selecting your equipment from the menu, and press search and the database will give you a list of only the safety notices that are relevant to your equipment.

This is what the form looks like:

After completing the form, select search so your list appears. Below is an example of a safety notice search for the above equipment.

You can either select view to read them online, or print them out to show your rigger to discuss any concerns you may have.

Below is a typical safet report.

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This tool can help you stay safe. You can help your reserve packer or rigger and give them your search results to guarantee your equipment is free of any defects, and discuss any potential problems with them. Don't be concerned about the document title, as far as you're concerned they are all the same. Some titles include: Safety Notices, Safety Bulletins, Safety Information, Service Bulletin, Safety Advise. Basically, they all include information that you should be aware of.

Don't be concerned about the title of the documents, as far as you're concerned they're all the same. Some titles include: Safety Notice, Safety Information, Safety Bulletin, Service Bulletin. Basically they all include information that you should be aware off.

An additional service (not yet activated) is email notification. After you have registered in the database and have completed a search, your equipment profile will be recorded so that any new safety notices relevant to your equipment will be instantly e-mailed directly to you, minutes after it has been published to ensure you stay safe at all times. All riggers, instructors and drop zones who register will receive the same information.

The primary design characteristic of this database was to ensure all equipment can be quickly and easily checked to see if it has any safety information against it, by all skydivers.

The secondary role is to allow reserve packers and riggers, to search the database using different search parameters, so they can quickly find any individual safety notice, or study all safety notices related to any given product or discipline like tandem equipment or student equipment etc.

The third role is educational, to allow reserve packers, riggers and instructors to study past equipment failures, and prevent a repeat of the same problems. This section is split into categories so a study can be done on any of the subjects. Once a subject has been studied it is then unlikely that they will repeat the same mistakes that others have made.

This is a real time up to date database for all skydivers, reserve packers and riggers.

• We no longer have to rely on memory.
• We no longer have to rely on a paper trail with information being lost.
• New packers, riggers, instructors, etc can now learn from other peoples mistakes by using the equipment study guide.
• One source means it’s the fastest and most reliable method to ensure a rig has no safety notices pending.
• Easy to use and always up to date.
• Totally unbiased international system, no borders or rules to prevent or delay passage of information.
• Safety Information is available to view and print.
• Real time passage of information direct from manufacturers, parachute associations to the skydiving. industry with one click of a button.
• E-mail support system; write in with any inquiry about either the safety notice database or your equipment concerns.

Riggers have extra options as follows:

Access to the full safety database search parameters by: date, manufacturer, category, severity, subject, and country. This is an amazing tool and can help you research any subject or known problem related to parachute equipment.

You will have access to the safety notice database study guide, so you can search component parts and learn every mistake that has been made in each category. For example, do a search for lines and you will get a list of every line problem that has been reported. Each search will give you a summary that has been written to show how you can prevent the same mistakes from getting into use, and improve your knowledge base.

Manufacturers & Associations have extra options as follows:

When you upload a new safety notice we will inform reserve packers, riggers, parachute associations and dropzones and all registered users. Anyone who packs a reserve will have access to a real time system knowing that it’s right up to date with information direct from the publisher.

You will get access to high level features allowing you to upload any adobe published safety notice, safety bulletin. If you don't have adobe you can e-mail us with your information, we will convert it and upload it on your behalf.
You can go online at any time and update or modify existing safety notices.

The next “Jump with Confidence” article that will help to eradicate equipment failure is based on Pilot Chutes and deployment problems and how easy it is for you to prevent this type of failure from happening to you. Don't miss it!

Allan Hewitt

Skydive Verzekering