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Helsinki climbing accident prompts safety device ban

The cause of an accident which took place last week at a Helsinki climbing centre is under investigation.

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There are about 50,000 climbing enthusiasts in Finland. Image: Yle

Following an accident on 21 January at Helsinki’s Salmisaari Climbing Arena, the centre has decided to permanently end use of the Onbelay automatic safety device.

The piece of equipment in question failed when it allowed a climber to descend too quickly from a height of about three metres, dropped him to the ground and injured him.

"The equipment failure is under review by Safety Engineering (the company which manufactures and sells Onbelay products) and engineers have started investigating the matter this week," says Salmisaari Climbing Arena director Henrik Suihkonen.

He also adds that the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) is looking into the matter along with the organisation that oversees climbing arenas in Finland.

According to Suihkonen, the piece of equipment that failed is a hydraulic device commonly used by climbing centres to control the descent of climbers.

Suihkonen notes that all climbing operators in Finland who use the type of device involved in the Salmisaari accident have now unanimously banned its use.

"There is no information from the manufacturer about a broader ban - yet. In the world there are about 20 million climbing enthusiasts and in Finland there are about 50,000. As we are totally dependent on safety equipment, if there’s an underlying problem with the device it should be banned around the world," Suihkonen adds.

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