New ISO standard for trapeze harnesses

The International Standards Organisation (ISO) has announced “a new ISO standard that will help prevent death and injury to sailors attached to sailing trapezes on small craft, by ensuring they can release themselves from the wire hooking them to the boat in emergencies”.

Although statistically sailing is one of the safer leisure activities, a number of incidents, sometimes fatal, have been reported involving trapeze wires.

A trapeze consists of a harness worn around the waist and attached to the upper mast by a wire, which allows sailors to hang outside the boat. Many models of sailing dinghy and catamarans include trapezes, as they are widely used to increase control and speed of a craft. But sailors must be able to detach themselves at any time, or they risk becoming trapped underwater or in dangerous conditions.

The new standard, ISO 10862:2009, Small craft – Quick release system for trapeze harness, provides requirements and test methods to ensure the correct operation of safety release devices, enabling the wearer to unhook rapidly in the event of an emergency.

Such a device should be easily accessible and able to be operated in all conditions, even when a craft is capsized or inverted.

“ISO 10862 includes a number of important features which could save a sailor's life” said Ken Kershaw, a recreational craft safety expert, actively involved in the development of ISO 10862 and other small craft ISO standards.

Among the safety requirements the standard prescribes is a release time shorter than five seconds. Taking into account real life conditions, it also requires that the device be operable with only one hand and with the full finger neoprene gloves used in cold environments. At the same time, the safety mechanism should not to be released inadvertently.

“When preparing ISO 10862,” Mr. Kershaw explained, “we looked at other release systems used in kite surfing, mountaineering and deck safety harnesses and pooled all the information together.

“This standard is great news for manufacturers of sailing trapezes who will now have one global source for safety requirements. In Europe, harnesses complying with the standard will bear the CE mark, which is compulsory for safety equipment of this type” he concluded.

ISO 10862 is the result of a multi-stakeholder process which included the participation of recreational craft user groups as well as industry. Sailors were also invited to discuss the concerns they experienced when using trapezes.

The standard will be of interest to sailing associations, retailer organizers and manufacturers of sailing equipment.

ISO 10862:2009, Small craft – Quick release system for trapeze harness, was prepared by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 188, Small craft, in collaboration with the European Committee for Standardization (CEN)'s CEN/TC 162, Protective clothing including hand and arm protection and lifejackets.

The standard is available from ISO national member institutes. It may also be obtained directly from the ISO Central Secretariat, price 74 Swiss francs, through the ISO Store.

Martin Burke of Burke Marine commented on this report:

“Sailing in general is a relatively safe sport but being attached to a capsized boat by a trapeze harness can be very dangerous. I was pleased to read that ISO has issued a new standard ISO 10862:2009, for a quick release trapeze harness that sets out testing and performance requirements. All these guidelines should help greatly reduce the risk of drowning. Unfortunately, the previously well intentioned ISAF rule that had been scheduled for introduction in 2006 for quick release trapeze harness had to be dropped or postponed because the rule was too vague to define what was required or would be accepted – it could have been argued that a traditional trapeze harness hook was quick release. The new ISO rule and regulations will help make manufacturing to the standard clearer.”


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