Study of environmental aging of lifelines


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Vertical and horizontal lifelines are made of synthetic fibres which undergo variable degradation when exposed to environmental conditions and from wear. This degradation, which is unfortunately not discernible by the naked eye until it reaches very high levels, can cause lifelines to lose their mechanical resistance, thereby making them likely to break in the event of a fall.

An analysis of the literature found different levels of sensitivity to environmental agents among the materials most commonly used for lifelines, i.e., nylon, polyester and standard and high performance polypropylene. For example, nylon is mainly affected by photo-oxidation, with a synergetic effect of water, which affects amino groups. These groups can act as indicators for monitoring aging kinetics. Polyester for its part is highly sensitive to hydrolysis as a result of the presence of ester groups. An experimental study of the effect of experimental aging agents on the mechanical resistance and physico-chemical properties of a selection of lifelines is in progress. It includes service aging, environmental static aging and accelerated laboratory aging programs.

This project is carried out jointly with a researcher from the IRSST Protective Equipment division and with Cordage Barry.