Q&A with Chris Heine, Owner of Heinstrung Rope Access

We had a chance to meet up with Chris Heine, the owner of Heinstrung. He shared with us his incredible story of how he got started in rope access, a work accident that left him seriously injured and how and why he stayed in the industry.

What got you interested in rope access?

Honestly, I was terrified of heights and I needed a job. My first experience with work at height was a chair thrown over the edge and a 15 minute how to. I was eager and young and didn't question much.

While I played the risk assessment game, I started to develop more common sense and self-preservation. After 4 years I decided to spend the time and resources to do my SPRAT. My degree was nearly done but as I was beginning to discover, I didn't want to work indoors for all my professional life and I didn't want to do just one thing. My SPRAT would afford the opportunity to do a vast variety of careers throughout my life, and the opportunity to travel (should have done IRATA, but I'm happy either way).

I was tired of a culture of last-minute decisions and "figure it out" antics. There was a system in place that would be far safer and provide safe access methods that were universally accepted and reviewed as safe practices. The more time I spent reviewing Rope Access, the more I wanted to invest myself in the field.

What do you love most about rope access/the industry?

The People. I'm yet to meet a rope access technician that hasn't been a beautifully odd person. No matter who you talk to there is a vast variety of reasons why someone fights sanity to climb all of the works we do. It's a privilege to be able to meet and work with so many unique people from all over the world.

Do you have any interesting or crazy stories from the field?

I had an accident that nearly rendered me paralyzed. A short ladder accessing the last bit of window cleaning on a site was the culprit. The ladder broke and I injured my L1 vertebrae. My two scaphoids, located at the base of one's wrist shattered. My right arm broken on the asphalt. 

It took months of rehabilitation (with no thumbs), a hospital bed in home, medical assistance, 6-8 hours of physio daily (both in office and self-practice). I had trained for the profession myself and would not settle for not being able to move for the rest of my life, not being able to be there for my wife as a provider or to the others involved in my life. 

Through internal guilt and determination, Rope Access became my singular life goal and focus. I didn't want what happened to me to happen to others. I had so many complaints about what was going on around me and I felt powerless to do anything about it as I lay motionless in a bed with no hands and nothing but my mind and pain to entertain me. 

I wasn't going to take it, so I kept fighting and came through. From July 2019 – April 2020, I went from being stuck in a bed to attempting to get my walker/wheelchair out of the house to walk/roll in the woods, to exercise ball balancing acts, wrist function testing, driving, mobility exercises, OR2, swimming, and eventually a hike. In April of 2020 I went and repelled on my first tower in less than a year of breaking my back. 

After the accident, my focus was geared to helping others in the rope access community. To provide an environment with safe work practices and learning. I would not wish for anyone to go through the same hurdles I did when I was young.

What are your favourite rope access gear products?

I'd say the CAMP Safety Giant for heavier loads and has a great ascent design.

Anything else you want to share about you or your company?

It's people first. That's always the first priority!

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