You can’t buy a car without seat belts to protect occupants in case of an accident, so why can you get folding backstops without safety straps to protect against winch or cable failure? The quick answer is the lack of regulatory bodies to mandate this feature for backstops coupled with a highly competitive environment.
A safety strap is a load-arrest mechanism added to a basketball backstop that is designed to stop the free-fall of the support structure in the event of winch or lifting cable failure. There are several different models and designs available, but all work much like your car’s seat belt by locking a strap or belt based on reaching a preset inertial force, centrifugal force or travel speed. At this time, safety straps are an option for backstops that normally are not included unless expressly called for in project specifications.
There are currently no ASTM, IBC or other regulatory standards that cover basketball backstops, or most other gymnasium equipment products. To insure that general contractors and owners are comparing apples-to-apples when looking at numbers on bid day, gymnasium equipment manufacturers normally bid projects based only on what is included in the project specifications. Quotations may include a suggestion or voluntary addition for the inclusion of highly recommended safety straps, but even though a safety strap is not a terribly expensive option (around $700 delivered and installed), the options are rarely accepted.
I am pretty certain that if you spoke with anyone who has been in the gymnasium equipment business for any length of time, they would tell you that they would like to see every backstop supplied with a safety strap. Whenever I get an opportunity to meet face-to-face with specifiers, I always preach the need for Safety Straps and if given an opportunity to assist with specifications they are automatically included. I am sure many others in our business do the same. A few years ago, there was talk among several gym equipment manufacturers, that as a group they would take a firm stand and never supply folding backstops without safety straps. Unfortunately, some less than honorable manufacturers in our very competitive business were unwilling to commit, so the initiative failed.
The lack of a specific standard or regulation for folding backstops has placed the burden and responsibility for including safety straps on the shoulders of the specifier. While the number and frequency of winch or cable failures is not great, a safety strap is a low priced “insurance policy” that should be included on every folding backstop. The liability and potential results associated with a winch or cable failure can be enormous and even catastrophic. Specifiers should protect their clients and themselves by specifying safety straps for EVERY folding backstop.
For assistance in reviewing our updating your specifications to include this feature, please feel free to contact Draper or your local Draper Gymnasium Equipment Representative.