Proto has recently introduced their new SkyHook tool tether and tether transfer system, which is designed to help keep workers safe without impeding their comfort or productivity.
The SkyHook safety tether product line includes a wide range of tether-ready Proto hand tools, and there are also many retrofit kit options that enable you to attach SkyHook tethers and mounting points to your existing tools.
The SkyHook system was designed to provide positive tool control and for use in work areas where foreign material exclusion (FME) is required. Outside of industrial environments, tool tethers are typically used to prevent tools from being dropped from heights or left behind inside equipment.
I can sum up the SkyHook system in just 3 words: marvelously user-friendly.
- SkyHook switch connectors (one size)
- Tethers and lanyards (11 types)
- Anchors/docks (SkyDock)
- Tool mounting points
The SkyHook switch connector and its attached lanyard is rated for a 6-lb load. These tethers attach to body-worn anchor points or docks via the SkyHook connector, and to tools with a small carabiner, either directly or with mounting hardware.
SkyHooks and SkyDocks are made from Dupont Delrin, an acetal polymer, meaning they are strong, lightweight, impact resistant, and highly resistant to moisture, gasoline, and most solvents.
There are 10 additional elastic and web lanyard tether options with load ratings ranging from 5 lbs to 40 lbs, and these use carabiners to attach to SkyHook anchors.
Proto offers a few anchor and dock options – a one-size-fits-all wrist strap, several tool pouch styles and sizes, and two multi-dock storage options.
SkyDocks have two small holes that could allow for wall mounting (for tool storage), and can also be laced onto belts. It fits my 1-1/2″ webbing belt just fine, and the ~2-inch strap slots might be able to accommodate 2″ belts. Please note that these observations are conveyed for informational purposes. You are advised to consult with a safety officer or Proto product specialist before using SkyHook products in any way that is not explicitly directed or intended by Proto.
How it Works
Each SkyHook has two slots. One gate is always locked closed, one is always open. When you transfer a tool from one SkyDock to another, the locked SkyHook gate opens as the other locks closed.
Because of the safety interlock, the SkyHook tether is always attached to an anchor point.
There is no fussing required – to action needed to transfer the SkyHook from one SkyDock to another is blissfully effortless.
To get a sense for how the SkyHook works, stand up and empty one of your front pants pockets. Pick up your wallet or cell phone and hold it at your side. Now, lift your arm slightly and slide your wallet or phone into your front pocket. Next, retrieve it. This is about how easy and effortless it is to transfer a SkyHook-tethered tool from a wrist-mounted SkyDock to a pouch or belt-mounted one.
Transferring a Skyhook from one wrist to another is a little different, such as if you need to change which hand is using a tool, but hardly complex.
Tool Attachment Options
If you prefer to go the retrofit route, there are a lot of different mounting hardware options, but they fall into three main categories.
- Heatshrink loops for larger tools, such as combination wrenches and hammers
- Rubbery collars for smaller diameter tools, such as screwdrivers and punches
- None, for tools with built-in holes such as many adjustable wrenches
- Split rings (pre-installed with tether-ready tools)
The heatshrink is very thick and appears to be adhesive-lined. There are 7 size options that fit tools 0.75″ to 4″ in diameter.
Some tools, such as chisels and punches, require two rubbery collars, others such as screwdrivers only require one. There are 8 size options that fit tools 0.035″ to 1.00″ in diameter.
For oblong tools, like wrenches, you can use a piece of string to determine approximate diameters.
The SkyHook locking carabiner has a small opening, but can fit certain tools without the need for additional hardware. I was able to fit it to a Proto 8-inch wrench, but not my comfort-grip Channellock wrench. For tools with holes that the carabiner cannot fit, alternative mounting or a different tether will be required.
Certain tether-ready Proto tools, such as pliers, are shown with split rings attached through holes drilled into the bottom of their handles. You should be able to do this yourself, but again – check with a safety officer or Proto before doing so.
Also, if retrofitting existing ratchets or torque wrenches, they should have locking pin detent retention mechanisms and should be used with appropriate locking sockets.
Proto sent over (2) wrist straps with SkyDocks, (1) loose SkyDock, (3) SkyHook tethers, a T-handle hex driver, a 1/2″ cold chisel, and a 1″ combination wrench for evaluation.
I do not work at heights, I do not work in an environment where tool control and FME is required, I do not normally tether my tools, and I was not able to retrofit some of my commonly used tools to the SkyHook tethers. As such, testing of the Proto SkyHook tool tether and transfer system was mostly done in a simulated manner.
What I found is that the SkyHook system is very intuitive, seamless, and effective to use. While the locking components are made from Delrin, a specialty plastic, they feel strong and secure.
Transferring SkyHook-tethered tools from hand to hand, hand to belt, or person to person is remarkably quick and easy. Tool use is unimpeded, and the range of motion is minimally impacted if at all.
Proto says that their SkyHook tether and transfer system is the next generation of safety technology, and I think they’re right.
One of the greatest advantages of the SkyHook system compared to other tool tether systems is how tethered tools are secured during transfer. There is positive control at all times.
With other types of body-worn carabiner-based tool tether systems, tools might be unsecured during transfer.
Wanting to see how a carabiner-based system would compare, I created a rough but functional tether using paracord rope, accessory locking carabiners, and a few Velcro straps. The 30-minute experience was not as bad as I anticipated, but the SkyHook tether experience was far better.
Overall, I feel that the Proto SkyHook system is nothing short of fantastic. It seems to be optimized for tools that weigh under 6 lbs, but Proto also offers traditional tether options for heavier tools.
I can sum up the SkyHook system in just 3 words: marvelously user-friendly.
Availability: Some Proto dealers have started carrying SkyHook system products (such as Grainger), and more information will soon be available via Proto Industrial.
These are the initial questions I asked Proto after I first learned about the SkyHook system. Any followup Q&A will go here.
I believe I follow the principles of the SkyHook tether system. Would you be able to provide a few brands/models of similar/competing products so I can better gauge how the SkyHook system is improved?
There is no system on the market that directly competes with the SkyHook product line, due the to patented connection point. All other systems, such as Stop-Drop and the Snap-On / Python Tool at Height program utilize existing carabiniere technology that requires the tool to be unsecured during transfer. The SkyHook is the only system that provides positive control at all times. Additionally, the Stop-Drop and Tools and Height programs utilize longer bungee lanyards which become safety hazards in themselves, requiring tethering to harnesses or fixed objects, versus the wrist in a natural range of motion.
Is this system built on the Klinch Tool Tether design?
The tethered tool system is built on the same design as the Klinch system in Australia. We are the exclusive provider of this system to the industrial marketplace. While the technology developed by Rocka, and marketed under the Klinch brand in Australia is game changing, we have developed the US market product specifically for the needs of industrial users, utilizing an up-specced Dupont® Delrin® resin which withstands industrial chemicals and major temperature range swings.
Additionally, the integration of tethering into the design of the tools further builds on this platform, where we are not just fitting tethers to tools, but designing the tether points to be less obtrusive to the user, while maintaining the integrity of the tool.
I see that the tether can hold tools up to 6 lbs. Is there a specific breakaway weight or tension rating?
No. As part of our quality testing, we test the tethers and SkyHooks at 3X the rated weight limits at well over the recommended cycle life of the switch. Because the tether is short, a dropped object does not have the fall distance to gather enough momentum to put large amounts of tension on the tether.
Would you be able to provide rough pricing and dealer information?
Generally speaking, the cost of the SkyHook solution to outfit a single tool is ~$35-40 to the user with discounts for multi tool sets. Tether-ready tools are priced just slightly higher than the cost of buying the wrench and applying the tethering retrofit yourself.
Thank you to Proto Tools for providing the review sample unconditionally. Review samples are typically given away, donated, or retained for benchmark and comparison purposes.