Rope Access is a proven, safe, cost effective and efficient method of work positioning that has been developed over the last 30 years from techniques used in mountaineering and vertical caving. Rope access uses rope-work and industrial fall protection to allow personnel to reach difficult locations, without the use of snooper trucks, elevated work platforms, scaffolding, bosun’s chair or swing stage.
IRATA and SPRAT technicians are able to descend, ascend, and traverse on rope systems, as well as “aid climb“ for access and work while suspended by their harness.
While the primary rope support system is intended to eliminate the likelihood of a fall altogether, the use a back-up system is also mandatory. We employ the principle of double protection, meaning that each system has a backup. The access system provides the primary support for access, egress and work positioning, while the back-up system provides additional security in the unlikely event the primary system fails.
Unlike using Bosun’s chair systems, a rope access worker is directly attached to their working line (not just sitting in a chair), eliminating the possibility of the worker falling out of the chair. As a result Professional Rope Access has an extremely low accident/incident rates compared to other work at height systems.
The most common Rope Access applications include:
Inspection, maintenance, coatings and construction on bridges, dams, wind turbines, towers, buildings, geologic slopes, and industrial plants. While inspection is the most common application, welding, cutting and heavy material handling can be accomplished using specialized procedures.
The Main Features of a Rope Access System:
- Technicians are attached to two ropes – a working rope and a back-up, safety rope.
- Each rope has a separate anchorage point.
- In the event of working line damaged or failure, the safety rope prevents a fall.
- To prevent dropped tools they are attached to the technician at all times.
- A minimum of two technicians are required on any job, to enable rescue within the system.
- Technicians receive extensive training and independent assessment at least every three years.
- Training includes rescue procedures even though IRATA has an unrivaled record of safe work.
- All equipment is regularly inspected and well maintained.
- All SPRAT/IRATA training and operational work is conducted in line with Association Guidelines.
- All work is performed under the guidance of a qualified supervisor who designs the working methods, rescue plans, and performs a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA)
But is Rope Access really safe?
For decades IRATA techniques have continued to be the safest method of work at height, with a reportable incident rate of less than 125/100000 workers, compared to general construction’s 735/100000. When considering the average injury rate for all industries is nearly 4 times higher, and is approximately 6 times higher for construction, it is extremely safe.
Reportable Incidents per 100000 workers
- IRATA Rope Access = 125
- Construction = 735