Industrial rope access has a huge expanse of potential applications for carrying out work at height. Often used onshore as a cost effective alternative to scaffolding or cherry pickers, the onshore applications of rope access range from building and facade maintenance tasks such as gutter cleaning, maintenance and repair, window cleaning at height, external vegetation removal, roofing and rooftop work, stonework and pointing in difficult access areas, painting and cleaning at height, bird and pest control such as the installation of high level netting, banner and sign installation, through to multiple industrial and construction uses, work on bridges, glazing solutions and maintenance on towers, Geotechnical work, as well as inspection and testing purposes. Similarly in the offshore sector, which in the UK and Scotland is generally on North Sea Oil Platforms, rope access allows work at height to be carried out in areas that other work at height alternatives wouldn’t be able to reach, and provides a safe and efficient mode of working at height for just about any required scenario.
Rope access techniques originated from caving and climbing techniques and were developed and adapted into safe access methods for industrial purposes several decades ago. The continuing evolution of these techniques has allowed industrial rope access to maintain the lowest instance of access in the whole access sector. In Scotland and across the UK, all aspects of work at height must be undertaken in line with British Standard BS7985 (2002) and the Work at Height regulations (2005).
There are several factors that make industrial rope access so useful for work at height tasks. Firstly the time taken to install access systems is minimal. The impact on the structures that work is being carried out on, as well as on the surroundings (including traffic flow and pedestrian access) can also be kept to a minimum. Work can be carried out safely in almost any scenario, and there is no height limit at which technicians can operate safely. This makes industrial rope access an invaluable tool for carrying out tasks in difficult to reach situations and locations.
Rope access technicians use a variety of gear to allow them to perform the tasks required of them safely. Obviously ropes are one of the most important, both the working and safety lines used should be low-stretch kernmantle type, between 10 and 11mm diameter. Descenders, Ascenders, Fall arrest devices, Harness, Pulleys, Carabiners, Cows Tails, Lanyards, Anchors and Rope Protectors are also all part of the rope access technicians arsenal, enabling them to get to difficult to reach areas and carry out the various required maintenance, cleaning, painting or inspection work.
Now that it is becoming more and more widely known and recognized as a safe, reliable, cost effective and viable work at height solution, the applications of industrial rope access techniques have an important role to play in the future of all work at height scenarios, from domestic maintenance to construction and the petrochemical sectors, not only in Scotland and across the UK, but also worldwide.