You'd be surprised how many people in the building industry ask the question, “is rope access actually safe?” So let’s make this clear straight away - rope access is very safe. Perhaps, the fact that it has been regarded as “possibly hazardous’ by the Health and Safety Executive deters people from working in rope access or using rope access workers. Although, this term simply means that without any precautions in place there would be a risk of serious injury or even death from falling.
As a physical practice, there are many precautions in place during rope access work. We also realise that dangling from a skyscraper would very much seem like a highly dangerous practice. But this is when you just take it all at face value. It might be difficult to believe but it is much safer than it looks.
In fact, rope access comes with a track record of safety than any other means of access in the work at height industry, and that just says it all. In this blog post, we discuss the safety factors relating to carrying out rope access work and hopefully dispel certain myths surrounding this supposedly dangerous industry.
Rope access work
Rope access is considered one of the oldest and most refined systems used by man to carry out challenging tasks and to get to hard-to-reach places. The techniques and equipment carried out over years. Today, the professionals use rope-access techniques from a variety of platforms including natural features, industrial plants, manufacturing facilities, oil platforms, structures, buildings, and even an aircraft.
As with lots of jobs, particularly those in the building or industrial sector, you might well accept that accidents inevitably do happen. Given the level of risk when working at height, the rope access industry is along the most tightly controlled in the industry. There are lots of rules and regulations in place to reduce the likelihood of accidents, and these are solidified in the 2005 Work at Height Regulations.
Any space for human error must be taken away before the work begins and, while working, lots of precautions need to be taken to guarantee the safety of both technicians and the general public. But the legislation doesn’t just mean that all workers are trained as they should be and up to scratch on their safety requirements; it also means that employers need to take a long list of precautions and responsibilities with regards to the safety of their workforce.
The International Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA) is responsible for setting out and regulating the training of all workers looking to seek qualifications in the sector. This kind of training is carried out with high safety standards taken into consideration, so those who are qualified will understand the risks and regulations associated with working at height. Trainees not only gain a thorough insight into the understanding of the current legislation, but also a working knowledge of rescue procedures and hazard perception.
IRATA certifications can be made available in three different levels, and they are a requirement for all working rope access technicians. Graduating to a higher standard required a certain amount of time spent on the ropes, with each hour being logged and signed off by a qualified supervisor. For example, an IRATA Level 2 qualification requires a minimum of 1,000 hours and 12 months of work, so individuals with more responsibilities are assured to have more experience.
There are many misconceptions about industrial work having a distinct lack of professionalism and tact, and these false truths are often difficult to shake off. However, given the high-risk nature of the work, industrial workers can’t afford to be anything but professional at all times. This includes:
Working within constant supervision
Supervisors are ever-present on every rope access job, and they are responsible for keeping safety and protocol monitored at all times. They need to be fully qualified, with a good amount of experience on the ropes and good work ethic.
Getting the job done
Rope access workers certainly aren’t just in the business for the impressive views at work every day. The primary concern is getting the job done to the highest standard and in the safest way possible.
Always work in pairs
Technicians don’t ever work alone, there must always be another worker present should their assistance be required.
Make no mistake, rope access involves much more than just a rope – the technicians aren’t swinging around unequipped by any means. For example, workers need to use two separate ropes, one of which acts as a backup system in addition to the main working line. Each rope is rigged to a different anchor point, so if one of them is compromised the other will offer you a sturdy reserve. Essentially, the safety of a rope access technician doesn’t just depend on their primary equipment: there is always a backup.
Before and after each use, all equipment must be rigorously tested and inspected by a trained professional to ensure that any defects are promptly addressed. For example, thanks in part to the strict safety culture integral to rope access work, technicians should never be put in a position where their equipment presents a hazard. It might take a bit of getting used to at first, however, usually, workers and trainees quickly learn to trust their equipment.
Management and planning
Risk assessment always has to be considered and there are a few key things which must be included. For example, the likely duration of the work, the ease of access, the possibility of using an alternative, safer work method and so on.
A nominated person needs to be identified, this will be the individual who is responsible for managing all of the aspects of rope access work. This nominated person must have experience and the necessary training in the type of work the company plans to undertake. Similarly, designated supervisors will be required to directly oversee and direct work in progress on all of the jobs.
Planning rope access operations
A system of work needs to be drawn up, taking account of risks from rope access operations generally and job-specific risks that are present and can be foreseen. The safety system needs to specify rescue arrangements, selection of correct equipment, selection of people with the necessary level of competence and arrangements for the sake of control as well as communication.
Rodells Ltd - Safe and Efficient Rope Access Works
Here at Rodells, our specialists are very skilled in gaining access and working on a various amount of different types of work via ropes and harnesses. Often this is an affordable and reliable alternative to scaffolding. We are now home to a large scaffolding department fully equipped to grant access to any industrial, commercial or domestic building. Whilst still providing our Steeplejack and Specialist Works services. Rodell's is a business centred around a positive, friendly and affordable service.
We provide services including surveys to tall buildings and churches, erecting weather vanes and flagpoles, installation of cables and trays as well as roof repairs, vegetation removal, sign and banner erection and painting. To find out more about the services which we can offer you, please contact us today, we’d be happy to help with any enquiries you may have.