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Knowing the ropes

Many general civil engineers are turning to industrial rope access as a means to solving the problem of working at height, says Roderick Deymott.

Rope access uses no motive power, can be on site and working within a matter of moments (and can exit the location with equal speed) and delivers the much-prized minimal environmental footprint.    

These are all contributing factors in the growing popularity of the procedure but it is its safe working record and adaptability that have convinced so many civil engineers.   

Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA) International has over 200 member companies and work in excess of 2M hours on ropes in a year. Its 35,000 rope access technicians are all trained by these companies and operate to strict procedures on safe working. IRATA firms around the world have worked on the great iconic sites in both the built and natural environments – from Big Ben and the Forth Rail Bridge to St Helena and the Rock of Gibraltar.    

Because rope access technicians need no access structures there is no clutter on the work site, roads do not become blocked and air is not polluted. In addition, the exclusion zones are minimal. IRATA workmen are trained to work safely from the first day of training and certification is awarded, or not, by an IRATA assessor who is independent of the training company.    

There are three grades to progress through, but the assessment requires re-training every three years to maintain registration regardless.    

The rope access industry has the lowest incident rate of any work-at-height association

Roderick Deymott

When Big Ben needs to be cleaned it cannot be scaffolded nor reached by lifts and cranes. The extravagant hotels of the Gulf States often contain design features that only rope can access, and the Spinnaker Tower, perhaps England’s most distinctive iconic structure, had the necessary anchor points built in to ensure IRATA could look after it for evermore.    

But many engineers have been slow to move to industrial rope access often because the feeling exists that there must be a better option in the modern world than using men on ropes. However, by working every week of every year on the highest, grandest, most delicate, most complex and most inconveniently-situated structures in the world IRATA teams have shown they offer modern solutions for the modern world – from the environmental aspects through to the savings on access machinery and traffic disruption, and onto the obvious cash savings of quick, efficient working.    

Above all, the rope access industry has the lowest incident rate of any work-at-height association that chooses to publish its figures, as well as the fact that zero deaths have been recorded while working on ropes in the 19 years of IRATA’s Annual Work and Safety Analysis.

Roderick Deymott is chief executive officer of IRATA  

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