“Rope access” is a term used to describe a method of accessing remote and exposed points on a structure (tower, building, oil rig etc.), in order to carry out some form of work (painting, cleaning, inspection, installation, repair etc.), using equipment and rope techniques derived from mountaineering.
The technology offers considerable benefits to a wide range of operations, some of which include :
- greater flexibility than moving platform methods
- ability to access “hard to get to places” safely.
- the cost of equipment is a fraction of the cost of scaffolding and it can be set up and removed very quickly; minimising the number of man hours required in a job
- very safe, and very maneuverable
- employees are able to get on with the job without worrying about their safety. This contributes to greater speed, efficiency and employee morale.
The technology has advanced considerably in recent years, evolving methods distinctly different from its’ mountaineering roots. It has become a popular method of choice world-wide and there are now rope access controlling bodies in operation in the UK, through out Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The standard consensus amongst these bodies stipulates three levels of training:
- level 1 : individual is trained in most techniques required to operate safely on the job, under supervision
- level 2 : advanced techniques and some rescue techniques to enable individual to deal with difficult situations
- level 3 : supervisory : advanced rescue techniques and supervisory skills to ensure maximum site safety
Rope Access Technology & Application in the South African Market
Rope access technology has been in operation in SA since the late 1980’s, often in a rather rudimentary form, with very little safety back up. In recent years, however, major advances have been made towards adopting a system very similar to the IRATA standard. A group called the South African Industrial Rope Access Association (SAIRAA) emerged to apply international standards to the local context. In 2006 this organisation morphed to include the needs of the fall arrest market to form a new body called the Rope Access & Fall Arrest Association (RAFAA). Working with the Department of Manpower and the SABS, this body has helped to create unit standards for training, assessment and operation which have now been registered with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
The following is a typical list of equipment that a rope access technician would require in order to do his work safely & adhere to the requirements of the rope access associations:
- 2 x large HMS screw gate karabiner
- min. 6 x standard steel screw gate karabiners (e.g. Singing Rock Steel Oval)
- 1 x rope grab (e.g. Singing Rock Locker / Heightec Manta) to provide a safety back up
- 1 x rope descender (e.g. Anthron Lory/ Heightec Prism/ Singing Rock Indy)
- 1 x handled rope ascender (e.g. Singing Rock Lift / Heightec Pulsar)
- 1 x chest mounted rope ascender (Singing Rock Cam Clean / Heightec Twist)
- 1 x harness (eg. Singing Rock Sitworker or Heightec Eclipse)
- 1 x chest harness or securitape (if no chest portion is integrated in the harness) (e.g. Singing Rock Puller)
- Alternatively – the technician can use a Full body harness like the Singing Rock RL Profi or Heightec Zero G
- 1 x helmet (e.g.BD Half Dome or Roc Industry)
- 8m 11mm dynamic rope for lanyards (2.9m x 1 & 2.7 x 2)
- 2 x PVC equipment storage / haul bag
- 2 x11mm or 10.5mm BEAL static ropes – length varies according to application. Each worker needs two ropes
- 1 x Adjustable foot loop or aiders (eg. Singing Rock Jacob or Footer)
- rope protectors
- cable or sling anchor strops (e.g. Singing Rock double eye slings)
* All personal protective equipment needs to carry the CE mark.