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Rope Access Past & Present


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Working at height has been in existence for many thousands of years. Even the ancient Egyptians and Greeks suspended workers using hawser-laid ropes made from water reed fibres to carry out their work.

Early Days of Rope Access

Rope access techniques have been around for a number of years, one of the earliest being the Bosun chair. Originally created for use at sea a Bosun chair uses a wooden seat suspended by rope rigging. Both the construction of the Hoover Dam (1931 - 1936) and Mount Rushmore (1927 - 1939) used Bosun chairs to help workers scale the vast façades. High Scalers was the term given to the men whose job it was to scale the side of the Hoover Dam and clear the canyon from loose rocks using jackhammers and dynamite. During the construction of the Hoover Dam 93 men lost their lives carrying out this work.

Rope Access in the 1970s

Industrial rope access techniques as we know them today emerged in the 1970s. Europe was the first area to use the technique frequently including both Britain and France where rope access was used to stabilise cliffs above railways and roads.

Originally, rope access technicians were mostly climbers or cavers. They were able to transfer their skills for scaling rock facades to the outside of buildings and structures.

Rope Access in the 1980s

A number of companies were created in the UK during the 1980s to provide solutions for work at height requirements on difficult to access building and structures. It was during this time that the technique was also taken to offshore platforms to solve the access problems in maintaining, repairing and inspection of gas and oil rigs. In 1987, six of these companies came together to create the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA) to promote business and control standards.

Rope Access Today

Rope access did not reach the United States until the early 1990s, despite its popularity in Europe. Nowadays, rope access is a commonly used and trusted method for conducting work at height. IRATA is regarded as the governing body of rope access internationally. Other countries have similar smaller organisations however IRATA is still the most widely recognised worldwide.

IRATA work to decrease the amount of injuries and fatalities by industrial rope access. To do this they have mandatory policies that companies must follow in regards the reporting of accidents, near miss occurrence and incidents. They use this knowledge spot trends and improve equipment and procedures to improve work practices. Their introduction along with greater health and safety regulations, increased knowledge of workers and improved equipment has helped decrease the amount of fatalities.

Industrial & Rope Access Specialists in Scotland

At Inspection & Rope Access Specialists we have experience dealing with awkward structures both off- and on-shore. We are experienced and fully equipped with the necessary tools to complete difficult work at height projects. If you have a project that you think would benefit from industrial rope access contact us today to find out how we can help you save money and time.