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What is rope access?

Rope access is a safe method of working at height and gaining access to complicated engineering and building structures. It is now the access method of choice for large on and offshore construction projects and for many civil engineering works, as well as the gas and oil industries.

What are the advantages of rope access?

Rope work gives quick and safe access to difficult locations enabling inspection, installation and maintenance tasks to be carried out with minimal disruption to continuing operations and the surrounding environment. Projects are carefully assessed and planned so accidents and incidents are eliminated as far as possible. In comparison to traditional access methods of scaffolding and suspended platforms the man hours involved are greatly reduced while the safety factor is much higher.
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Is rope access regulated?

IRATA International (Industrial Rope Access Trade Association) puts in place work procedures and regulations that members follow in order to be certified. An ongoing monitoring process ensures that compliance remains up-to-date for continuing safe working. This careful monitoring and certification system means that rope access is now the chosen entry method for much engineering work. Reputable UK companies offering on and offshore inspections with rope access will ensure that their technicians are IRATA trained and qualified.

What skills do rope access technicians offer?

Rope access technicians follow a three stage certification programme laid out by IRATA while working on projects under close supervision. This gives them the skills to perform in a range of challenging circumstances. Many already have an interest in rope work gained from hobby rock climbing and abseiling. Each technician learns responsibility for their own personal and rigging equipment as well as how to undertake rescue descents. They gain a background knowledge of relevant legislation and safety requirements as well as having current first aid certificates. More highly qualified technicians will also have a knowledge of advanced rescue techniques and the supervision skills to train apprentices.

How is the safety of rope access developed and monitored?

As well as providing a comprehensive training scheme IRATA also compiles safety and incident records gathered from across the world. It analyses these to further develop safety in the field. Publications and training seminars provide ongoing learning in areas such as working in inclement weather conditions, risk assessments of likely rope scenarios and other possible incidents such as falls, rope failure and dropped objects.

How can individual UK companies develop the skills of rope access technicians?

As with many industries, basic training does not guarantee jobs and many employers want experience, a typical catch 22. And, of course, if specialist skills are gained but not used immediately or regularly they can become rusty. Something that is definitely not desirable in rope access work. UK companies are now offering supervised internships or apprenticeships which follow on from the initial training offered by IRATA programmes. During this period the intern is seen as a regular part of the workforce and earns a salary while further developing their skills in a safe, supervised environment.

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