Although rope access is an accepted form of access, we continue to hear questions about this versatile access method and how it fits into the workplace. Lets take a few minutes to understand how rope access fits into industrial projects.
Rope access techniques can be used by any organization that conducts work at height. Prior to the advent of rope access, the following access methods were commonly used:
Nearly any job that can be accessed using the above methods can use rope access as an alternative or as a complementary method of access for specific parts of the work site that are not practical for the other methods.
What is Rope Access
“Rope access refers to a set of techniques where ropes and specialized hardware are used as the primary means of providing access and support to workers. Generally a two-rope system is employed: the working rope supports the worker and the safety rope provides back-up fall protection.”
In other words, Rope Access is a method of accessing and supporting a technician. In that sense it differs little from the other access and support methods described previously although that is where the similarity ends. Rope Access is a way to get somewhere and do work.
In the case of needing to work at heights, companies regularly turn to scaffolding or cranes. But there is an inherent trap in doing things the way they have always been done, as companies miss more efficient opportunities – as well as less expensive and less dangerous. Using ropes to access work at heights is economic in more ways than one: this exceptionally safe method is efficient in time and resources.
When a high-up issue needs to be addressed on a job site, it is extremely time-consuming to set up the appropriate scaffolding to reach it. This not only gives the issue time to worsen, it also uses up resources that could be otherwise allocated. Scaffolding or cranes are the most commonly used tools to access the hard-to-reach places; however, these are not necessarily the most time-efficient options. For example, in the case of a high-up structural integrity issue on a smokestack, setting up scaffolding for employees to access the work could take up to a week. With the use of a rope access system, it’s possible to have workers addressing and solving the problem in half of a day.
Whether a big or small job, scaffolding requirements are expensive. In both dollars and staff resources, setting up and maintaining it is a significant cost; the cost of bringing in a crane is also high. On the other hand, putting a rope system into action simply requires appropriate equipment and training. With a couple of industry certified ropes, a rope access plan, a safe work plan, and appropriately trained individuals, these engineered systems are strong and well-proven to get the job done in a cost-effective manner. Quite simply, rope systems offer savings: clients spend ten to twenty percent on ropes what they would on scaffolding.
The use of ropes allows our team to get to the hard-to-reach spots safely and quickly. From there, any type of work is possible. As welders, electricians, pipe fitters, plumbers and millwrights by trade, our team of highly skilled workers is also certified to a global standard in rope safety. Associations such as SPRAT and IRATA set best practices for these training standards, and our team evaluates every detail of a job: establishing a clear emergency plan and safety plan to complement the access plan. As a result, GRA has countless hours on rope without accident.
Companies often default to the use of scaffolding or cranes because they are unaware of the more efficient option of rope access systems. In comparing the use of these more cumbersome options to efficient rope systems, it is undeniable that accessing work at heights is timely, cost-effective and safer when utilizing properly planned rope access systems.
When addressing the requirement to work at height, companies traditionally turn to using platforms, man baskets or scaffolding for access. There is an inherent trap in doing things this way, as companies miss more efficient, cheaper opportunities. Using rope access systems to carry out work at height is economic in more ways than one: This means of access, which has an exemplary safety record, provides cost saving by limiting down time to critical operations due to quick reaction time, also by reducing materials costs and project duration.
Once problems are identified on a site in locations that require work from height, traditionally scaffolding or other costly alternatives would be employed as a solution. The lead in time required to instigate erecting scaffold and then separately tackling the issue can often lead to operational delays. In the instance where the problem involves process critical equipment, then delays can be extremely costly. By using a rope access team the access solution and maintenance team are rolled into one neat cost effective, fast response unit.
Scaffolding builds are expensive: requiring increased manpower for install, equipment rental costs, and then the takedown. Crane man-baskets and aerial lifts similarly can be prohibitively expensive and the work location may be quite simply out of reach using these techniques. Using these techniques can involve multiple contractors and/or departments increasing organizational time incurring further delays and costs. Using a rope access contractor provides the client with a single point of contact and efficient, fast and smooth set up. Time to complete projects can be reduced by 50-70% and similarly cost savings are often 50-70 % depending on the nature of the works and the height being worked at. Factor in the downtime saved and this saving can increase exponentially.
The use of rope access allows technicians to get to the those difficult access demanding locations, without exposing employees to ‘high risk’ fall arrest techniques employed by scaffolding, both safely and swiftly. These techniques are tried and tested over 30 years, first in the harsh conditions of the North Sea, throughout industry in Europe & Australia and then to the rest of the world. Rope access has been used in Canada’s ‘Oil sands’ since 2006 and has now proven itself to be a critical resource for maintenance cost saving in this harsh arena.
Peace of mind is guaranteed by professional practice and planning, certified to global rope access standards. The industries governing bodies, such as IRATA and North America’s SPRAT monitor and implement training and best practices to ensure this peace of mind. Highly skilled professional rope technicians and tradespeople complete this loop. GRA / GRW are able to deliver rope access trained trades, such as welders, electricians, pipe fitters, plumbers and millwrights surgically to location to complete technical projects under projected budgets and within timescales of traditional access techniques.