Industrial Rope Access (twin rope access)
Rope Access/Work Positioning in Suspension
Industrial rope access, or, more specifically, ‘twin-rope’ access, is an important method for performing working at height activities and requires a high level of competency on the part of the user. Industrial rope access is a special kind of work positioning system that uses equipment to prevent a fall by vertically suspending a worker in a harness.
Industrial rope access utilises several important safety features that ensure workers exposing themselves to a height risk are protected:
- Twin rope / two rope system means that you work on one main line and have a secondary, redundant or back-up line attached in the event of an emergency;
- The back-up line can operate as a fall arrest system if the main rope or work positioning system were to fail;
- Work is performed ‘under tension’, meaning there is limited risk of sustaining a free-fall;
- Comprehensive, practical training is required to ensure workers achieve a high level of competency to perform a range of manoeuvres while vertically suspended;
- Operators are required to work under the guidance of a senior operator;
- Operators must record hours worked in a unique LogBook to advance through the training scheme, and the LogBook must be signed off by authorised personnel;
- Use of a unique LogBook provides proof of qualification currency, operative competency, and record of works performed.
Equipment & Operational Standards
There are standards for rope access methods as well as equipment performance criteria set out in the AS/NZS4488 Standard. A recent review of this Standard has revealed the need for a significant review, as the operational practices of technicians have changed significantly over recent times due to improvements having been incorporated. WAHA believes that in the absence of a suitable Rope Access standard in Australia, the ISO Standard 22846 Parts 1 & 2 should be adopted until such time that Standards Australia completes it review.
The main reason the current AS/NZS4488 Standard remains in effect is due to the definition of the helmet specifications, which is largely unrelated to the performance requirements of rope access works.
Otherwise, the requirements of AS/NZS1891.4 Industrial Fall Arrest – Selection Use & Maintenance should be used as a default reference as it describes the techniques that should be used when working using ‘working in suspension’ and ‘restraint-technique’.
The activities of rope access technicians in Australia are primarily covered through two major rope access organisations:
- Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA) International
- Australian Rope Access Association (ARAA)/SPRAT
Both organisations have published extensive documents and guidance for industrial rope access training and operations, including safety notices and statistics; freely downloadable from their respective websites.
Alternative groups also propose operating methodologies similar to these two organisations, however, the structure of these organisations in terms of training, mentoring, techniques and safety record is incomparable.
There is often a cross-over between the activities that can be performed by using rope access methods and regular fall protection (fall arrest) methods. The choice, however, is ultimately determined by multiple factors including site accessibility, frequency of access, difficulty of access, number of workers required to perform specific works, and so on.
Is Rope Access Safe?
The best way to answer this question is to examine the Workplace Health & Safety statistics as a consequence of working in rope access. The IRATA organisation keeps accurate details of all injuries and deaths on a global scale, due to the comprehensive nature of their work methodologies and reporting requirements for members. Some key highlights are as follows:
More detailed information can be found on the IRATA website at www.irata.org
The WAHA therefore primarily endorses the IRATA organisation and its methodologies to deliver a safe system of work, as a consequence of their international footprint, extensive training scheme and ongoing development of both training and operational requirements.
Codes of Practice
Both IRATA and ARAA have their own operational codes of practice:
- IRATA International Code of Practice (ICoP)
There are no specific governmental regulatory requirements or guidelines on rope access; instead, the legal requirements are the same for fall arrest: a person must be deemed competent to perform the task.
As defined in the Code of Practice: Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces a competent person means a person who has acquired through training, qualification or experience the knowledge and skills to carry out the task. As rope access requires a high level of competency on the part of the user, competency is shown through maintaining a current and valid rope access qualification, such as IRATA, combined with the operatives LogBook which documents recent work signed off by an authorised person.
The published Codes of Practice by IRATA are useful resources and reference documents pertaining to the principles of managing height safety risks and fulfilling obligations with respect to the law. Of note are the IRATA ICoP Annexes, which provide a comprehensive and detailed insight into additional requirements for industrial rope access including operational guidelines.
Importantly, simply accessing these documents and adopting the methods is not in itself deemed sufficient for a person to work safely in rope access. They should obtain membership and training through a recognised rope access organisation to be tested and deemed competent prior to completing any work using these methods.
WAHA Members are also provided with more detailed information regarding design principles and installation guidelines for height safety systems, which is supplemented by providers of nationally recognised training. These guidelines are detailed in ‘publications’ sections in the website. For more information about membership, send a request by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Technical Bulletins are documents that have been prepared by WAHA for the benefit of the public as well as members. They seek to offer education and clarification on different elements of technical matters and commonly asked questions about different elements of fall protection.
Technical bulletins specific to rope access are best accessed directly through the organisation with the expertise to provide detailed advice – WAHA recommends accessing information from www.irata.org with respect to rope access.
If you do not see a technical bulletin that provides sufficient information for what you are seeking, forward an email in the Contact Us section of our website with your specific questions and we will attempt to provide clarification accordingly.