Rope Access: More Than Work At Heights

In response to a discussion about rope access for industrial facilities, we received an email from a Project Manager at a multi-million dollar energy company. The questions and concerns he brought up capture a common misconception about rope access and its relevance to industrial needs. This post is for all the maintenance managers and project coordinators, who are looking for ways to cut costs and get projects done on time:

Message from client:

    I’m interested in looking into [Rope Access], but not sure if it can be utilized effectively on this site. We don’t have many vessels, tanks or boilers on site that are overly tall. The bigger tanks that we do have, that are worked on, are on their own so I’m not sure your system would even work. What I would like to know is what requirements are needed for set up, how is the system anchored etc.

This is what our Operations Manager, Jason Porter*, had to say:

70% of work at height in the patch is at 10-40ft. It’s not so much the height that is the issue, but rather the simplicity and speed, particularly if you have an in-situ crew to hand.  A valve turn for operations at 15 ft in a pIpe rack required a scaffold team half a day to reach, a rope access team has the job safely done in a couple of hours (including paperwork).

Of note is the ability to use rope access for internal vessel and tank inspections.  We have the potential to reach ‘inaccessible’ spots, without using scaffolding. Floating roofs also often will not support scaffolding and rope access provides the only tool allowing an inspector to accurately inspect a tank or vessel.

By eliminating the need to erect scaffold, we minimize the chance of a scaffolder falling from height whilst working in fall arrest, statistically one of the riskier work at height tasks. Our rope access systems should be viewed like suspending a load (in this case, a tradesman) rather than be seen as fall arrest.  Rope access comes with its own rescue plan, rescue team and fast emergency response times built into the package.  The safety record for rope access also speaks for itself.

Cost savings are on a sliding scale. At approximately 30 ft you would possibly see a  20-30% savings and this savings keeps increasing with height.  The real savings can be less quantifiable, hidden in the lost ‘potential operational’ time.  This time is given back to you by the quick deployment and completion of a rope access project vs. waiting for the scaffold to be erected and dismantled.

**About Jason Porter: Porter has spent over a decade as a IRATA level 3 rope access technician. With experience working with some of the largest rope access companies in the world, he is an accomplished professional with  a distinguished career in the Oil & Gas industry, and on construction projects of all sizes. If you are interested in expert consultation for your project, contact us at