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Rope Access Vs Scaffolding

I read this story today.  Have a read. well written by Emma Halsey.  Posted on:

Rope Access Vs Scaffolding

When access is required from height, there are usually two main options; scaffolding or industrial roped access,  along  with other types of access such as cherry pickers, alloy towers, MEWPS etc. It is a well established fact however, that rope access is not only faster and more cost efficient, but overall it is actually safer. Of course Scaffolding will, always have a major place in the construction industry – and in the grand scheme of things some jobs will always be better suited to this well-respected method access. The purpose of this article however is to highlight the clear advantages and benefits of using Industrial Roped Access as a means of access compared with scaffolding.

Industrial Rope Access
Industrial Rope Access


IRATA/SPRAT statistics show that rope access is an extremely safe form of access, showing that in 2011 there was only 1 fatality in 5 million hours of work- the first fatality in over a decade. The HSE’s Hierarchy of Control Measures ranks industrial rope access at the bottom of the hierarchy, suggesting all other types of access are safer and should be used prior to considering rope access. This is based upon no logic or statistical evidence.
The hierarchy was created as a result of the Working at Height Regulations 2005, it is designed to assist Duty holders when making decisions about how work at height should be carried out.
It is difficult to directly compare the accident rates of rope access operatives with scaffolding operatives, as they are presented in different ways. Scaffolding statistics also only account for installation of the access whereas rope access IRATA/SPRAT statistics account for access and the works. The HSE provide no specific data which compares the two, so to suggest that rope access is the more dangerous method of access seems a little unwarranted.


Rope access, is without a doubt a faster means of access than scaffolding. It could take a team days to erect scaffolding to do necessary work – whilst on the other hand rope access techniques take a number of minutes to set up.


It should also be remembered that time = money in regards to scaffolding.  The cost of supplying the scaffolding and paying the operatives to do the necessary work once it has been erected would outweigh the cost of a rope access engineer.

Industrial Rope Access
Industrial Rope Access


Rope access operatives cause less disruption to building facades and less disruption to the clients business whilst work takes place. Rope Access operatives conduct the work necessary from ‘top to bottom’ by using existing anchors, installing anchor points or Abrail safe access rail systems on the building roof. Whilst scaffolding operatives conduct the work starting from the bottom working up to the top; which can make access to the building difficult for people on the ground level, which may affect the clients business.


Rope Access is flexible in the way that methods can be utilised in the hard to reach places. Unlike scaffolding, no large open area beneath the work site is required.  For example see the Co-op Headquarters project – where rope access operatives installed obscurely positioned glass panels on the domed roof, this would have been extremelly complex if scaffolding was used instead.


Industrial Rope Access creates minimal architectural impact and very little in terms of ongoing maintenance cost, with ease of fast return visits, much different to the burden of scaffolding.
Alternative Access Logistics  provides Industrial Rope Access Operatives for a variety of operations. As highlighted above, the use of rope access techniques can be the most practical way to achieve tasks that would otherwise involve significant expense and time or be otherwise unachievable.


When the cost of providing access for a safe place of work vastly outweighs the cost of the work to be done – surely it is time to consider an alternative form access?