Ultimate Guide to Rope Access Techniques: Safety Tips & Best Practices

Rope Access Techniques - technician abseiling

Rope Access Techniques, Tips & Tricks – Rope access is a system used to reach those spots that ladders simply cannot manage and covers a range of rope access equipment including the actual ropes, lanyards and harnesses.  Techniques for the safe use and maintenance of this equipment is very important for anyone regularly using them.

What is Rope Access, and what is it used for?

Safety rope and rope access techniques are used for a wide range of situations. For example, if you need to conduct a structural survey or inspect masts, towers, and pylons, the right rope access system is the easiest and safest way to do this. It can also allow access to satellite and radar tracking installations and, heading in the other direction, shafts.

Jet spraying, grit blasting, spray painting, and full surface preparation are all examples of jobs that might require a rope access system to complete.  Any high-rise buildings that require window cleaning, service and maintenance and even pest control would require a system of this nature to allow access – no ladder is big enough or safe enough.

Static vs dynamic rope – which to use?

There are two main categories of ropes that are used in rope access jobs – static rope and dynamic rope.  So how do you know which type you need for the job at hand?

Static ropes are designed not to stretch when it is under a load and are used for abseiling, rappelling, caving and in fire rescue operations, where fireproof abseil rope is used.  This type of top offers a bounce-free descent.  Examples include the reflective LSK line that includes a reflective strip to allow the rope to easily be seen even in low light conditions.

Dynamic ropes are more elastic and are used for rock and ice climbing and mountaineering.  They can absorb energy from sudden loads quicker than a static line can manage and means there is less chance of a catastrophic failure.

Rope lifespan

When you work as a rope access technician, one of the first areas you learn about is that all rope has a lifespan.  But how long does a dynamic rope last?  And is it different for static rope?

The general answer to this question depends on how much you use it.  For example, if you use the rope intensively, then it may last anywhere from three months to a year, depending on the type of rope.  A rope used on a weekly basis will have a lifespan of two or three years and occasional use can easily see it last five years. Ropes from our floating rope range may be exposed to more salt and UV than in other uses.

Rope maintenance

The other area to be aware of is the potential problems with ropes.  Common problems can include tensional, bending and compressional fatigue as well as exposure to UV rays from the sun or from water.  UV rays, for example, break down the bonds and weakens the rope, causing fibres to shrink and lose as much as 15% of their strength.

You should also know how to clean static rope and dynamic rope, as well as where to store them.  For example, all rope should be stored in a dry place and in sealed containers, away from direct sunlight and chemicals.   Simple cleaning techniques involve using a bucket or even a bathtub and warm water with mild soap but no detergent.  Hang the rope to dry but ensure it is away from direct sunlight.

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