Rope Access is a working at height method where ropes and associated equipment are utilised to access and undertake work at height. In contrast to climbing and abseiling, rope access uses two ropes (a working line and a back-up line). This gives the rope access system redundancy, reducing the risk to the rope access technician should his or her working line fail. Rope access codes of practise were developed from climbing and caving techniques, and were further refined to meet industry standards.
The use of ropes dates back to prehistoric times, with the first likely to have been naturally occurring lengths of plant fibre such as vines. The earliest rope known to man was discovered on a Neanderthal site, and is estimated to be 40,000 years old.
The Egyptians are thought to be the first civilisation to invent specialist tools to make rope, the use of rope enabling them to haul the large stones that made-up the Pyramids. So far we’ve been talking about rope, not rope access!
Individuals have used ropes to access difficult areas for many years, from cathedral masons in the Middle Ages, to the isolated St Kilda islanders who abseiled down cliffs to catch seabirds. But formalised rope access as we know it today began in the 1980’s, with the formation of the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association.