Austria’s capital is not the only place where towering glass palaces have been mushrooming for many years. Internationally too, a constant stream of new buildings dazzles us with fantastic designs and facades. However, in order for these to retain their beauty, they need to be cleaned, cared for, and maintained regularly. These tasks are usually performed by trained industrial climbers using professional rope access technology to work on facades. Architects increasingly decide to install rope access technology. The best way to integrate the rope access technology seamlessly into the building structures is to factor it in at the planning stage. The challenges arising during planning and implementation and the mistakes to avoid are summarised below.
Which challenges arise during the planning and implementation of rope access technology?
The implementation of rope access technology faces a number of challenges which can, however, be avoided by planning in good time and comprehensively:
The safety system for rope access technology must be mounted on the facade or structure in such a way that it remains accessible. For example, this accessibility is required after a fall, so that the affected components can be replaced. It is also necessary to take environmental effects into account during planning. It goes without saying that our safety systems have outstanding resistance to external influences such as a weathering. However, there are particular situations which should not be overlooked during planning, such as the occurrence of freezing water.
- Replacement repairs:
The design must be planned from the outset in such a way that individual elements of the safety system can be replaced rapidly and simply, e.g. after a fall. It is important to provide the necessary accessibility in advance so that this replacement can be performed.
The installation circumstances of the safety systems should also be considered early in the planning process for the building, in order to avoid as far as possible additional expense or the need for facade substructures.
- System integration:
When planning the workforce routes for rope access technology, the focus is on minimising points that require disconnection and re-connection, as these represent an error source. The fewer the discontinuances in facades, the smaller the number of potential error sources caused by detaching (e.g. for a rope change).
The principal challenge during the planning and implementation of rope access technology on facades lies in ensuring - from the very beginning - the highest possible level of usability in all existing and future requirement scenarios. Visual appearance is of major importance, especially if the technology is used on modern building facades. Usually, excellent solutions are available for this, such as surface anodisation to create visual enhancement.
Which errors is it essential to avoid?
In addition to the error of planning and implementing the fall protection system only after the construction of the building, we seriously urge that you avoid the following 3 mistakes:
- Error: fasteners are applied in inaccessible locations
If the attachment points of the rope access technology were fixed in such a way that they are subsequently inaccessible, then this has significant disadvantages for later repair and maintenance tasks (e.g. replacement of safety system components after a fall).
- Error: insufficient documentation
Every single installation step must be documented very precisely, because a general obligation to document exists for safety systems which protect against falls. If the documentation is incomplete, then re-documentation must be performed if this is technically possible. However, if this cannot be achieved, then the respective safety system must be replaced and re-documented. You will find more about this in DGUV Information 201-56“Planning principles for anchor device on roofs”[in German]. INNO|doc simplifies the installation documentation immensely, for example because it lists all documented projects in a single tool.
- Error: Misuse of systems
A safety system must be used for its intended scope of purpose; misuse must not occur. For example, material transport by means of a safety system is forbidden.
Especially when it comes to planning the rope access technology, it pays to consult directly with a partner who has the necessary experience. This approach is vital for two reasons: to avoid aesthetic and technical shortcomings on facades of imposing buildings, and also to ensure the safety of those who will use the system later.
Who is allowed to use rope access technology on facades?
Once implemented, rope access technology may be used only by certified and competent persons. These users must meet the following requirements:
- Medical fitness verified by an occupational medical exam as per guideline G41
- First-aid class lasting at least 1 day arranged by the employer
- Minimum age of 18 years
- Regular training sessions:specialist training classes provided by the manufacturer and PPE for fall protection training such as DGUV G 312-906 (competence training for testing the material), DGUV R 112-198 (anti-fall PPE user training) and DGUV R 112-199 (rescue training)
Did you know?
The FISAT levels indicate the permitted direction of movement for industrial climbers who are secured by rope access technology:
- Level 1: vertical
Also represents the prerequisite for the use of rope access technology. The course teaches the basic knowledge for working in a vertical system. Rope change is also discussed here.
- Level 2: vertical & horizontal
This course builds on the learnings from level 1. In addition to vertical rope access technology, rescue concepts are examined in detail.
- Level 3: horizontal, vertical, & diagonal
As well as spanning ropes horizontally and diagonally, rescue techniques from diagonal, vertical, and horizontal rope systems are also dealt with. In addition, trainees learn how to plan building sites and how to perform a corresponding risk assessment.
Summary: Planning and implementation of rope access technology on facades
Professional and comprehensive planning of rope access technology is an essential requirement for subsequent saving of time and money. It also ensures maximum safety, as it minimises the risk to the user. Expert support is provided by your partner for fall protection systems, by specialised planning offices, and by experts in rope access technology, rescue concepts, and user instruction material.
Consult our free Checklist for other useful information on rope access technology used on facades and buildings.