Very often, just a glance is enough to recognise where cleaning is needed. However, what is just a small job for smaller window facades represents a challenge on a quite different scale for enormous building facades. In addition, because of differing weathering conditions as the seasons change, some materials suffer not only visually but also require regular technical care and servicing.
Because of very differing facade types, a safety system is required with which the user can reach otherwise inaccessible locations for cleaning and servicing tasks. This is particularly where the illusion of safety occurs more quickly than most people would like. Thanks to its great flexibility and high safety standards, one process which currently enjoys favour is rope access technology. In this article, we explain to you the concept and its benefits.
Definition of rope access technology
Rope access technology is an access process for activities such as installation, cleaning, and servicing tasks at locations which are difficult to access, such as building facades. In colloquial terms, rope access technology is also known as industrial climbing. But don't confuse this with the sport of climbing, to which it is only very remotely related.
Rope access technology is also known as the process of rope-supported access and positioning. The following definition is to be found in the glossary at sachkunde24.de: “processes used by professional climbers, recognised under occupational safety law, in which the user moves in a planned manner on ropes horizontally, diagonally, or vertically to his working position, and/or in which he positions himself there”.
Under the term industrial climbing, the process has been in use for many years. However, what is new is the official description of rope access technology in TRBS 2121 Part 3 as authorised working equipment.
Section 1 TRBS 2121 Part 3
Technical regulations for industrial safety (TRBS) Endangerment of workers caused by falling during the use of access and positioning processes with the aid of ropes (TRBS 2121 Part 3).
German federal law
This technical regulation applies to the determination of measures to protect workers from endangerment from falling during the use of access and positioning processes with the aid of ropes. [...]
Servicing and cleaning tasks on facades:
- Tasks in building construction and civil engineering
- Boiler or silo inspections
- Erection and dismantling tasks for event technology
- Inspection and servicing of wind turbines
- Torque testing on lattice masts
- Installation of collective fall protection measures
- Event rigging
- Slope and cliff stabilisation
- Tree pruning
This includes the mutual rescue of the workers.
Rope access technology vs. fall protection
A fall prevention system differs from rope access technology in the way that the system is used. The first is a type of fall arrest system which reliably traps the user in the event of a fall and which, correspondingly, is not permanently under load.
In contrast, with rope access technology, the user is permanently suspended in the system, which is therefore under load without interruption. Using this technology, industrial climbers can position themselves flexibly at different points on the facade, and so even sections which are difficult to reach become accessible. Whether anchor points such as EAP-ABP-10-30-A4 are used for this, or a rail system like TAURUS is used, depends on various factors:
- Situation-related circumstances
- Time requirement
- Facade type
Advantages of rope access technology
Depending on the type, different fall protection systems provide a range of benefits. And so rope access technology has a number of advantages:
- Optimum accessibility
for slender buildings, rope access technology provides the best possible accessibility to the various points on a facade. First class cleaning, care, and servicing of the facade surfaces are thus ensured.
- Low-cost alternative
access technology represents an affordable option, compared with technical measures such as lifting platforms, a crane, or scaffolding, especially when this technology is already factored in and planned for during the early project phases of building construction. This means that the user is quickly ready for action and rapidly reaches all points that he needs to. The result is reduced working times and less use of technology. In comparison: Use of a crane does not necessarily make every part of the facade accessible. Lifting platforms are able to reach only certain heights.
- Retention of visual appearance
access technology can be optimally integrated into the building’s aesthetics. For example, the narrow track cross-section, the ability to bend the rail, and surface anodisation of the TAURUS rail system ensure that the beauty of the facade surface becomes one with the system. In other words, the system hugs the existing building/facade structure. In addition, rope access technology using anchor points can be perfectly adapted to the facade from the very outset, in order to be as visually unobtrusive as possible.
- A safe process
the relevant standards are complied with, rope access technology is an extremely safe process. To practise rope access and positioning technology on facades, appropriate training (e.g. FISAT, IRATA) as a certified worker at height must be given. It also creates the basis for working with rope access technology, followed by annual additional training or repeat instruction. A further standard safety requirement which goes hand in hand with rope access technology on facades is a holistic rescue concept.
- Flexible and short-term operational capability
With rope access technology, cleaning, servicing, and care of a facade can be planned on a short-term basis. This is because the system, factored in during the planning process and permanently installed during the construction phase, makes the user flexible in terms of time, and independent of equipment like lifting platforms or cranes.
- Maximum quality
is essential to include rope access technology in the planning process from the very start. Through our planning service, a high-quality solution is developed tailored to the individual requirements. Every one of our fall protection and rope access technology systems impresses through high-class materials and optimum quality.
Summary: Rope access technology on facades
Cleaning, care, and servicing of facades must be protected, because the illusion of safety has fatal consequences for all involved. When rope access technology is used, safety and aesthetics can be combined optimally. Users benefit from maximum flexibility and are able to avoid the use of large-scale equipment.
Consult our free Checklist for other useful information about rope access technology used on facades and buildings.