Rope access technicians, to put it simply, do their work on ropes. There are a variety of jobs that rope access technicians can perform, but two things all of the jobs have in common is that they are generally performed high in the air and are often difficult to access any other way. The key word for rope access technicians is safety, because these jobs can be very dangerous. This would not be a good job for someone who is afraid of heights.
Many rope access technicians work in either the construction industry or the offshore oil industry, although there are other areas in which they can specialize. The different types of work that rope access technicians perform can include painting and cleaning very tall buildings, maintaining and repairing structures and performing inspections. As alternative energy options have been explored, wind turbines have become another area where an increased number of rope access technicians will be needed. Often, as rope access technicians gain experience, they develop areas of expertise and will work almost exclusively in that area.
The technique of using ropes to access difficult places derived from caving and climbing techniques. In general, a rope access technician uses two ropes — one working and one backup rope for safety purposes. The tools used are attached to the rope access technician at all times, also for safety. The equipment is often customized depending on the type of work being performed.
There are several training options for someone who would like to become a rope access technician. There are three different levels of training. The first level is usually a 40-hour course that is completed over five days. After this first level has been completed, the student is certified as a rope access technician and can work at any number of rope access jobs.
The second level of training also consists of a 40-hour course, but the student also needs 500 hours of training experience before he or she is eligible to enroll in the second level. The third and final level of training requires that the technician have 1,000-2,000 hours of training experience. After someone passes the third level, he or she is qualified to supervise other rope access technicians.
There are two major associations for rope access technicians, and both offer training and certification programs. The first is the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT), which mostly focuses on North America. Individuals or companies can become a member of this organization. The second is the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA), which is a global organization. IRATA is geared more toward companies but also sets standards and safety procedures for those in the field.