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Rope Access Work Advice

In the “rope access industry,” we often get the same questions from newcomers, such as “How can I get into this exciting industry?” or “Where do I get training, and what kind of training do I need?”.

A long time ago, I asked a good friend of mine to help someone new to our industry, and he pointed out the following:

  1. You have to be able to move around the country or go offshore at short notice.
  2. You have to be able to deal with work instability at the start until you are established on the rope access scene.
  3. The work you are doing is contract work, fairly physical, and can, at times, be boring. Additionally, some clients can be difficult to work with.
  4. The more qualifications you get, the more work opportunities become available. Also, think about rigging, offshore survival, medicals, first aid, and various NDT qualifications. It is expensive, but it is important to get as many qualifications as possible. Some companies will (partly) cover the costs of the qualifications needed for the job and your training time.
  5. If you jump between companies a lot, you get a reputation for being unreliable and only looking for the highest wages. You also get into the “hire and fire” system, which is not good long-term.
  6. A two-year contract may turn into a two-month contract if the client cuts the budget, so you can never entirely rely on long-term stability. That said, some companies have contracts that last a considerable amount of time in oil refineries and on offshore platforms.
  7. The best way to start rope access work is to base yourself in a hub like Houston, Aberdeen, Rotterdam, Berlin, Edmonton, etc. A hub is generally easy to travel to and from, and there is a reasonable amount of local work, both onshore and in the petrochemical industry. Once you have obtained your L3 (which takes about three years) and acquired additional relevant qualifications, staying in more remote places to suit your lifestyle becomes possible. Companies are usually willing to pay for travel and local costs if you are experienced, can run teams and can rig well. There are also opportunities for project managers who need formal degrees, especially if you are good at organizing teams and jobs.
  8. Getting any decent rope access work as a shift worker in the local area will be difficult, so it would take a long time to gain the experience necessary to move up the ladder.
  9. We know many training companies, and often, they are very good. Some rope access companies tend to be quite conservative about employees and training (we generally tend to train our own). As long as the training companies train technicians the same way as your target employer, I don’t see any problems with compatibility. If the training method is incompatible, it can take some time on the ropes to become familiar with the system used.

Hope this clarifies some questions for those new to ‘our’ industry.

Also go to SPRAT (society for professional rope access technicians) or to IRATA (industrial rope access trade association) for more information.

An article by Igor Stomp, based on input from Gordon Bisset.