Engineer's Corner: The Advantages of Industrial Rope Access (IRA)



By Reba Ashby, CANY

Industrial Rope Access (IRA) is a type of advanced access where technicians use ropes to descend or ascend a building or structure. Two ropes – the main line and a safety line – are used for fall protection and positioning, and serve as the primary means of support. Initially created to meet maintenance needs for the offshore industry, rope access has expanded over the last three decades to include other industries that work at heights or in difficult-to-access areas, including the building maintenance and construction industry.

The use of rope access in the building maintenance industry has increased significantly as an alternative means of access to the traditional swing stage or pipe scaffolding commonly used in construction. Additionally, as many cities with façade ordinances now require close-up, hands-on inspections, including NYC’s Façade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP), it’s no wonder that more owners, architects and engineers are opting for this unique form of access to help identify problems within an arm’s length of the work. Let’s review some of the many benefits of using rope access.

  • Quick and Efficient – The rigging and positioning of ropes can be installed and dismantled quickly compared to the mobilization of traditional scaffolding - the less equipment required, the fewer personnel needed. In most cases, the thorough inspection of a building by skilled technicians can be completed in one day, allowing them to quickly identify problematic conditions and make timely repair recommendations.

  • Cost Effective – Fewer personnel required means minimal downtime, faster completion and fewer man-hours. This all translates to increased production and subsequently, increased profit for clients.


The use of rope access in the building maintenance industry has increased significantly as an alternative means of access to the traditional swing stage or pipe scaffolding commonly used in construction

  • Unobtrusive and Environmentally Friendly – Ropes eliminate the need for heavy equipment, which in turn limits disruption to the building’s staff and tenants. The rigging and use of rope equipment does not require gas or electricity to access difficult spaces, and leaves a minimal effect on the building and the surrounding environment.

  • Safe – The Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT), the governing body for rope access in the United States, has three levels of certification for technicians. At a minimum, Level 1 technicians are required to complete 40-hours of hands-on training and pass a written exam and field evaluation to become certified in order to perform work. Even then, they can only do so under the supervision of more advanced Level 2 and Level 3 technicians. These stringent training and certification requirements help to significantly reduce safety incidents. In fact, rope access has the lowest incident and injury rate across the entire construction industry.

When it comes to working at heights or in difficult-to-access areas, IRA has provided an effective solution to the limitations of traditional access, and remains the safest and most efficient method in use today.

Photos: CANY


The views and/or opinions contained within are those of the drafter and may not reflect the views and/or opinions of Skyline Restoration Inc.

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