Teetering on the edge of a tall building, dangling from a rope high up in a city centre or perched on the edge of a cliff. Do these sound like the situations you would like to find yourself in? If so, then a career in rope access could be for you! Sure, it’s not your average office environment but that’s a huge part of the appeal for many people.
In the earlier days it was common for rope access technicians to come from a rock climbing, abseiling or even military background. Indeed our very own Martin Castle used to be a rock climber. Nowadays, with the various training options available, rope access is open to anyone with a basic level of fitness and willingness to commit.
Unless you are a trainer, rope access is not necessarily a job in itself; rather it is an extension of other professions, such as engineer, electrician and many others. Obtaining rope access qualifications can place you in a much better position of gaining employment. For a full list of the professions in which rope access is used, have a read of this article on the IRATA website.
Pros and cons
As with any job there are pros and cons, good days and bad days; some jobs may be full of excitement and exhilaration, others closer to the ground and more monotonous. Working hours can be long so you need stamina and the ability to handle lengthy shifts with ease. It is also important to remember that work conditions can be difficult – or exhilarating – it really depends on your outlook!
Locations are often remote or off the beaten track – quite literally where offshore work is involved. This can mean extensive travel, as well as lengthy periods of time away from home. For some the travel aspect is a major advantage but for others it can be a pain. It is also worth bearing in mind that not all locations will be glamorous. You could be on top of the O2 arena in London one day and scaling an old office block on an industrial estate the next.
Rates and salaries vary hugely and is entirely dependent on the industry, level of expertise and the job itself. It can be difficult starting out as a level 1 technician when not many hours have been logged. However, once you start hiking up the hours, your employability will increase significantly. Women are currently underrepresented in the industry but there is no reason why this should stop any prospective female technicians from pursuing a career.
Qualification involves embarking on training courses via IRATA, the governing body of the rope access industry. There are three IRATA levels of certification, as follows:
- Level 1 is the entry level course, covering a range of rope access manoeuvres, inspection of personal equipment and details of current legislation.
- Level 2 builds on level 1 knowledge and practices, including rigging working ropes, undertaking rescues under supervision of an IRATA Level 3 technician and safety requirements.
- Level 3 covers site supervision and a more comprehensive knowledge of advanced rescue techniques and best practices; should also have emergency first aid training certificate.
Course costs usually range from £700-800. Between each level, candidates need to build up 1,000 hours and at least one year of working on ropes. For this reason, a career in rope access is not a short-term prospect as it takes time and dedication to become fully qualified.
Of course we’re biased towards advocating a career in rope access here at Martin Castle Ltd, but it certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s a truly unique job that offers excitement and variety. However, it is also important to consider both the pros and cons of a career in rope access and whether it is suited to your personality and long-term goals.