Equipment is integral to rope access. Technicians must have a comprehensive understanding of the apparatus, its technical applications and corresponding safety awareness. Furthermore, all equipment must be regularly inspected and maintained. Afterall, a rope access technician is reliant on equipment, both in order to do the job effectively and more importantly to remain safe whilst doing so.

Primary equipment refers to the apparatus necessary to carry out a safe ascent and descent. Secondary equipment refers to the tools attached to the technician’s harness, such as cleaning apparatus, sealants, drills, etc. These must be attached to the harness via lanyards to avoid danger to anyone below, in the event that a worker drops one of their tools.

In this post we explain the various pieces of primary equipment involved in rope access and what their various functions are.


An ascender does what is says on the tin: it allows the technician to ascend the ropes. Working in much the same way as a friction hitch, which slides along the rope whilst unloaded but locks into place when weight is applied. Ascenders are mechanical devices and are much easier to use than a friction hitch, as well as being considerably safer.


You guessed it! Descenders are used for lowering workers or loads, allowing them to do so at a controlled rate. As with ascenders, they work by leveraging the concept of friction. A descender should also have a self-braking mechanism, which will engage in the event that the operator lets go of the device.

Lanyards / Energy Absorbers

Lanyards and energy absorbers are used in conjunction to link a harness to an anchor. It is the most widespread type of fall arrest system used in the industry and is designed to reduce the force on the body in the event of a fall.


There are various different types of harnesses available, with the most common being a full-body harness or sit harness. The full-body harness provides a wide range of attachment points and is therefore more commonly used in industrial or rescue applications.


An essential safety element to rope access, helmets protect workers against falling debris or other bumps to the head. Although mandatory on all construction sites as standard, it is especially important when working at height; if the worker were to be knocked unconscious, they risk suffering from orthostatic hypotension resulting from a restriction of blood flow caused by the harness.


Rope access wouldn’t really be rope access without… ropes. Those used in rope access are designed to be exceedingly strong, whilst also flexible and lightweight. All ropes used must meet the required safety standards set by IRATA.


This is by no means a comprehensive list of all necessary equipment. There’s connectors, footloops, mobile fall arrest devices, pulleys and more. Stay tuned for part two where we will cover the remaining apparatus.

If you would like to shop rope access equipment than visit the Martin Castle shop on our website. Our friendly team are always on hand to answer any questions you may have.