Where working at height is involved, from tall buildings in need of maintenance to the construction of a grandstand and everything in between, there are usually two options: rope access or scaffolding. It’s no secret that rope access is a more cost effective and overall more efficient method of working at height, but there is still a place for scaffolding within the construction industry.

Determining which is the best option for your project will depend upon an array of different factors, from speed and safety to cost and convenience. In this post we will consider under which circumstances you may opt for one over the other and why rope access is generally the preferred option. Of course we are going to be a little biased towards rope access but where safety is of paramount importance, we only provide honest and accurate advice.


Scaffolding is a time-intensive process that requires significant construction time. There is no doubt that rope access is a considerably faster process, with the ability to complete rigging for rope access in a matter of minutes for smaller projects, or a few hours for larger projects. This is in contrast to the days it can take for the appropriate scaffolding to be constructed. In situations where time is of the essence, rope access is the preferred option.


Inevitably, the longer it takes to construct or set up, the more expensive it will be. That is why rope access is a significantly cheaper option than scaffolding. Not only is it a much faster process, there is also less equipment involved and less manpower required. Furthermore, as rope access is not as intrusive or disruptive as scaffolding can be, there are further cost savings to be made.


Although it may seem as though dangling from a rope is significantly more dangerous than standing on a more solid plank of wood, rope access actually has a better safety record than scaffolding. In fact, rope access is renowned for its exceptional safety standards and this is partially due to the rigorous training that must be undertaken prior to completion of a project by any worker.

With international bodies, such as IRATA, providing stringent regulations and updates to the rope access industry, you can be sure that rope access will continue to remain an exceedingly safe option. Statistically the safest option for working at height, it is no wonder rope access has grown to be such a popular method on construction sites.

Nevertheless, there are times when scaffolding may be the better option. For example, if a building needs to undergo a demolition that is within a city or next to a main road, scaffolding can be erected around three sides of a building. This allows the excavator to pull down the building, using scaffolding as a barrier to protect the surrounding area.


One of the big disadvantages of scaffolding is its disruptive nature and the inconvenience it can cause to a project. Firstly, scaffolding projects usually require permits, which can cause further aggravation and time delays. In addition, there is always the risk of minor damage to the facade of buildings or structures due to scaffold tie in points. With rope access, you can virtually mitigate the risk of any external damage.

Rope access is ideal for reaching particularly difficult areas, such as confined spaces. There is not the same level of flexibility with scaffolding. This ability to get closer to the building can carry its own set of advantages; for example, during a building survey or inspection, it would be easier to pick up any issues early in the process. Furthermore, as there is no ground space needed for rope access, it is therefore ideal for offshore structures.


There are clearly many benefits to utilising rope access over scaffolding, which is testament to the growing popularity of the working at heights method. For many years, scaffolding was the only option and there is a sense of familiarity associated with it as a result. Nevertheless, rope access offers clear advantages and we would always recommend its use where projects permit.

For more information on rope access, get in touch with the MCLHeight Safety team and we would be delighted to help.