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Rope Access Operator

What does a Rope Access Operator do?

A rope access operator works in hard-to-reach areas without the benefit of a scaffold or a work platform. The key word for these highly-trained specialists is safety. Rope access basically involves wearing a harness and using techniques developed from rock climbing and caving to get somewhere high up and do a job. The three main types of work are: structures, such as buildings and bridges; geotechnical, such as cliffs and steep slopes; offshore, such as oil/gas infrastructure. Rope access operators often develop areas of expertise and will work almost exclusively in that area.

The types of tasks that rope access operators perform can include: painting and cleaning tall buildings; maintaining and repairing structures and performing inspections; working on wind turbines; cleaning windows and performing routine maintenance; repairing aircraft warning lights; installing and maintaining banners or signs; installing or repairing meshing designed to prevent rocks from falling.


What qualifications do I need?

There are several training options for someone who would like to become a rope access operator. There are three different levels of training. The first level is usually a 40-hour course that is completed over five days. After this first level has been completed, the student is certified as a rope access operator. The second level of training also consists of a 40-hour course, but the student also needs 500 hours of training experience before they are eligible to enroll in the second level. The third and final level of training requires that the operator have 1 000-2 000 hours of training experience. After passing the third level, the person is qualified to supervise other rope access operators. Make sure that the training institution is accredited.

What subjects do I need?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• None


Where can I study?

Heightsafety Training Academy

Tel: 0861 127 749
1030 Sixteenth Str, Unit A6, Tillbury Business Park, Midrand

Height Wise Training Academy
Rope Access Levels 1 to 3

Rope Access Inspection
International IRATA Rope Access Course Levels 1 to 3

RAFAA Level 1 to 3

Where can I get more info?

SA Rope Access – www.saropeaccess.co.za
South African Industrial Rope Access Association – www.engineeringnews.co.za


Interview with a Rope Access Operator

Anastasia Mtumtum | ROPE ACCESS OPERATOR | Skysite

Anastasia Mtumtum | ROPE ACCESS OPERATOR | Skysite


Why did you choose this job?
I was looking for a job for a long time and a friend who was a rope access operator suggested I try it.

What training did you undergo?
I undertook a five-day training course, which involved practical work and theory. I passed the verbal exam and qualified as a Level One: Rope Access Operator.

Is there a type of personality best suited to this work?
You must be fit and brave and have a head for heights. You must be very trusting, as you need to trust your supervisor to rig the ropes properly. Ladies can do this job, but it is hard work.

What do you like the most about your job?
I like to be up high, looking down on the city. It makes me feel proud. This job can offer me a future.

Care to share your future goals?
I need to complete 500 hours of rope work and then I can do my Level Two training. One day I want to buy a house and a car.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Many people don’t have jobs, especially women, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t jobs you can do. Women can do men’s jobs; you just have to give it a go and try your hand at everything.

Describe your job in three words
Exciting • Demanding • Secure

Johan du Toit | CEO | Heightsafety Holdings

Johan du Toit | CEO | Heightsafety Holdings

Why did you choose this profession?
I love the outdoor adrenaline rush and the thrill of working at a height, and I love working with my hands. This profession offers both, which is what attracted me. But it also comes with technical aspects which require unique rope manoeuvres and techniques. Every day as a rope access technician is different. It has its unique challenges – sometimes working on several worksites and work tasks at the same time. There are different levels of complexity for each working-at-heights scenario, including high-rise buildings, offshore platforms, silos, and mining and construction sites. This adds to the exciting perception of the industry.

What training did you undergo?
In order to become a Rope Access Level 1 practitioner, you need to start with basic training such as Fall Arrest Technician Level 1 training, and as an entry requirement you need a valid medical certificate. It is beneficial to complete a permanent Fall Arrest systems certification course, allowing you to install and inspect these systems. Once you have 1 000 hours logged as a certified rope access practitioner, you can enrol for Rope Access Level 2. Other complementary training includes manual handling, radio frequency and technical rigging specification. After another 1 500 hours logged as a Rope Access Level 2 practitioner, and with a valid First Aid Level 1 certificate, you will be able to enrol for the highest Rope Access course: Level 3. With this level of certification, you will be able to improve your employment opportunities in a number of occupations: paramedics, plumbing, electrical work, welding.

Is there a type of personality best suited to this work?
Whether you are an independent person seeking self-employment or you prefer to work for someone else, this job can work for you. It offers you the flexibility to freelance, so you can enjoy the benefits of being self-employed. This is for you if you have absolutely no fear for heights and love an outdoor adventure. This is for the individual who takes pride in the quality of their handiwork. There are no shortcuts in this profession.

Is experience as important as formal training?
Due to the variety of work sites and changes in the day-to-day operations, onsite experience is just as important as formal training. These skills cannot be learnt from a book or just any training. Training is a fundamental component which assists with the basic skills required – but will not ensure employment or career development.

Describe a typical day on the job
There are various ‘typical days’ as a rope access technician, depending on the industry. Working on high-rise buildings doing window replacement can involve early mornings, working in below zero temperatures in winter, hauling large windows and after-hours shifts. Working on offshore oil rigs is ideal for a young person wanting to take a ‘gap year’ away from home. Again, early mornings you head out on a ferry or in a helicopter. High-level daily safety briefings, toolbox talks to address all SHEQ-related enquiries and sorting and inspecting of equipment is required. You work as a team in confined spaces, but you get regular comfort breaks for meals and down time. With antenna rigging, most lattice sites are based in rural areas, so you get to camp out and enjoy the mountain views while working. You’re constantly lifting and lowering lattice tower parts, which fit together like a Macrame set, so team communication is crucial. You also get to work with the latest high-tech tools on the market.

What do you like the most about your job?
The fact that there are a variety of working options, but I find rope access a much quicker, more available, cost-effective and flexible option to follow. It’s important to go where your passion lies.

Which aspects are you least enthusiastic about?
At the work site, there are times when the conditions are unsafe, which can be mitigated, but sometimes only to a certain extent.

What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
As the owner of a well-established rope access company, I was awarded a contract to assist with three soccer stadiums in preparation for the Soccer World Cup hosted in SA in 2010: Soccer City Stadium, Green Point Stadium and Moses Mabida Stadium.

What are your goals for the future?
To be the market leader in rope access by gearing up for the green energy market. The wind energy sector is our future and we need to be ready for this evolving market. We are eager to equip ourselves in order to be compliant with the Global Wind Organisation (GWO) standards. The GWO is an association of wind turbine owners and manufacturers who aim to support an injury-free work environment in the wind industry.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your career?
Always take pride in your work; your name is on the work you deliver. Never take shortcuts!

Describe your job in three words
Adventurous; Thrill; Technical