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HOW SAFE IS AN IRATA TRAINED TEAM?

The Blue Sky Rope Access team are IRATA trained and accredited.

IRATA training is structured and thorough. It has to be when its members are working at the top of tall structures worldwide. This article reviews the training and the IRATA emphasis on safety.

Although IRATA is an international organisation, it is based in the UK and it works closely with the UK health and safety executive. When IRATA was set up, there were no HSE guidelines specific to the “working at height” industry and IRATA has assisted the HSE in drawing up appropriate safety guidelines.

IRATA undertake an annual review of all incidents involving its members and the results are published on its website, www.irata.org. This review, together with information gleaned from other sources, is used to formulate additional guidance for IRATA members. The review is also taken into consideration when IRATA training courses are reviewed. As a result of the review, at the beginning of 2010, IRATA launched a new international code of practice. This code covers the full rope access process including planning & management, selection & training of technicians, supervision, equipment selection & maintenance, work methods and safety& operational assessments.

All IRATA members have to work within a strict set of guidelines on quality, safety, training and working practices. An ethical standard is also included within the guidelines which include a code of conduct when dealing with clients. IRATA members are audited by an independent third party to ensure that they comply and all IRATA members have to undergo refresher training at least every three years. Organisations employing IRATA companies can therefore be sure that they will receive a professional service from highly trained operatives.

The basis of the IRATA working practice is a two rope system which means that the technician is always working with a back up rope. Each rope is separately anchored and all tools are either attached to the technician or separately tethered. This not only provides security but also enables the worker to be able to reach otherwise inaccessible areas of tall structures. This two rope system has proved so successful that architects are now designing buildings which can only be maintained using IRATA techniques.

Whilst IRATA practices originated from techniques used in caving, the field has now expanded to cover such diverse areas as high rise buildings, bridges, statues, wind turbines and even cliff stabilisation projects. With increasing importance being placed on business continuity and risk prevention, IRATA personnel are being called on to assist with regular building inspections and maintenance. These are proving cost effective not only in the early prevention of structural failure but in the comparatively few man hours used in IRATA projects.

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