Work at height from ropes

WEA-Guideline 2.4.3-1

November 2016 – updated October 2017

The most important rules précising when the employer can let work at height be carried out from ropes and how work from ropes is organised and performed in a completely safe and healthy way.

The guidance is précising when the employer – the enterprise that performs the work – can choose to work at height from ropes (also called rope access), including e.g. work from bottom to top, traversing and rappelling. The guidance also deals with, how work from ropes should be organised and performed in a completely safe and healthy way.

The most important rules

The employer must ensure that the most suitable quality of work equipment is selected, facilitating that the work can be carried out completely safely and so that the employees can work under appropriate ergonomic conditions.

The employer must ensure, that work at height is only carried out from ropes, when work according to the workplace assessment can be carried out safely, and when it is not justified to use other kinds of more safe means of work equipment with collective protection measures.

The employer must ensure that the equipment to be used by employees in relation to work from rope is completely safe for the purpose.

The employer must ensure that measures have been taken, so that evacuation can be carried out immediately, if the person who performs the work with rope can’t reach a safe level by his own power. E.g., there may always be at least two people, who can perform rescue from height, present at the workplace.

The rules for choosing ropes for work at height, equipment and use of the equipment also apply to self-employed persons and to the employer himself.

The most important rules about:

  1. When may work at height be carried out from ropes?
  2. Emergency planning and emergency service at the workplace
  3. Training, instruction and supervision
  4. Requirements for the design and use of equipment
    4.1. Anchors and anchor points
    4.2. Inspection and maintenance of equipment
    4.3. Instructions for use
  5. Written assessment of particularly dangerous work in the construction industry

1. When must work at height be carried out from rope?

The employer must ensure that the most suitable quality of work equipment is selected, so that work can be carried out completely safely and so that the workers can work under appropriate ergonomic conditions.

The employer must ensure, that work at height is only carried out from ropes, when the work in relation to the workplace assessment can be carried out safely, and when it is not justified to use other and more secure means of work equipment with collective protection measures, such as lifts, scaffolding or other technical means of work equipment. The employer must involve the company's health and safety organisation or representatives of the employees in the assessment.

In assessing whether each separate task may be carried out from ropes or by means of a technical work equipment with collective protection measures, the employer must include conditions such as the nature of the work, the design and ease of access of the work area and the scope and duration of the task.

Work at height from ropes may be chosen if it is not technically possible to use lift, scaffolding or other technical means of work equipment with collective protection measures. This may, e.g., be the case with special building constructions.

Work at height from ropes may also be chosen, in situations where the provisions by using technical work equipment with collective protection measures, do not measure up with the extent and duration of the task. This may be the case, e.g., for short-term tasks at very high altitudes.

Work at height from ropes may in any case be chosen, only when the work can be carried out completely safely.

The assessment of and the decision, that a specific piece of work at height can be carried out from ropes, is a concrete decision that can’t automatically be transferred to future tasks. Thus, a concrete assessment must always be made of whether it is possible to use means of work equipment with collective protection measures for the specific task.

2. Emergency planning and emergency service at the workplace

The employer must ensure that a written emergency plan is made, regarding how the workers shall deal with problems arising from work at height from ropes, and that there is emergency service present at the workplace, which can immediately intervene, perform rescue from heights and call for assistance if there is a need for it.

The employer must ensure that measures have been taken so that evacuation can be carried out immediately, if the person who performs the work from ropes can’t reach a safe level by his own power. E.g., there may always be a least two people, who can perform rescue from heights, present at the workplace.

The emergency plan must clearly and precisely describe how the employees shall perform rescue from heights if a colleague working from ropes, e.g., gets an acute illness or faints in an accident.

Emergency services must ensure that, e.g. in case of fainting, immediate rescue action is taken, as far as possible to a lower level, and that life-saving first aid or assistance is provided if needed.

The employer must – when carrying out work at height from ropes – ensure that employees always have the possibility to get in touch with each other and others – e.g., by mobile phone or radio.

3. Training and instruction of employees

Work at height from ropes must only be carried out by persons who are specifically appointed by the employer to perform this work, and who have received the necessary training in the use of the equipment and in rescue from heights, as well as instruction in carrying out the specific work.

It is a prerequisite for safe working, that the training of the employees who are to work from ropes, also involves training in the use of the equipment. Teaching and training of the staff can be done at the courses in rope work and in rescue from heights, offered by internationally recognized rope access organisations, including the auspice of AMU (Danish vocational education and training).

The employees, who have to perform work from ropes, must be instructed in the specific task, including the particular risks associated with the work. The instruction must include the equipment that the employees must use, as well as the instruction for use for the complete equipment, which the employer must elaborate.

The employer must ensure that effective inspection of the execution of work is carried out, including monitoring if the employees have understood the instructions and are applying them.

4. Requirements for the design and use of equipment

The employer must ensure that equipment for work at height from ropes can both be used safely and healthily as work equipment and as fall arrest equipment.

This implies that the equipment to be used in connection with work at height from ropes must meet the requirements for the design and use of technical work equipment, while those parts of the device which simultaneously provide for fall protection must meet the requirements applicable for the design of personal protective equipment.

Equipment for work at height from ropes must include a suitable work rope (anchor rope), a suitable safety rope with movable fall protection device and a suitable climbing harness. The equipment must be supplemented with a suitable chair or seat depending on the duration of work and ergonomic loads.

Employees who have to carry out work from ropes must be attached to both a work rope and a safety rope.

Work equipment for work at height from ropes

The employer must ensure that work equipment made available to employees for work at height from ropes is manufactured according to current DS/EN standards or at a similar level. The employer must ensure that the work equipment has the required design and strength, etc. in order to ensure that the work can be carried out in a completely safe and healthy way.

The employer must ensure that the equipment is made up of at least two ropes, one rope being a work rope to regulate the work height, etc., and the second rope is a safety rope to ensure that the employee is protected against falling down.

The rules allow for the use of a single rope in exceptional circumstances. This may be the case, e.g., when climbing trees in connection with pollarding. Work on pollarding is described in the WEA-Guideline on cutting down trees and forestry work.

Fall arrest equipment for work at height from ropes

The employer must ensure that fall arrest equipment made available to employees in connection with work at height from ropes is suitable for the task.

The employer must ensure that the fall arrest equipment is taken into use immediately at the beginning of work and that it is used throughout the work where it is required.

The employer must ensure that the work from ropes is organised so that the employee can’t fall down while using the equipment.

The fall arrest equipment must be CE marked.

4.1. Anchors and anchor points

The employer must ensure that both work rope and safety rope are securely and appropriately anchored, taking into account the equipment, the workplace and the task to be performed from the rope.

The employer must ensure that the work rope and the safety rope each have their own anchoring point.

The anchoring points must be above the point of work.

The anchoring points for the work rope and the safety rope must be able to absorb a force arising from a fall for each rope of at least 12 kN (1,200 kg). It requires a higher level of safety, if the task requires that the device must be able to performing rescue from heights (buddy rescue with pick-off). The higher level of security is specified by several international Rope Access organisations to at least 15 kN (1,500 kg).

The employer must ensure that the anchoring points are located in such a way, that access to these does not expose the employee to unnecessary risks of falling or other risks of accidents.

Both work rope and safety rope must be protected against unnecessary wear and damage to the ropes, e.g. with guarding of edges.
Tools and other accessories being used during work at height must be secured to the harness or chair or otherwise secured against being dropped.

4.2. Inspection and maintenance of equipment

The employer must ensure that the equipment used for work from ropes is monitored and that the equipment is monitored and maintained systematically according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

E.g., the company may use a protocol or log to note which equipment has been checked and maintained and thus ready for use.

Visual and physical inspection must always be performed immediately prior to each use of the equipment in order to review the functionality and suitability of the equipment.

The employer must ensure that all equipment is stored properly, and that equipment, such as non-UV resistant equipment, is stored properly against unnecessary exposure to sunlight and artificial lighting containing UV light.

The employer must ensure that equipment exposed to potentially damaging effects is immediately taken out of service, and that it is not put into service again before it has been inspected and approved by an expert.

The employer must ensure that the equipment is not interfered with, and that no equipment, such as rope, is used when damaged.

The employer must, by means of proper maintenance, inspection, storage and disposal, ensure against unintended use of equipment, which is not safe to use.

The employer must, at the request of the Danish Working Environment Authority, be able to provide documentation that the equipment is checked. Documentation must follow the equipment when used in alternating workplaces.

The employee, who uses the equipment, must assist in ensuring that the equipment works as intended and must report defects to the employer, the foreman or the health and safety organisation, for repair, replacement of components or disposal of the equipment.

4.3. Instructions for use

Equipment for work at height from ropes is typically composed of parts from different manufacturers. The individual parts - such as harness, rope and carabiners - must be supplied with a product description and an instruction for use that describes the correct use of that part, how it can be put together with other parts as well as any restrictions on the use of the part.

It can also be read in the manufacturer’s instruction for use how the parts are to be stored, maintained and inspected.

In the case of composite equipment, the employer must ensure that an instruction for use for the equipment and its use is drawn up on the basis of the manufacturer’s instructions for use for the individual parts. The employees must know the contents of the instructions for use, which is to follow the equipment.

The employer must also ensure that the manufacturer’s instructions for use are available to the employees.

5. Written assessment of particularly dangerous work in the building and construction industry

Work at height from ropes is in the building and construction industry covered by the rules on particularly dangerous work. This implies that, whenever it is assessed that a task at heights is to be performed from ropes, the employer must ensure that a written assessment of the specific task and how it is to be carried out is made. The health and safety organisation / employee representatives must be involved in the planning and organisation of particularly dangerous work in the building and construction industry.

If rope access work is part of a major building and construction project, the written assessment shall only cover the parts of the work that are to be carried out from ropes.

The written assessment of the particularly dangerous work must be drawn up for each single task that involves rope access work. The written assessment shall typically relate to the following items:

  • A description of the tasks that are to be performed from ropes at the workplace
  • A description of how the concrete tasks are to be carried out
  • A description of how ropes can be fastened without risk of falling down or other risk
  • A description of risks and hazardous situations during the work, including:
    - The safety measures to be established before the work is started and their function
    - The safety measures that must be present during the performance of the work and their function
  • A description of the personal safety equipment that the employees must use during the performance of the work assignment
  • A description of the duration of the work
  • A description of the measures to be taken to define the work area
  • A description of how employees are protected against the weather conditions during winter work, including especially cold weather at low temperatures and wind
  • A detailed rescue plan for all phases of the task.

The content of the assessment of the particularly dangerous work must be included in the instructions of the employees together with the employer's instructions for use. The assessment of the particularly dangerous work can be included in the company's general workplace assessment.

Background

The WEA-Guideline is linked to the Executive Orders on:

Use of technical work equipment
Performance of work (only in Danish)
The building and construction sector (only in Danish)

Also read

WEA-Guideline about fall from height when working on roofs (only in Danish)
WEA-Guideline about cutting down trees and forestry work (only in Danish)
WEA-Guideline about fall protection (only in Danish)

Sector guideline from Sectoral Working Environment Committee from Farm to Fork

Occupational climbing (only in Danish)
Safe work in height (only in Danish)