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Rope Access vs. Scaffolding

Industrial Rope Access

When it comes to high angle repairs or inspections, two main options can be considered; scaffolding or rope access. If your industrial chimneys, smokestacks, or plant towers & tall structures are in need of maintenance, you may wonder which option will be the best for both your budget & time.

While scaffolding will always have its place in the construction industry, there are a number of clear benefits that industrial rope access will provide compared to traditional scaffolding access.

It has become a well-established fact that rope access is not only more cost efficient, but it’s faster and safer than other high angle options for working at height. Let’s take a look at some major advantages of rope access:


When it comes to cost, rope access is comparatively more affordable than scaffolding. Not only does industrial rope access require less equipment, it also is quicker and reduces wasted time on construction. Remember that time equals money and when you choose scaffolding, you must pay for the operatives to erect the structure and then to complete the work at hand. The cost of supplying the scaffolding also increases the price of choosing this method. In the end, the combined cost of scaffolding will outweigh the cost of simply hiring a small team of rope access technicians.

OSHA requires that any scaffold over 125’ tall must have an engineered, stamped drawing. Typical cost for this is $1,500 – $2,500; more if the structure is a large design; which would be the case most structures like industrial chimneys and stacks in the markets we serve. Also, with few exceptions, scaffold has a 28 day minimum rental charge. This is a standard practice, industry wide both for the commercial & industrial markets. On the other hand, rope access requires very little rigging and has no minimums associated or required. making it a cost-effective alternative.


Without a doubt, industrial rope access requires less time and is a faster means of access than scaffolding. While it may take days to erect the required scaffolding to complete a job, the rigging for rope access takes merely minutes to a few hours.


Although rope access methods appear perilous, they are far safer and have far better safety statistics than any other means of high access. Technicians are rigged to two separate ropes, one acting as a fail-safe should the main line break, and the tools they used are also tethered to them so that passersby can remain safe should a tool slip while in use.

Rope access is also recognized as the safest method for project completion due to the high standard of required training. Industrial Access employs SPRAT certified technicians on every project we undertake. Every rope access crew member must meet rigorous standards and pass tough evaluations that will ensure they are fully prepared for performing work at height safely and efficiently.

Industrial rope access has an enviable safety record, and statistically speaking, it is the safest way to carry out work at height thanks to the necessary training and safety standards required.

An important thing to note is that neither OSHA nor SAIA (Scaffold Access Industry Association) require craft to tether tools. Last year in Chicago, a man died after being struck in the head by a 25’ tape measure falling from a scaffold crafts tool apron. Rope access has a 100% tethered policy; at least here at Industrial Access, which means no one can be injured by dropped tools.


Rope access methods are extremely flexible and are often the only option for certain tasks. Since rope access techniques do not require a large amount of open space beneath the work space in order to set up scaffolding equipment, extremely difficult to reach places can still be accessed. Domed roofs, breaching ducts, and other structures that are not easily accessible can be quickly inspected, repaired, or replaced with little trouble.


Scaffolding Vs Rope AccessScaffolding is extremely bulky and can take up a lot of ground space. Since it is built from the ground up, it can affect access to the building, making it difficult for clients or employees to enter or exit the building.

On the other hand, rope access technicians work from the top down, causing less disruption to the building facades or building entrances.


Unlike scaffolding, industrial rope access creates minimal architectural impact. Scaffolding, on the other hand, not only takes days (to weeks) to construct, but it is cumbersome and will not go unnoticed while it is in place. Since rope access requires less set up and space, it requires very little in the terms of ongoing maintenance costs, and makes for easy return visits should the project take time to complete.

Industrial Access provides high angle access for industrial chimney/smokestack repairs, inspections, or maintenance. We feel that for most circumstances, rope access techniques are the most practical way to complete tasks that would otherwise involve significant expense, time, or plant outages. Contact one of our highly knowledgeable professionals to learn about the capabilities of rope access.

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