The history of a bloke on a rope
Ropes have been used by man
for several thousand years. The
first 'ropes' were natural vines that
were used to swing like Tarzan
from tree to tree. By platting and
joining plant fibres it was possible
to make strong ropes that could
be used to join, bind, pull and
climb up. Like spiders, man was
able to use rope to ascend and
descend in order to access food
and shelter or simply travel from one place to another.
Without rope, the pyramids and Stonehenge could not have been built, boats
could not have sailed, wells could not have been dug and simple mechanical
devices such as the pulley would have been impossible.
Modern-day examples of the early use of rope for access
can be seen in various parts of the world. The honey
hunters of Nepal descend sheer cliffs on ropes to harvest
precious honey. In Thailand and Viet Nam, agile climbers
ascend ropes to collect the glutinous nests of swifts that are
the main ingredient in bird's nest soup.
On sailing ships, crew members are hauled aloft to effect repairs to the sails,
rigging and masts. Over the last two
hundred years, buildings have become
taller and the man-made world has
created a vertical challenge. As you can
see in the photos on the right, safety did
not appear to be a concern in the early
1900s when construction workers
operated without ropes or harnesses.
Mainly as a result of advances in mountaineering
and abseiling, rope access techniques were used to
position workers onto the outside of structures for
cleaning, maintenance and repair.
The offshore oil & gas industry operates in a hostile
environment and works to high safety standards.
Access to hard-to-get-at locations on the many
offshore installations was a problem. Initially
scaffolding or a crane and basket was used but this
was both expensive and carried risk. It required a
radical new approach and the industry called upon the expertise of climbers
with ropes to reach these otherwise inaccessible spots.
Rope access is now a standard and cost effective route to get the right skills
and right equipment to where it is required.