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Guidelines for Rope Access Work

Technical Service Center

Denver, Colorado, 2004

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These guidelines were developed in 2002-2004 for updating and standardizing the techniques, safety practices, and to some extent, the equipment used by Bureau of Reclamation when performing tasks that require the use of rope to access the work site. In 1996-1997, the first edition of the Bureau of Reclamation Safety Guidelines for Rope-Supported Work was developed. Since that time, the field of rope access has progressed rapidly. These guidelines attempt to present a thoughtful and updated version of the earlier work.

In 2002, a revision of the Reclamation Safety and Health Standards (RSHS), section 16.2 Rope Supported Safety Requirements was adopted. The requirements in that revision set new standards for equipment, techniques, and personnel qualifications to perform work on rope. In developing these guidelines, the authors have endeavored to define a rope-access system that conforms to section 16.2 of the Standards, while presenting the best thinking in safety and techniques.

In accordance with the RSHS, Reclamation established a Rope Access Safety Board in 2002. The Board was created to establish Reclamation-wide procedures and requirements which will ensure oversight and operational coordination for all rope-access work operations. The Board is establishing an active rope-access safety program which specifies administration, safety guidance, and oversight to conduct all rope-access operations in a safe and uniform manner. A rope-access work policy will be implemented Reclamation-wide upon signature and issuance by the Designated Agency Safety and Health Official.


These guidelines have been written and edited in large part due to the exhaustive efforts of Mr. Jan Holan of Ropeworks Industrial Corporation. Mr. Holan’s dedication to the rope-access industry and safety of the government workforce has literally made this document possible. Mr. Holan has invested countless hours of both his own and his company’s time to produce a document dedicated to improving rope access at Reclamation. The authors also wish to acknowledge the help of Mr. Alan Forrest of North Sea Lifting Ltd. for his contributions of many of the graphics contained in these guidelines. Petzl America also made significant contributions of graphics that did not exist elsewhere in the industry. Mr. Michel Goulet of Petzl provided technical input and review of the high-line discussions based on his extensive background in the rescue field. Mr. James Frank, president of CMC Rescue also provided valuable input and review of the high-line sections based on his decades of experience in the team-rescue field.

The authors also wish to acknowledge the contribution to rope access in the Bureau of Reclamation by Mr. Albert Graves of the Lower Colorado Region. Mr. Graves provided much of the impetus to establish rope access as a safe and viable work method for Reclamation. Mr. Graves’ continued support and his input to this document have been invaluable. This document has been compiled by the members of the Yucca Mountain Mapping Group in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ms. Jean Higgins and Mr. Mark Morton have contributed long hours to helping with the production of these guidelines.