In Australia there is no specific Legislation or Regulation which details the conditions and standards applicable to rope access activity. The only applicable Acts and Regulations are generic sections of the Work Health and Safety 2011 Act enacted in each State. The industry Standards are contained in AS NZ 4488 Industrial Rope Access which deals primarily with techniques and operating equipment.
The rope access user Standards AS 4488 Parts 1 and 2 (1997) are considered by the Australian rope access fraternity (IRATA and ARAA) to be obsolete. The rope access industry associations have requested to have the Standard made obsolete and replaced with the adoption of ISO 22846.
The only relevant Code of Practice is the Safe Work at Heights that lacks any real depth on operations, management , compliance, accreditation or safety requirements for rope access.
Currently in Australia the only references which have any depth, accreditation and independent verification are the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association’s (IRATA) International Code of Practice and the ISO 22846-2 Rope Access Code of Practice.
These references are potentially the basis of consideration for the future development of an Australian Code of Practice or industry guidelines
What the Industry needs.
As Rope Access is an unregulated work activity, there is a lack of knowledge by Persons Conducting a Business Undertaking (PCBU) as to what codes of practice, administrative or regulatory matters are relevant to rope access work.
A suggested framework for the industry is:
- Developing a regulatory framework or Industry Guidelines for Rope Access work activity;
- Implementation of a mandatory Rope Access Industry Code of Practice which is subject to audit or accreditation by competent third party;
- The inclusion of Rope Access as a high risk work activity and subject to the licence requirements under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011;
- Implementation of a requirement for Rope Access operators to renew their certificate of competency every three years; and
- Mandatory Emergency/Rescue Planning for Rope Access onsite each day.
Where operators are appropriately trained, their work practices are subject to critical review and a Code of Practice is applicable, it is an extraordinarily effective means of work in inaccessible places. As support for the last statement, we attach a copy of the recent IRATA Work Safety Report 2016 that demonstrates that Rope Access is a very safe activity when managed and operated correctly.
The challenge in Australia is to unify, standardise practices and encourage professionalism among all of the industry participants.