BUCHEN KraftwerkService now also provides working at height services using rope access technology – services that are still relatively hard to find on today’s market despite the substantial advantages they offer.
For over a year now, BUCHEN KraftwerkService has been operating a division that specialises in the rare field of rope access technology, also known as industrial climbing. The professional teams work at height to deliver the company’s core industrial services as well as other related tasks.
Work at height specialists or industrial climbers are in high demand when work must be completed on areas that are difficult to access. By using this quicker and more flexible means of access, they can get to hard to reach spaces quickly – spaces that are beyond the capabilities of or would simply be too expensive for other kinds of access technology, such as cranes, work platforms or scaffolding. They are called in, for example, to perform safe cleaning work in boilers, clean support structures in large industrial buildings or carry out a variety of tasks on industrial plants and façades.
Industrial climbers deliver a really useful service but they are still a rarity. According to estimates, there are around just 4,000 of these specialists in Germany
The very most can be made of rope access technology when the operatives have more than one area of expertise as they can then work at height and perform the tasks themselves as well. With this in mind, BUCHEN KraftwerkService has drawn up a targeted training programme to ensure its rope access operatives gain qualifications in specific fields. As a result, it now has an impressive team for this specialty discipline of rope access technology: at present, it can deploy eleven work at height specialists.
The outer wall of an 80m-high chimney had to be renovated recently at a thermal waste treatment plant in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. And it seemed for a while that this would turn out to be a costly project. After all, it takes time to erect scaffolding around such a high structure. Using a crane and man-riding baskets was also considered to be too time consuming and there was the danger here that the basket might cause further damage. Having searched around for alternatives, the plant operators then turned to BUCHEN KraftwerkService’s rope access specialists for help. During a turnaround, the industrial climbers cleaned the whole of the chimney’s outer surface and repaired the coating using ‘touch up’ technology. What’s more, all of the fittings were tightened and the steel platform’s mounting renewed. Despite the extensive workload, the industrial climbers completed the project in just nine days. This meant that a huge amount of time was saved – especially as there was no need to erect and dismantle additional access technology nor was the work being carried out by the other turnaround specialists impeded at any time.
People watching BUCHEN KraftwerkService’s team of industrial climbers at work may be reminded of mountaineers. Rope access technology and mountain climbing are, however, worlds apart. Starting with the complex specialty equipment: unlike mountaineers, industrial climbers are secured to two separate ropes to make them twice as safe. One of the biggest differences, though, is that working at height does not focus on the climbing but on the services that need to be performed. BUCHEN’s climbers are, therefore, also experts in steel construction, insulation, corrosion control and much, much more.
To ensure that its operatives have multiple skills, BUCHEN has put together a qualifications package that comprises various different components. The rope access technology training programme and all related courses and seminars are provided by a specialist training company. These are all based on the prestigious FISAT standards and the Level 1 to Level 3 examinations. BUCHEN teaches the specialist knowledge needed to carry out the different kinds of industrial work. Furthermore, the company builds on the professional skills that the climbers already have and trains them to use rope access technology in more unusual areas. And they get to practise this on the actual work sites themselves. The rope access teams also take part in a respiratory protective equipment training course at BUCHEN’s own training centre so that they are able to work wearing a full face mask.
As with all its service divisions, BUCHEN has stringent safety standards in place for its rope access technology. It has compiled its own comprehensive set of guidelines that goes beyond the general rules and regulations. This applies, above all, to the extensive, on-site risk assessment that must be performed before each assignment, the access and work site planning work and the preventative rescue concept. All these areas are so complex that the commonly used occupational safety measures would simply fall short. The operatives must practise the safety procedures regularly and take part in annual refresher courses. Furthermore, work at height specialists are always deployed as a team. Even in a two-person team, at least one of the climbers must have Level 3 qualifications so they can act as a supervisor.
Ms Busch, you yourself are a rope access technician. Where exactly are work at height specialists deployed and how mobile are they on the work site?
The climbers can be deployed almost everywhere. Basically, we work at height and at depth and the distance from the ground can vary greatly. The rope access technicians can move independently in all directions once they are in position and they can traverse under steel girders as well.
How do work at height specialists keep fit?
Work at height experts have to regularly practise using rope access technology and learn new techniques as well – all of which keeps them fit. On top of this, they have medical check-ups which are carried out by BUCHEN’s occupational health doctors and involve a number of different examinations.
Rope access is considered to be very safe – is that really true?
Absolutely. All assignments are meticulously planned and organised beforehand. The equipment comprises special individual components that provide additional levels of safety. And our climbers are true professionals. Our rope access supervisors, for example, have the paperwork to show that they have worked for more than 250 days using rope access technology. What’s more, we are regularly deployed to perform tasks for the company’s everyday operations so that we are well practised in our line of work.