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Abseiling Vs Scaffolding - What's best for your building?

What you will find in this article:
·      Rope Access VS Scaffolding
·      What Is the Difference Between Abseiling and Scaffolding?
·      5 Reasons Why Rope Access / Abseiling Is Better Than Scaffolding
·      Why Is Rope Access More Cost-Effective Than Scaffolding?
·      Why Spectrum Loves Rope Access
·      Why We Train Specialists to Become Fully Qualified Rope Access Technicians
·      Speak to Spectrum for Any Specialist Rope Access Services
·      Frequently Asked Questions: Rope Access Vs Scaffolding

Rope Access VS Scaffolding

Looking for the best high-rise building maintenance access methods? Read this blog and uncover the winner of the scaffolding vs rope access debate.

Whether you’re looking for high-rise window cleaning or general building maintenance, access methods must be safe and suitable for staff to fulfil their duties to industry standards.

For years, scaffolding has proved an effective and popular access method for centuries. However, since the early 1980s, rope access and abseiling have offered a viable alternative. 

So, the question remains. When it comes to rope access vs scaffolding which method is ideal for your property requirements? Let’s explore. 

What Is the Difference Between Abseiling and Scaffolding?

Firstly, let’s define the difference between both access methods, starting with abseiling (rope access).

What is Rope Access / Abseiling?

Rope access is a process that uses ropes to suspend trained technicians from height to fulfil various services, such as building maintenance, rendering works, and cleaning jobs.

Abseiling is a general term to describe the process of scaling a building or are


a. However, rope access or “industrial abseiling” applies to the same process but relates to providing services such as maintenance, cleaning, restoration etc.

For example, you require rope access services to abseil a high-rise building and fulfil window cleaning tasks or building maintenance.

Rope Access technicians require obligatory training from a governing body such as the International Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA) for the UK. The IRATA provides three levels of rope access training.

What is Scaffolding?

Scaffolding is a temporary structure erected next to buildings to support workers as they fulfil various tasks, from construction to inspection and cleaning. Typically, a scaffold structure consists of metal poles with wooden planks providing support.

Also known as “staging”, scaffolding is widely used across various industries such as construction, building maintenance and repair works.

The law requires employers to assess the risks for each scaffolding project when working from height. This involves general requirements, barriers, scaffold design and general competence supervision standards, as specified by Health 

and Safety Executive (HSE) for the UK.  

5 Reasons Why Rope Access / Abseiling Is Better Than Scaffolding

As industry specialists in rope access, we firmly believe that rope access is a better access method alternative to scaffolding. Here are five reasons why:

No Disruption

Compared to scaffolding, rope access offers much less disturbance with less equipment and temporary means of working.

Regardless of the service, a general rope access procedure will only require a team of trained rope access technicians to arrive on-site with all their equipment in the van(s) before removing it all and leaving no trace but the completed work behind.

On the other hand, scaffolding requires a permanent structure in place until the work is finished, disturbing the appearance of the building and potentially affecting the privacy of any residents or the surrounding public.


Due to the lack of equipment and time required compared to scaffolding, rope access provides a much more cost-effective solution.


By the time a scaffold structure is assembled for work to commence, you can guarantee rope access technicians are already in the air and fulfilling their tasks.

Establishing suitable anchorage and protective rigging for abseiling can take minutes compared to the hours involved in constructing the scaffold structure.


Despite the precarious nature of being suspended in the air by ropes from a great height, as a more regulated industry, rope access is safer on record than scaffolding.

Rope access is known for having exceptional safety standards through governing bodies such as IRATA, providing strict policies and procedures.

From roofing repairs to specialist render cleaning, rope access proves a more convenient access method and superior in safety without necessary scaffolding requirements.  


Lastly, rope access is a complete access method and can reach restricted areas even the most advanced scaffolding structures will fail to attain.

After establishing a safe system of work on the building, rope access technicians have complete access to the building or area within close proximity yet without contact to potentially cause damage. 

Even if your building has no permanent anchor points like eyebolts, rope access technicians are trained to establish portable anchor systems such as deadweight anchors or abseiling A-frames. 

Why Is Rope Access More Cost-Effective Than Scaffolding?

Naturally, the higher the building, the more scaffolding equipment you will need to assemble the necessary structure. And the more time and equipment required to build a scaffold structure, the more expensive your overall cost.

For example, major building works could demand weeks and months of scaffolding compared to rope access solutions that could last just a matter of days.

After installing your anchor point, whether permanent or portable, you’re free to scale the building quickly, regardless of its size. One case saw someone save £180,000 on a £450,000 job by opting for rope access over scaffolding.

Essentially, rope access is significantly more cost-effective because it requires less time and equipment to complete.

Why Spectrum Loves Rope Access

As London’s leading facade restoration and cleaning experts on high-rise buildings, we love rope access because it saves our clients money, exceeds their expectations and causes minimal fuss or downtime.

Our breadth of building maintenance, cleaning and restoration services stretches fro

m roofing repairs to bird proofing and high-rise window cleaning. Before every job, we evaluate the most efficient and cost-effective access methods for our clients before providing multiple options that best suit their budget or convenience.

What’s more, we’re so determined to fulfil every project regardless of the challen

ges we also manufacture custom equipment to access specific areas with 3D tool printing capabilities. 

Why We Train Specialists to Become Fully Qualified Rope Access Technicians

Most rope access contractors will hire outside technicians to complete various industrial and commercial abseiling duties. At Spectrum, we invest in the future of our people by hiring and employing various specialists before training them to IRATA level three standards in rope access.

Although this process can take between five to nine years, we only want the best operatives on the job to deliver the best standards for our clients. With this approach, you can ensure all types of rope access services we deliver will be performed by a specialist in the industry.

Speak to Spectrum for Any Specialist Rope Access Services

If you want to save time, money and hassle, choose rope access over scaffolding.

Whether it’s building maintenance or high-rise window cleaning, we have the skills, experience, and industry expertise to offer you a cost-effective, quality-assured, and efficient solution. For more information and to receive a free quote, get in touch.

Frequently Asked Questions: Rope Access Vs Scaffolding

Why is Rope Access Better than Scaffolding?

The definitive reasons separating rope access/abseiling as a superior access method to scaffolding include:

·        Safety – Rope access has an exceptional safety record.
·        Cost – Rope access is also much more cost-effective.
·        Time – From assembly to application and completion rope access is a more efficient process.
·        No disruption – Rope access does not require permanent equipment on site.
·        Flexibility – Rope access provides complete accessibility.

Overall, rope access is faster, cheaper, and safer while offering complete accessibility with minimal disturbance.

What is Rope Scaffolding?

Scaffolding rope is used on-site to help with construction and maintenance services. Scaffolders can install specific types of scaffold hoists, such as “gin wheels” as a simple pulley system to transfer equipment up different levels of the scaffold.

Is Rope Access Abseiling?

Rope access is another term for industrial abseiling or commercial abseiling where technicians can perform certain tasks and services as opposed to simply abseiling.

As a method for working from height, rope access is the training and expertise that allows verified rope access technicians to fulfil various work-related duties via abseiling. So, rope access is the method and abseiling is part of its process.

How Safe is Rope Access?

Fortunately, rope access is a very safe method of working with an exceptionally low record of accidents. Due to the strict regulations and procedures provided by the IRATA, rope access offers protective training to ensure all technicians abseil safely and maintain industry-accredited standards of practice.

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