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What can rope access be used for?

It isn't always obvious what rope access can be used for, but at Highlife we pride ourselves in creative solutions to all sorts of problems. At the start of the year we were contacted by a client who needed a large pane of glass replacing in a rather awkward area. The pane was missing from an atrium on top of the main hall of a castle, and prior to contacting us the client had received some very expensive quotes to scaffold the side of this hall, in order to create a platform to haul up and fit the pane of glass.

Temporary cover above the broken pane of glass.

This is exactly the sort of situation that rope access is well suited to. We visited the site and went to the drawing board, initially considering assistance from a crane. But with the crane hire coming in at over a thousand pounds a day, we wondered if there wasn't another option. Fortunately, the hall with the atrium on it's roof was situated beneath a clock tower, which would provide a useful high point for hauling the glass. However, the tower was on the wrong side of the atrium, so we devised a two stage lift to get our pane of glass where it needed to be.

After spending some time making sure we had the correct colour match and measurements for the pane of glass, we built a wooden frame to sit the glass in while we did the hauling. This would serve two purposes - it would protect the glass from accidental damage whist we were hauling, and prevent us from being reliant on suction cups for the lifting process. Those suckers are strong, but with a complicated lifting procedure to execute, it would be easy to knock the release button.

Final preparations before dropping the glass in

We waited for a day of sunshine, and then arrived on site early to set up. Since we were removing the temporary cover from the client's roof, we were keen to get the glass fitted and sealed up in a day. To start with, we executed stage one of the lift. This comprised of hauling the glass up the south face of the clock tower, until it was above the parapet level, and lowering it down the towers west face, to rest against the east face of the atrium. This first lift went smoothly, and we were ready to remove the temporary cover.

We spent a few hours peeling away the lead flashings, and cutting away the residue of old sealant, until we had a smooth clean surface to bond to later on. Double checking the measurements now that the area was open, we were happy that the glass would fit, and could proceed.

Stage two of the lift required that we shift the rigging around onto the west face of the tower. After hauling the glass up this face, we fixed it to a tensioned line and used a backup to pull it across to where it needed to be. Will carefully lowered the glass, and it floated down onto the top of the atrium. Sliding the glass down to its rough position on the west side of the atrium, we were now able to move the rigging onto the suckers for the final stage of the operation, before removing the wooden case. Between the three of us we dropped the pane into its new home, letting out a sigh of relief when the glass fitted with a millimetre spare on each side. Perfect!

A perfect fit, and a big sigh of relief

Sealed up and flashings replaced, we were satisfied that everything had gone so smoothly. This was a complicated two part lifting procedure, and there was plenty which could have gone wrong, from ropework complications to the glass not fitting. But with the correct preparation, the pane was fitted without any issues in one long day for three men, saving the client thousands of pounds. This seemed to us a perfect example of what rope access can do. No scaffolding, no cranes, no messing around - just a self reliant team using their hard won experience to get the job done.

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