Chapter 4, Subchapter 7, Article 1, Section 3207 and Article 4, Section 3270.1

Rope Access


The General Industry Safety Orders (GISO) do not contain regulations governing the use of rope access methods or equipment to reach areas not feasibly accessible by conventional means, such as aerial devices, ladders, scaffolds, or elevating work platforms. Rope access methods generally require the use of mountain climbing equipment and ropes as a primary means of supporting and positioning the employee, allowing him/her to ascend or descend the rope.

It is noteworthy that regulations addressing fall protection in general industry (Section 3210) and the construction industry (Article 24) are intended to govern the use of specialized equipment designed and approved for the purpose of either preventing or arresting a fall from an elevated location. Rope access methods and equipment provide a safe way for employees to reach a hard-to-reach location. Rope access methods are typically used in situations where the use of conventional means of access to a location are impractical or infeasible.

During the Construction Industry Fall Protection advisory committee meetings, October 12-13, 1995, the issue of special climbing equipment for use in rope access techniques as described above was first raised. Such equipment is used in various occupational settings, which includes but is not limited to, search and rescue organizations, the motion picture/entertainment industry, public works agencies for dam inspections, and state agencies to conduct highway and bridge inspections.

Following the October 12-13, 1995 advisory committee meeting, Board staff was asked by two of the committee members to include regulations addressing rope access and mountain climbing equipment as part of the construction industry fall protection standard. Board staff opposed this request on the basis that the use of rope access equipment is a method of access, not fall protection. Consequently, Board staff advised the committee members that rope access (which encompasses the use of alpine mountain climbing equipment) is an issue that is appropriately addressed in the GISO as an access issue. With the agreement of the two advisory committee members Board staff made a commitment to eventually revisit the issue of rope access by convening a separate advisory committee to consider amending the GISO.

Board staff convened a rope access advisory committee on November 5, 1999 in Sacramento, California. This proposal reflects the consensus of individuals representing labor, management, search and rescue operations, the entertainment industry, public works agencies, state and federal agencies, and a leading climbing equipment manufacturer.

This rulemaking proposal will define and clarify the industrial practice of rope access, provide reasonable and enforceable equipment, training and other requirements which are performance-based and reflect current industry practices and procedures. Board staff believes the proposed action does not require employers using rope access techniques to incur additional cost to comply with the proposal, since it is consistent with current industry practices and procedures.

In addition to recognizing the use of rope access methods, this rulemaking serves a second purpose by providing differentiation between rope access and fall protection. This distinction is intended to reduce employer confusion over their obligation under Title 8 with respect to rope access operations as opposed to providing fall protection.


Section 3207. Definitions.

This section contains a glossary of defined terms used throughout the General Industry Safety Orders (GISO) which have been included to clarify the meaning of terms introduced in the safety orders which follow.

Revisions are proposed to add two new definitions in alphabetical order for "rope access" and "rope access equipment." The definitions contain language explaining "rope access" in terms of the use of ropes to access an area and supporting an employee as they descend or ascend a rope as a primary means of support, and "rope access equipment" as the approved equipment used to perform rope access techniques.

The proposed revisions are necessary to clarify to the employer the meaning of terms introduced in the subsequent rope access regulations contained in proposed new subsection 3270.1.

Section 3270.1. Use of Rope Access Equipment.

A revision is proposed to create a new Section 3270.1 with the title "Use of Rope Access Equipment" under Article 4, Access, Work Space and Work Areas.

The proposed revision is necessary to clearly indicate to the employer the location of the new rope access regulations.

A new subsection (a) entitled "Scope and Application" is proposed which informs the employer of Section 3270.1’s application to various industrial operations, and the establishment of requirements addressing use, care and maintenance of rope access equipment as defined in Section 3207. This subsection also explains that rope supported work is to be utilized only when other methods of access are not feasible. This subsection also contains examples of operations involving the use of rope access that would be covered and those that are exempt as described by an exception statement that follows the proposed subsection (a). The exception excludes window cleaning/exterior building maintenance regulated by Articles 5 and 6, emergency search and rescue operations, and the entertainment industry’s use of rope access for performances and rehearsals.

The proposed subsection (a) is necessary to clearly indicate to the employer the operations covered by Section 3270.1. It is necessary to exclude window cleaning where covered by other regulations in these Orders, to exclude emergency operations so as not to interfere with life and death rescue operations, and to exclude performances and rehearsals in the entertainment industry to preserve the integrity of special effects used in entertainment productions.

Subsection (b) Approval.

A new subsection (b) is proposed which requires rope access equipment to be approved for its intended use as defined in Section 3206 of the GISO.

The proposed regulation is necessary to ensure rope access equipment has met some criteria for design/construction, or has been engineered to be safe for its intended use, and will not fail catastrophically, resulting in a fall and/or serious employee injury.

Subsection (c) Training.

A new subsection (c) is proposed which contains three subparagraphs. Subsection (c)(1) would require the employer to establish, implement and maintain a written Code of Safe Practices (Code) that includes but is not limited to the following elements: rope access methods/anchorage, employee selection criteria, equipment selection/inspection criteria, roles and responsibilities of rope access team members, communication systems, employee training program, rescue and emergency protocol, and identification of unique site hazards. Subsection (c)(2) would also require the employer to train employees in accordance with the Code, including method of rescue. This subsection also requires the employer to evaluate the employee’s competence, including a hands-on employee demonstration of rope access skills. Proposed subsection (c)(3) would require the employer to provide annual refresher training for employees performing rope access. Lastly, subsection (c)(4) would require the employer to document employee training in accordance with existing Section 3203, Injury and Illness Prevention Program requirements.

Subsection (c) is necessary to ensure employers provide adequate training, and that employees are trained in safe methods for rope access work. The proposed requirements in subsection (c)(3) are necessary to ensure that the employee’s competence to perform rope access safely is maintained, thereby preventing a serious employee injury arising from an accidental fall.

Subsection (d). Equipment Inspection and Maintenance.

New subsections (d)(1), (2) and (3) are proposed that would require the employer to use all rope access equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, require a qualified person as defined in Section 3207 of the GISO to inspect all rope access equipment each day before and after use, and require damaged or defective equipment to be removed from service.

This subsection is necessary to ensure that employers select and use the proper ensemble of rope access equipment. It is also necessary to ensure that the selected equipment will not fail catastrophically because of wear, damage, lack of the proper components, or misarranged components.

Subsection (e). Anchorage.

A new subsection (e) is proposed to address the use of anchorage with rope access equipment. The proposed subsection (e) would require the anchorage to be able to safely support at least twice the maximum anticipated dynamic load as determined by a qualified person.

This subsection is necessary to ensure that the employee’s rope access system is securely anchored in such as way as to safely restrain/support the employee.

Subsection (f). Personal Protective Equipment.

A new subsection (f) is proposed which would require the employer to provide personal protective equipment in accordance with Article 10 of these Orders.

The proposed subsection is necessary to ensure the employee does not receive physical injury to any part of his/her body because of inadequate personal protective equipment while using rope access techniques.

Subsection (g).

A new subsection (g) is proposed that would require the employer to provide at least two trained employees per rope access operation.

The proposed subsection is necessary to provide employees with back-up support in case of any emergency involving the physical condition of the employee, to spot hazardous conditions relating to rope access equipment, and to perform rescue/emergency procedures.

Subsection (h). Trainer Qualifications.

A new subsection (h) is proposed which would require that persons conducting the employee rope access training discussed in the proposed subsection (c) be competent to effectively train the employees in the fundamentals of rope access.

This subsection is necessary to ensure that employees receive the information they need to perform rope access safely. The proposed subsection is also necessary to reduce the risk of catastrophic equipment failure caused by improper selection, inspection and maintenance of rope access equipment.

Subsection (i).

A new subsection (i) is proposed that requires the employer to either provide prompt rescue, or assure the employee can perform self-rescue, in case of a fall or equipment malfunction.

The proposed requirement is necessary to ensure that employees requiring emergency assistance in the event of a fall or equipment malfunction can be retrieved and if necessary treated for their injuries in a timely manner.

Subsection (j).

A new subsection (j) is proposed to require the employer to provide a secondary back-up line in addition to the use of a main line for primary support, unless the employer can show that use of a second line or other fall arrest device would create a greater hazard.

The proposed requirement is necessary to provide a means of preventing employee injury from a fall in the event the main supporting line fails. It is also necessary to provide the employer with discretion to determine the number of lines to be used, to provide the best means of safeguarding the employee without subjecting him/her to more serious hazards.

Subsection (j)(1).

A new subsection (j)(1) is proposed to require separate safety line anchorage to the employee’s harness, but not to preclude both lines from being attached to the employee’s harness attachment point.

The proposed subsection is necessary to clarify to the employer exactly where the safety line may be attached to the harness, and that it may be attached to the same harness attachment point with the employee’s mainline. The requirement will ensure the employees have a functioning secondary line, which in the event of catastrophic failure of the main line, will prevent an employee fall.

Subsection (k).

A new subsection (k) is proposed that requires the employer to take measures to control vehicular and foot traffic beneath areas where employees are performing rope access.

The proposed requirement is necessary to ensure that vehicles and pedestrians (including employees and the general public) are not injured by falling debris or other materials that may be inadvertently or accidentally dropped from levels where employees are engaged in rope access.

Subsection (l).

A new subsection (l) is proposed that requires the employer to conduct a pre-climb or pre-rope access safety discussion with employees which at a minimum addresses objectives of the rope access work to be performed, unusual site conditions that could jeopardize the safety of the employee, and emergency procedures (e.g., performing self-rescue).

This requirement is necessary to ensure employees who perform rope access techniques are not injured by foreseeable site conditions that could adversely affect the safety of the climb.


  1. Safe Practices for Rope Access Work, Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT), Idaho Springs, Colorado.
  2. The Climbing Dictionary, maintained by Carl J. Okier, Rotorcraft Branch of the DLR, Institute of Flight Mechanics, Braunschweig, Germany, available on the World Wide Web at:, e-mail:

These documents are available for review during normal business hours at the Standards Board Office located at 2520 Venture Oaks Way, Suite 350, Sacramento, California, 95833.


This proposal will not mandate the use of specific technologies or equipment.


Costs or Savings to State Agencies

No costs or savings to state agencies will result as a consequence of the proposed action.

Impact on Housing Costs

The proposal will not significantly affect housing costs.

Impact on Businesses

This proposal will not result in a significant adverse economic impact on businesses, including the ability of California businesses to compete with businesses in other states. Although there are employer costs associated with providing training and equipment, the advisory committee agreed this proposal would not result in additional costs for the employer, as it is consistent with existing industry practice.

Cost Impact on Private Persons or Entities

The proposal will not require private persons or entities to incur additional costs in complying with the proposal.

Costs or Savings in Federal Funding to the State

The proposal will not result in costs or savings in federal funding to the state.

Costs or Savings to Local Agencies or School Districts Required to be Reimbursed

No costs to local agencies or school districts are required to be reimbursed. See explanation under "Determination of Mandate."

Other Nondiscretionary Costs or Savings Imposed on Local Agencies

This proposal does not impose nondiscretionary costs or savings on local agencies.


The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board has determined that the proposed regulations do not impose a local mandate. Therefore, reimbursement by the state pursuant to Part 7 (commencing with Section 17500) of Division 4 of the Government Code is not required because these regulations do not constitute a "new program or higher level of service of an existing program within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution." The California Supreme Court has established that a "program" within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution is one which carries out the governmental function of providing services to the public, or which, to implement a state policy, imposes unique requirements on local governments and does not apply generally to all residents and entities in the state. (County of Los Angeles v. State of California (1987) 43 Cal.3d 46.)

These proposed regulations do not require local agencies to carry out the governmental function of providing services to the public. Rather, the regulations require local agencies to take certain steps to ensure the safety and health of their own employees only. Moreover, the proposed regulations do not in any way require local agencies to administer the California Occupational Safety and Health program. (See City of Anaheim v. State of California (1987) 189 Cal.App.3d 1478.)

These proposed regulations do not impose unique requirements on local governments. All employers - state, local and private - will be required to comply with the prescribed standards.



It has been determined that the proposal may affect small business. The express terms of the proposal written in plain English have been prepared by the Board pursuant to Government Code Sections 11342(e) and 11346.2(a)(1) and are available from the agency contact person named in the notice. The informative digest for this proposal constitutes a plain English overview.


The adoption of the proposed amendments to these regulations will neither create nor eliminate jobs in the State of California nor result in the elimination of existing businesses or create or expand businesses in the State of California.


No alternatives considered by the Board would be more effective in carrying out the purpose for which the action is proposed or would be as effective and less burdensome to affected private persons than the proposed action.