Maintenance 30 meters above the ground: Bilfinger industrial climbers carry out rope-secured repair work at major German refinery

April 29, 2021

  • Renewal of heating bands and insulation 30 meters above the ground
  • Significant time and cost savings versus erection of an industrial scaffold while maintaining a high level of occupational safety
  • Use of skilled industrial personnel with additional qualifications in rope access and positioning technology

Bilfinger’s industrial climbers at a major German refinery are going above and beyond: At a height of around 30 meters, the rope access technicians are replacing a heating band and the accompanying insulation on some piping. To get to the job site, they abseil down from the top platform of a column at a height of 30 meters and carry out the work while they are secured by the rope. Compared to the installation of scaffolding, using this method allows the Bilfinger team to carry out the maintenance work in a very short time and with a significant cost savings for the customer.

“With the rope access and positioning technology methods, our climbers are able to carry out the maintenance work for our customer in a very time and cost-efficient manner and in accordance with the highest occupational safety standards,” says Christian Grauert, Project Manager Elevated Access Technology at Bilfinger arnholdt GmbH. “In fact, rope access is a very safe way to perform work at such height. After all, building a scaffold for this particular project would take about 20 times longer than using rope access. The rapid implementation also significantly reduces the potential danger for the adjacent areas.”

Bilfinger arnholdt looks back on an excellent safety record: since 2012, there has not been a single lost-time injury during work on the refinery, where an average of over 100 Bilfinger employees are deployed. The team has completed over two million hours of work on site safely and without an accident.

This is the first time that Bilfinger has used rope access and positioning technology at the refinery. The industrial services provider has been providing industrial scaffolding and corrosion protection services there since 2010.

In the most recent contract extension, Bilfinger and the customer agreed for the first time to use alternative access methods in addition to scaffolding. Work by rope access and positioning technology and the use of hydraulic lifts was stipulated in the contract in addition to the main scaffolding work in order to leverage the advantages of these techniques: very fast implementation of the work with minimal effort and costs as well as guaranteed execution quality and a high level of safety. All this is possible because Bilfinger's rope access and positioning technology experts are commercial specialists with vocational training in various trades, including metal workers, metal fitters, plumbers and insulators. They also have a special qualification as rope access and positioning technicians, often referred to as “industrial climbers”. 

In a new building in the German city of Herne, Bilfinger arnholdt will set up its own training center to meet increasing customer demand for flexible and efficient rope access and positioning technology. The objective is to train additional colleagues, such as insulation specialists, before the end of 2021.

In a training program that can take up to 270 days depending on the level of qualification, the industrial climbers are specially trained for assignments "on the rope" and certified in accordance with recognized standards, such as the specifications of FISAT (German Association for Rope Access). The Bilfinger arnholdt team also includes colleagues with qualifications in accordance with the international IRATA standard and the standard for workers at height in accordance with Information 212-001 of the German Statutory Accident Insurance (DGUV). 

Bilfinger arnholdt looks back on more than 115 years of company history as one of Germany's leading industrial scaffolding service providers. The company, which specializes in industrial and specialty scaffolding, employs over 1,000 people at its headquarters in Oberhausen and its seven other branches in Germany. On the site of the major refinery, Bilfinger arnholdt is the only industrial scaffolding partner for maintenance and modernization work as well as for the execution of conversion and expansion measures.

Bilfinger also uses rope-secured industrial climbers in other countries, including in the United Kingdom for the maintenance of offshore oil platforms as well as in Belgium and the Netherlands for work on industrial plants.

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