E.X.T.R.E.M.E. Rope Access

Quo Vadis Rope Access Work?

Here is the overview of some of the comments that I took for my upcoming story on the suspended access industry

FULL-HD-SO;O-lAKATNIIt is not always easy to explain to people who have never worked on over 500 meters off the ground and don’t have the experience to do it in extremely cold and windy days, who do not know what it is to work and make split second decisions at that height. Especially if they have to fight with time and strong wind turbulences…. But let me tell you for the record – in my personal and professional life, I have been in situations, surrounded by people more experienced than me and felt safe and secure, but when the “stuff” hit the fan”, they ran like hell.

So, as in the recent airplane tragedy of Germanwings – over safety can be overkill. By-laws, regulations and safety rules can be applied in the industry, but for emergency situations and extremely high-risk task – there are the rules that have to be improvised and decisions made on the nick of the time. That why such task are not for everyone.

To be, or not to be with a helmet?

Some people take it very personally when the see my rope access work on super high-rises and  I am not wearing a helmet. They freaked out, showed up their ugly side and their petty vision of the R.A.W. network. Imagine if they see me what I have done without the ropes… But there is something more important than putting a helmet on – it is what you are going to put it on 🙂

Rope access is my past job. But I am writing a story about the history of the rope access as part of the suspended access industry. So, I was curious on what is the mood in it and how commercialized the business has become. For example, wearing a helmet on the tallest structures does not help you in anyway. On the contrary, when the winds are higher than 60 km/h, you are barely hanging on, fighting with the wind and turbulence, the strap is like a tight sling on your throat….So, the focus in such situation is to be as light and fast, as a ninja or Achilles…

In a recent survey, I heard comments like “…you should not be working in 60 km/h winds and a helmet will help you if you bang your head against the structure which would be likely in those winds, we are not ninjas…

Well, that is the difference by those who serve first them and those, who as the Samurai and the Bushido code, serve a cause bigger than themselves. My job on the ropes was to predict worst case scenarios, so even at extreme conditions and wind speed, I set up my rigging system in such a way that I cannot hit my head against the structure.

I have never understood why people would try to downsize the novelty of uniqueness of others or their scope of work. I have never worked there on a low-profile job and solved the problem that no one have done or found solutions before me there. When they refer to the stunt work as circus, I answer them: “Is that a complement? Circus is the ultimate path that rope access can be take. It is an art with a tradition developed over the centuries. It is where the Royal families and most developed countries invest in this form of art a national pride. Besides the Royal Family of Monaco and other high profile Maecenas, the Canadian government invested $20, 000,000 in Circus du Soleil, and set up an iconic image of the Canadian brand and reputation.

Now, everybody is right here and I appreciate the tolerance to other opinions. What is relevant here is that people should always think. If they have more than enough battle proven work experience, release of all liability their clients, they can have the liberty to work in any way they want to, as long as they are safe and do not endanger the life, property and reputation of others. That is mainly because they will maintain their mechanics, fast reaction and muscle memory to react instantly when they are threatened by third party misconduct or “The acts of God”. History has shown that in such situations, going by the books can kill you.

This video showcases the moral of the story that maybe no one has experienced and there is the Experience worth sharing. The video in the EXTREME ROPE ACCESS OPERATIONS AT THE WONDER OF THE MODERN WORLD page shows how different people work in unique situations the experience from climbing a 5555 meters tall mountain peak on a 555 meters urban super high-rise tower

When you have the big task for a short time to fix problems that no one before has had the experience, neither has worked on ropes, so high, at the elevation where you learn thing that no one can teach you -there is no bad or good attitude. There is the only one kind of attitude – the right attitude. That can save you when you have to work in extremely harsh weather conditions and dangerous environment. Only when hell loses upon your, you work in ice cold windy weather, alone fighting with the brutal winds the only thing that will save you and your job is that you have the right altitude for high altitude… Why I was alone and no one around to help you – because in this conditions no one else dared to do the job. And I was prepared for this day and this experience can help and prepare others, who want to enter into the exciting world of extreme rope access work.

In the conventional rope access work, the core of the job is to look at what needs doing and then eliminate every risk it has so it’s safe. You can plan all you can, go by the strictest regulations and safest rules of engagement, but when you are put in unique situations on ropes, over few hundred meters above the ground, in worst case scenarios, on probably the worst combination of weather conditions, it just does not help you in any way. That is why in rapid access emergency response on super high-rise buildings. The conventional rope access regulated procedures do not always work. That is when they used to call only me.

You have to be prepared for the unexpected, because all kinds of “stuff” happens at the elevation above +/- 500 meters off the ground and higher in the air, as in the first ever long line rappelling under MI17 twin-engine helicopter.  There, due to some sudden changes, by third party involvement and unprecedented situation, I had to improvise and only my unconventional rope and aerial access training, extracted me and my crew safely from a deadly treat. If I had to go “by the books” rope access conditions would not survive even one minute in the “whirlpool” and 360 degree fast mind blowing rotation and vertigo…

II have been asked many times how I can take it lightly any resistance that can make people change their attitude. Well, I do not take it personal, neither have I felt afraid that my job and reputation is threatened. Only people who are not self-confident, have poor educated (even at home), fill insecure, can use verbal abuse etc. and lose it…

A well educated men, who has studied in some of the most prominent Canadian universities and has walked alone the path of breaking through innovation definitely has a different perspective on life and work.

On the Way to Innovation

I worked by the industry standards of Ontario, Canada in 1993 until I decided that I can make them better and introduce/implement the use of kernmantle ropes. But nobody in the Ontario Health and Safety Board that regulates construction rope access suspension work would listen to me.  The more I was convincing them in the merits of kernmantle ropes and equipment for work on them, the more upset the manufacturers and safety inspectors were. They felt the afraid to make changes.

One of the problems that have seen in on high profile projects is the constructiuon industry is when the owner of a rope access companies have abused with the advenmtages of rope acees for emergency repair and overcharged their clients, even thogh they have had a long- time business realationship.After the completion of their job, they have been toled that they are not welcome anymore on the main client’s site. Such people would never have access or work againg on super high-rise or iconic buildings. As I have seen it in front of me and heard it from the consulting engineers on some of the world’s top Landmarks – such people, with the wrong attitude were told never to go back.

Here is the wisdom of the successful 30 years of experience – at high altitude, you can’t have the wrong attitude. You want a small example? Well, one of the Eastern European country Exclusive dealers for selling helmets, has given a knife to a rope access tech to cut my main rope during a rappel….

We do not encourage you to do anything reckless! In fact, even elementary repetitive movements on your hands and body in the long term will for sure have bad impact on your back and hand movements. Extreme sports are dangerous and not for everybody. But if anyone who wants to enter the extreme world of rope access work, should be prepared for situations that no rules can help you, but your preparedness, muscle memory and stamina. Those who cannot think appropriate in the face of potential harm or death are not fearless – they are dangerous for others. Those who are well trained for extreme situations, do not think when there is no time to think. They react instantly and if they are not trained and prepared properly, they and others will suffer the consequences.

FULLHDCNwalkietalkieFor people who see me climbign solo, with no protection at all, I tell them that it is wise to wear a helmet, especially on motorcycle, even on a bicycle. As an employer I insist that my guys do it. Where needed even I wear a helmet, especially when the world leading manufacturer send them to me as a gift. But there are places when it is not necessary and instead of helping you, it slows you work. Even with just a few seconds or milliseconds… On very technical operations, like in the high Microwave (RF) exposure every excessive seconds counts. It could be the difference between life and death. Like working on brutal winds in the turbulent area of the wind venture effect. Or especially when you are working on the Urban Top of the world.

There is nothing above you to fall, or nothing below you to stop you, except that helmet that creates a micro wind turbulence and increases the wind resistance when you work in horizontal position, hanging on ropes and the strong winds blow you under the “hood”…

I just hate that strap around my neck that makes me suffocate…

Now, after falling from a high rock, during solo climbing at the age of 18, having a few motorcycle accidents and being hit two times by a car while riding a bike, I agree on the merits of wearing a helmet.

As the doctors have said it many times that I was a “Medical miracle” and survived other crashes on the road – I can say that – everyone is mature enough to care about his own personal safety as long as he is not a burden or danger to others. If somebody does not have the wisdom to wear a helmet, he should be not working on ropes for others… but he has the freedom to have a choise, express his creativity at his own responsibility and live with the consiquences.

Spiderman... on a wall near you <= It is this kind of pics and videos that raised and tripled the salaries of rope and suspended access techs in Ontario. They were thankful because from a dirty job and poorly paid profession, were a carpenter on the ground was paid twice more money, they earned the respect of their clients and had the face to ask for more money since 1995.

Now times have changed. The more competition, the lower wages. Cheap labor and expandable workers even die working and the trade does not care in many places. Rope access is monopolized. The focus is on the paperwork and sales. So, there is the more interesting work – creativity, where you can earn more money with your brain and wild ideas than with your hands.

Aerial Rope Access Descend on BoatIn the suspended acces, there is more excitement in flying and rope access stuntwork than working. When you grow – your dreams grow too. I wish to any rope acces tech to get to that point, where only the sky is the limit and have the luxury to not judge on others who have not asked for you opinion.

Through interesting storyteleing, I motivate people to earn money from the exciting rope work business that is 20% of the global business. Where I was borne, this is the work that the low privileged minorities do, in Canada, where I started the job, manly the native Indians and people on social welfare do the job for a few bucks an hour. In America, the immigrants have been dying up there on a daily basis.

In the Middle East it is one of the lowest paid job, as $300 per month, where highly certified IRATA technicians live in packs in barracks, so what is wrong that instead of that rope techs can make money from the world’s leading companies, get paid to stay in 5 star hotels, eat expensive caviar and have fun with Miss Playmates… Meet with Royal Family members and interesting high government officials… All at the expense of the clients. This is the age of High Technology, where soon the new trend for rope access is to be replaced with robots. Adapt or die….

For the period of one decade (1993-2003), in Canada I raised the salaries in the R.A.W. industry of $5.6 to an hour over $8500 just to show off at the client’s side.

Some people dare to challenge the safety standards of Ontario, Canada, where I was proud to be member of the Technical Committee that shaped the industry. But do they know that the kenrmental rope is prohibited to use and work on more than 90 meters above the ground on Bosons’ chair? And that you need to hang on three (one of them is 16mm thick) ropes? Does not any one knows how hard I had to fight to promote the use of kenrmental rope, when against you is the multi-million dollar industry? Even the monkeys have more respect in the industry.Alone, with only the respect of the engineers and the clients in the industry, I showed that rope access techs can do more than a Chimpanzee. Does anyone knows how hard is to earn the respect of the 911 MES, Toronto Fire Department, Toronto Metropolitan Police, The Chief of Command of Toronto, one of the most expensive cities in the world, the longest standing Mayor in the world and the public from “a business for the birds”, as they say it. Especially from a business that does not require a University degree.  It is exactly that kind of business that raised near $500, 000 for charity, just to show that rope access techs are not the stupid and selfish guys who hang on ropes. Because, as they say it – no smart man will hang on ropes, out there in hot or cold weather.

I raised the image of the rope access industry to heights that has never been reached before.

One story on the top of a high-rise tower on Bloor St in Toronto was very explanatory: I was about to set the rope and cross over the edge, when a guy working on a scaffold on the roof approached me. When he saw my name on the harness, he asked me: Are you Ivan Kristoff

I am writing a book on the history of this construction work. That is why I conducted a survey in the Rope Access forums, to see what is today’s attitude in the industry that I stay away from, what others are trying to achieve. After seeing the results, I am happy that it is behind my back and I now I have to work with pretty girls, exciting people and rich people… There was time when rope access was fun, profitable and safer. In Canada we respect each other and I had people hugging me when they see me, just for the fact that I am still alive, that I made them richer and most rated, even without knowing them. That is how the good reputation benefits everybody.

Now let’s look at the facts: In 1995, before I started with the Committee to re-write the Bylaws in Ontario, there were 5 (five) fatalities from the rope access work. For 10 years, I was proactive with public “presentations” and lower to 0 (Zero) fatalities every year, No one died under my watch!! The City of Toronto spend $2,000,000 just to compete for a six months period on a Pilot’s project for helicopter services just to see that I am more efficient then then. And ten years later, in 2005 when I went home to take care of the people who need me more and my Real Estate properties I learned that 5 people die from the suspended access.

So, try to do something like that for your industry, extract people, save lives and money, do positive thing that no one has done or tris before.

Some people would argue that if I had to work by the IRATA standards, I would still do the job… No, the first job on the CN Tower could not be done in time by the IRATA standards. Only by the way Achilles entered Troy – light way and so fast that even before any one understood that I was there I finished the job in short time, before the brutal winter, three times faster… Just like the SpecNaz -the Russian elite Special Forcess Team. That is why the exact words of the Consulting engineers that chose me to be the First man to do the job said: “We have seen many other companies, teams and workers but we have never seen anyone like you…” I can be only happy for anybody to be called that by the Great masterminds that built the Modern Wonder of the World

Letter CN TowerI cannot go as low as some wanna-be “Guardians of the safety procedures” can write, but I can try. Here we go: I was amused that so many wannabes, who have probably achieved so little, are giving their opinion for things they have never done, on places they will never work and be invited as Special Guests for dining on the VIP area of the tallest tower, unreachable access and accomplished work of the 20th century. Did anyone was invited for a Special Dinner on the Tallest Restaurant in appreciation for the great attitude, friendship and work? Did anyone was told the words: “Congratulations man! Only you made it! Do you know how many, if not hundreds of people every day write us emails and letters…” When I was the first and only person to solve the over 27 years old dilemma of the World’s Tallest building and structure of the century, the symbol of the Canadian engineering accomplishment, there was no one around the give his stinking unsolicited opinion. No one could be trusted as me. There were the world’s top Rope Access and probably IRATA companies that lost to me. So, anyone who has not worked on a high-profile and high-risk job, taken the full responsibility and successfully complete it, now is the time to learn something that you cannot learn from the highly paid IRATA, SPRAT and other rich organization, who eat when you bleed to make them richer.

I was there, when the representative of the leading rope access equipment tried to convince me and the Ontario Ministry of Labor to accept only the IRATA regulations and have full monopoly. I told him this directly: Even though I can benefit and use finally kernmantle ropes, without have the only permission by the government to use them, against the threat of heavy fines that start from around $10,000 to $25,000 , I still do not believe in dictatorship and monopoly

The competition and the people who have worked and used to the old system do not deserve to go only by your interests. They should have a choice. I do not believe in dictatorship, neither the world. That is why Saddam will be thrown away soon. That is what I believe and my moral stands for. But the world was changing and the monopoly is expanding… That is when the greedy businessman, who don’t have a moment on the job started occupying the industry and preaching The Gospel of Money and New World Order. That is when I lost the passion for this dirty business. The one that I made look honorable.

How to manage trolls in the social media mix

For my presentation on using the social media mix as a way to showcase innovative ideas for the rope access work, I would suggest on not going to the third round of arguing with comments on posts. My logic in the Principle of three is the following: If someone has done something – I call it happening. If he has done the same thing twice – I call it coincidence. But if it happens the times, there is a pattern and it is a fact. So, in arguing in post, don’t go to the same pattern, because you are entering in the ….. contest.

Those who have never worked at heights, reserved only for the bravest and most innovative people are easy to judge on others and disrespect achievements that no one else has achieved before.  I am from the breed of man who rarely can be seen hanging on ropes on the side of the buildings… I go higher in the air, beyond the view of those who do the talk, but has never done the walk. The advantage to work solo on high profile projects, where the only governing By-law is what you have to design on site as a strategy to solve a problem that no one has done before, and no one has written before, is that there is no one to tell you what he thinks.