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The history of FISAT, the German Association for Rope Access


Industrial climbers call themselves rope workers when they begin using ropes to repair cracked mortar joints on GDR prefab buildings. After 1989, the sector experienced a boom which came to a temporary halt in 1994. Workers' Compensation Boards prohibit working from ropes and close down worksites using rope access technicians. At this point in times, some users of rope-assisted techniques come together for a strategy meeting which decides to found a professional organization. Its goal was to unite forces as the legitimate spokesman for users' interests and to gain acceptance for these work techniques.


The founding general meeting took place on January 15, 1995, in Wunsiedel (Upper Franconia). The fifteen founding members from the areas high-altitude work, mountain sports, cave exploration, rescue from heights, rigging, and tree care name the professional association “Trade organization for industrially used rope and anchoring techniques” or FISAT for short. The association is entered in the official court registry for non-profit organizations in Charlottenburg with its seat in the place or residency of the general secretary.
First, FISAT initiates the Expert Council for Rope and Safety Techniques (SVR), a group of high-ranking experts from industry and business, accident insurers, fire department groups for rescue from heights, cave rescue groups from Germany and other countries. This panel works out the first training guidelines for rope-assisted working techniques in Germany. In the same year, the current FISAT General Secretary Frank Seltenheim manages to secure an exceptional permit from the Workers’ Compensation Boards for the Reichstag to be wrapped by rope access technicians. At that time not yet a member, Seltenheim then organizes a meeting of the heads of FISAT and the Trade Association for Special Building Renovation e.V. (FSBS), which at the time dealt with rope-supported access techniques. A resolution was passed to send a common delegation to the Construction Professional Committee to promote elaboration of guidelines.


In 1996, the organization manages to introduce the working group “Rope Descent Techniques” in the Construction Professional Committee of the Hannover Construction Workers’ Compensation Board. It takes FISAT 5 years of endless meetings and strenuous efforts to convince authorities before the guideline BGI 772 is passed. It is a binding regulation for rope-assisted work in Germany
FISAT introduces a pilot program for training users of rope-assisted working techniques (SZT). When the organization pulls out of training in 2002 and limits itself to the certification of trainees, a total of more than 400 have been successfully trained.


In 1997, after two years of existence, the organization changes its name to Professional Organization for Rope-Assisted Work Techniques, FISAT, since our techniques are not really industrial and the association wishes to cover all sectors of work using ropes.

President is Bernd Redlin (known in Germany as the father of rescue from heights); Vice President, Frank Seltenheim; General Secretary, Uwe Gimmerthal; and Director of Safety and Training, Knut Foppe are reelected. The new division for “Public Relations” is headed by Jürgen Krause as a board member. For the first time, board members are elected for 4 years.
On 29-9-1997, the Charlottenburg Court of Registry registers the organization under the number 17757 Nz as a non-profit organization under the name "Fach- und Interessenverband für seilunterstützte Arbeitstechniken e.V."
FISAT presents itself for the first time at the Work Safety Trade Fair A+A in Düsseldorf.



From September 15th through 18th, 1998, the International Fall Protection Symposium (IFPS '98) takes place, organized by the Safety Center of the Construction Workers’ Compensation Board (Sicherheitszentrum der Bau-BG) in Erkrath. As co-producer and sponsor, FISAT puts its imprint on the event’s program, which for the first time takes up the theme of rope-supported work techniques. FISAT is introduced to an international audience of experts as a national organization with the highest safety standards worldwide. A complete success is achieved, afterwards reflected by the fact that FISAT’s viewpoint on the permissibility of rope-assisted work techniques becomes the established notion among decision makers and thus enables its qualified members to work without hindrance.
Moreover, FISAT expands its field of activities and its influence by adding rope climbing techniques for tree care (SKT) in 1997 and rope techniques in experience pedagogy in 1998.
One of FISAT’s focal points remains rescuing from heights and depths, a field which is continuously revised and developed.


The organization achieves further influence by sending a representative to the committee for standards in personal safety equipment (NPS31) at the German Standards Institute (DIN) in 1998 and by DIN delegating Mike Gimmerthal to the working group “Rope Access” of the International Standard Organization (ISO) in the year 2000. Moreover, FISAT persuades three organizations to become members, the largest of them the Organization for Professional Sound and Lighting Techniques (VPLT e.V.), to represent the interests of their members in the area of rope-assisted work techniques.


In 2002, as decided by the annual general assembly of the membership, hires Mike Gimmerthal as General Manager and thus shifts from being an organization with only volunteer officers to operating as an association with full-time employed management.


In August, 2003, FISAT is appointed to the expert advisory board of a study on rope-assisted work techniques conducted for the Workers’ Compensation Board Institute for Work Safety (BIA) by the Technical University of Chemnitz. In the same year, the organization begins negotiations with the Social Insurance Gardening (Gartenbau-BG) to achieve recognition of its certifications and accreditations.
In November, the Berlin office moves. The Vice President assumes temporary unpaid responsibility for the management.


At the general assembly meeting in January, a new Board is elected, with Bernd Redlin (President), Holger Nawrocki (Vice President), Frank Seltenheim (General Secretary), and Mathias Kahle (Safety and Training Director). Measures for more intensive work to represent member interests are passed. The team of certifiers elaborates a new training structure which is in harmony with international requirements and ensures the trainees the highest standards.


On the initiative of a Moscow adult training facility, the Board travels to the Russian capital. After extensive consultations and the translation of our guidelines into Russian, the school becomes a member of FISAT and, since 2007, has been examining course members according to FISAT certification standards.

At the Hannover Trade Fair, FISAT certifiers demonstrate standard work and rescue techniques at the Metallbau-BG stand.


After overseeing three Industrial Climber Cups, FISAT becomes sole organizer of this sporting event in 2007. At the 3rd Industrial Climber Cup on February 17 in Berlin, around 600 spectators watched 27 participants from 5 countries.

At the Work Safety Trade Fair A+A in Düsseldorf, FISAT has always its own booth since 1997.