Aiming high in business

North Melbourne may be home base for the team at Vertigo High Access Specialists, but its expert climbers soar high and roam far.  

For 30 years, this rope access trades business has inspected, cleaned and installed safety systems at some of Victoria’s tallest and best-known structures. 

‘We recently assisted with the replacement of all the speakers and lights at the Melbourne Cricket Ground,’ Vertigo Director and CEO John Dollisson said. 

‘We’ve done most of the big signs around Melbourne. Probably our biggest claim to fame is designing access systems on the roof of buildings so people can get down the sides to clean and replace windows.  

‘We’ve also had a team down at Hazelwood assisting with asbestos removal at the old coal-fired power plant. 

‘We still do a lot of inspections including the Bolte Bridge. We do a lot of tunnel work and we’ve even participated in a number of television shows, setting up ropes and rigging for them.’ 

Vertigo’s gallery of images is not for the faint-hearted. Technicians and tradespeople appear as tiny figures dotting the vast roof of a sports stadium or against a wind turbine. Their ropes stretch across treacherous seas, to help maintain offshore rigs. 

The team works on everything from cathedral spires to huge glass structures and atriums, bridges, tunnels and massive advertising signs. 

Vertigo is one of this year’s recipients of a Lord Mayor’s Commendation. This City of Melbourne program acknowledges the contribution of small businesses to our city. 

At Vertigo’s headquarters, training and skills updates are constantly underway, as safety is paramount. 

‘North Melbourne is a great location in terms of access to training and access into the city,’ John said.  

‘Probably the bulk of our work is in the CBD and some of the outlying suburbs. It’s a great hub for us, we’d never leave.’ 

Vertigo employs about 20 people plus part-time staff.  

‘We’ve had four core guys who’ve been with us almost the whole time. They’re well-respected in terms of knowledge and the history they have,’ John said. 

‘The key thing is to find good people and hold on to them. We bring people into our facility and run them over all the rope moves and safety procedures. Safety is the most important issue.’ 

‘We have a two-and-a-half storey warehouse, it’s a bright yellow building, you can’t miss it. We do a four-day training course and a one-day assessment and they have to requalify every three years. It looks like a risky business but the amount of safety measures and paperwork are substantial.’ 

John joined Vertigo 20 years ago after seeing the team’s performance in working on huge signage in China’s cities. He was based in Hong Kong, home to breathtaking towers across the horizon.  

An economist and advertising executive, he could see the potential of the expanding international rope access trade industry. 

‘It was particularly servicing the offshore mining industry. Then Vertigo was one of the first to embrace that and start training and providing services for high rope access work in Australia.’ 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on their traditional services such as window cleaning as city office buildings were relatively empty during the lockdowns.  

However, John said construction work has continued, with COVID-safe measures in place at all sites. 

‘Recovery will take time and I feel sorry for smaller businesses and cafes and restaurants just now,’ John said. 

‘I frequent the coffee shops in Errol Street and my wife and I love dining in the city. It would be great to see all that come back with some normality.’ 

For more information, visit Lord Mayor’s Commendations.