IRATA International Training; the how and the why.

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Welcome back to another wee blog!

In the past we’ve delved a little bit deeper into the realm of IRATA – explaining how the association is structured, and a few details on the level of involvement 5th Point has had in the association over the last few years.

In this blog, we’re going to focus on a little history of IRATA documentation, the Instructor scheme and training!

The association, since the beginning, has documented the process of training technicians to provide operational solutions to the work-at-height and confined space sector. Ultimately, IRATA’s objective was the development of a safe system of work, allowing personnel to gain access to and from the work position, and be supported there – and along with the development of such systems, came the development of a robust training scheme that has been revised over the years as ancillary equipment, personal protective equipment and rope access methodology has evolved.

IRATA has three types of memberships:

  • Operator
    • Companies engaged in operations utilising industrial rope access techniques (other than training)
  • Trainer
    • Companies engaging in training personnel in all techniques of industrial rope access
  • Associate
    • Equipment manufacturers and suppliers of other services.

The Association directs and manages through its members the training of all workers seeking its qualifications. These member companies provide training or operational services, or both.

IRATA’s membership requirements are strict, and the associations continued involvement with the Health and Safety Executive in the UK, as well as several other health and safety boards globally has kept IRATA’s foundation centralised on standardised compliances and best practice for working at height. This ensures that all companies, training facilities, and technicians act according to exact safety practices proscribed by IRATA and each are safeguarded through the IRATA auditing process.

One of the most successful parts of IRATA has been the development, and refinement over time, of an internationally deliverable training syllabus. The association started with the IRATA Guidelines, published in the late 1980’s, followed by the IRATA General Requirements for certification of personnel engaged in industrial rope access methods, published in 1992, before the first IRATA International Code of Practice (ICoP) for industrial rope access was published in 2010.

The IRATA training syllabus was outlined in the General Requirements, prior to the development of the IRATA International Training, Assessment and Certification Scheme (TACS) which was first published in 2014.

We were fortunate to be among the first companies to be inducted through the TACS, thanks to the involvement of our Director in the creation of the document. During his four years as IRATA Training Chairman, Leigh, along with members of the IRATA International Training Committee pushed for an even more formalised, high standard of training.

Along with the TACS, came amendments to the IRATA Trainer qualification: there is now a complete Trainee Instructor program for IRATA technicians to become qualified IRATA Instructors.

Let’s chat about that to start with, before we delve into training.

A lot of technicians are unaware of the professional development pathways available to them; it’s just Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3, and then re-validations.

But it’s not!

Yes – you can run a training course as just a Level 3, but  from IRATA Level 2 on wards, it is possible to become a trainee instructor, and then providing all the per-requisites are met, become a qualified IRATA Level 3 Instructor.

Eligible rope access technicians need to apply direct with IRATA for trainee Instructor status, and from there complete a minimum of 400 hours of training experience with an IRATA Member Company. These hours are signed off by either an IRATA Level 3 Instructor, or the Technical Authority of the Member Company.

To apply for full instructor status, you need a current Level 3 and First Aid ticket, you need to competently demonstrate all deliverable syllabus items, and these must be witnessed. You also need to train a minimum of 30 successful candidates; at least 6 of each Level. You also need to maintain a high pass rate, and attend IRATA Assessor / Instructor workshops annually. Plus, there is an online exam!

It’s a bit of a lengthy process, but it ensures that those who hold the Instructor qualification are truly competent.

Fun fact! Our Lead Trainer Dave, is the only qualified IRATA Instructor who trained the entire way through the IRATA Syllabus IN New Zealand, through to attaining his Instructor status. That’s his L1, L2 and L3 and subsequent re-validations attained right here at home.

But it’s neat that regardless of what region the IRATA Instructor qualification was attained – the core deliverables are all assessed to the same standard – the same way that the IRATA TACS is delivered Globally.

Speaking of training; THE TACS!

While sometimes lost in the practical training, to ensure a safe system of work – the application of rope access needs to be regarded as a complete system – including planning, management, competence and suitable equipment – and all of these are regarded with equal importance.

The TACS was developed by IRATA to provide training and assessment criteria to develop, maintain and test the competence of personnel engaged in rope access, in a safe and controlled environment by competent, experienced and qualified Instructors.

Unlike the NZQA framework; training and assessment is separate within IRATA.

Training Member Companies must engage and IRATA Assessor to conduct an independent, impartial judgement on a candidates understanding and practical competence of the techniques they have been taught during their course.

Upon successful completion of an assessment, technicians must undergo further training and assessment at 3 yearly intervals to maintain certification.

This is a global requirement. We’ve been quite lucky over the last 8 years of conducting IRATA courses in New Zealand – up until recently we have been considered a developing region. As such, technicians who hold a current NZQA/IRAANZ L4 have been permitted to attain “Direct Entry” into the IRATA education framework.  It’s a lengthy process, but it is possible to do (but wont be sticking around for long as our region develops). Otherwise, the standard requirements must be upheld for upgrading through the IRATA system.

The TACS provides guidance on:
a) the levels of certification for new and existing IRATA International rope access Technicians, and explains the training syllabuses and assessment criteria required to attain and revalidate them;
b) guidance for candidates, including pre-training requirements and topics covered;
c) requirements and guidance for IRATA International trainer member companies;
d) requirements and guidance for IRATA International Instructors;
e) requirements and guidance for IRATA International Assessors, including the marking process.

Supplementary to the TACS, and an auditable requirement of Training Member Companies is the development, and issuing of a Training Manual. We’ve spent 15 years developing our Training Manual, with the latest edition to be released next year. Years of fine tuning, by personnel with continued involvement with the IRATA International Committees has produced a truly unique resource for our course candidates.

One of the key parts of training, is that you never learn it all. There are MULTIPLE ways of performing rope access methods. It’s one of the most beautifully infuriating parts of the industry, and where your Instructor experience comes into play. Rescue pass knots has 21 variations that we’re aware of, but we’re waiting for someone else to show us a different method.

There is no one right way for everyone – there is a set system, and a set number of skills that need to be taught, and then demonstrated to show competence, but what works for you, may not work for your friend.

This is why industrial rope access in New Zealand is continuing to grow – 9 years and counting – and we are all still learning, despite being within the IRATA Training world for over 15 years – we are STILL learning!!

We don’t claim to know every single way of doing every single manoeuvre, but we will find and instruct you on the methodology that suits you and keeps you, and those you work with, safe.

Because that’s what we’re here for.

Stay tuned for our next blog!




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