OHS Code Explanation Guide

Published Date: July 01, 2009
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Part 41 Work Requiring Rope Access

Section 826 Worker competency

Safe and competent rope access workers require a combination of both training and practical experience hours. Competent workers must be adequately qualified, suitably trained, and have sufficient experience to perform their work safely. Working a minimum number of hours at height helps ensure that workers meet the third component – sufficient experience – of the competency requirement. Documenting those hours in a logbook (see section 827) provides a record to employers of the practical experience hours a worker has gained while working at height.

Despite adopting the safe work practices of the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA), the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT) and the Australian Rope Access Association (ARAA,) and the technical skills and practical experience hours of these organizations, worker certification by these organizations remains optional at this time for industrial rope access workers in Alberta – it is not a mandatory requirement to be certified by one of these organizations. Requiring certification by these organizations would tie Alberta workers to having to become members of one or more of these associations, may limit worker access to training programs, and might prevent agencies presently involved in worker training from entering the industrial rope access training market.

Embracing the safe work practices, technical skill requirements, and practical experience hours of these organizations will help ensure the safety of workers engaged in work at height. By making worker certification by these organizations optional, employers can employ non-certified workers as long as the employer can assess a worker’s competency against the stated requirements and the worker meets those requirements. This is the same worker competency model followed elsewhere in the OHS Code.

The employer is responsible for ensuring that workers performing industrial rope access work have the skills referred to in section 812, appropriate to the level of work assigned. The OHS Code considers a worker to be competent if the worker meets the following three conditions:

(1) adequately qualified – the worker has some type of qualification, usually earned through a formal education program, training course, etc., or a combination of education and practical experience. With certain exceptions such as professional designations e.g. professional engineer, nurse, physician, etc., or other legal requirement involving qualifications, the employer is responsible for evaluating and deciding if a worker is adequately qualified. The employer should be able to justify the basis on which a worker is considered to be “adequately qualified”;

(2) suitably trained – the worker must have training that is appropriate to the tasks, equipment, etc., that will be performed or used. The employer is responsible for evaluating and deciding if a worker is suitably trained. The employer should be able to justify the basis on which a worker is considered to be “suitably trained”; and

(3) with sufficient experience to safely perform work without supervision or with only a minimal degree of supervision – determining whether a worker has sufficient experience to safely perform work is the employer’s responsibility. A worker’s qualifications, training and experience are no guarantee that work will be performed safely. The employer should be able to justify the basis on which a worker is considered to have “sufficient experience”.

In cases where an employer is unable or unwilling to assess the competency of a worker planning to perform industrial rope access work against these criteria, a worker performing industrial rope access work would be considered to meet the requirements if the worker possessed a valid certificate from

(a) IRATA, appropriate to the level of work being performed,
(b) SPRAT, appropriate to the level of work being performed, or
(c) ARAA, appropriate to the level of work being performed.

An employer in the situation described could simply require that his or her workers be certified, eliminating the employer’s need to assess the worker’s competency.