IRATA OR SPRAT
IRATA or SPRAT? Which certification is right for me? This is a good question to ask and we’ll try to keep our answer simple enough to help you make a decision!
Let's start with a brief history of each association. IRATA (Industrial Rope Access Trade Association) is based in the UK and it remains the world’s longest standing Rope Access association to date. IRATA is undoubtedly considered the most well-established Rope Access body internationally with over 400 member companies around the world (and counting). The IRATA system is also distinctly known for its rigorous technical audit for their operating members, which ensures the IRATA standard of quality assurance/quality control among its members (operators/training facilities).
SPRAT operates according to a different system of membership altogether. Although today a SPRAT ticket is increasingly gaining global recognition and membership, SPRAT certification is still principally recognized in North America.
As a company, you only need to refer to your local regulations to determine if you can hire SPRAT or IRATA certified employees or if you are bound to just one. Another element is to determine what your clients/industry prefer as well.
If you're considering getting a rope access certification, we've outlined a few questions to ask yourself that may help you make that decision.
Where do I want to work?
If you plan on travelling and working abroad, IRATA will help you get there. IRATA is recognized globally, which will help you get your foot in the door with companies worldwide. SPRAT is recognized mainly in North America.
Who do I want to work for?
Which employers are you trying to get in with? What industry are you working in? Do some research as some industries cater to one certification over another while others don't care. For example, oil and gas require IRATA only whereas building maintenance or wind energy are indifferent. Bridge engineering in the states are all about SPRAT! Keep in mind that if you want to work for an IRATA member company, they can only hire techs with IRATA certifications. Whereas if you work for a SPRAT member company, they will take both IRATA or SPRAT.
What are my career goals?
Is rope access just a side certification that you need for a certain job or do you plan on taking a more active role in it as move forward with your career? Rope access certification is available in three levels. This is for both IRATA and SPRAT. At a level 1, you can learn how to operate yourself in a rope access system, which allows you to access a certain area to perform whatever work you'll be doing. As you advance up to level 2 and level 3, you are trained to complete more complex rigging and rescue scenarios. By the time you're at level 3, you are able to manage and run a rope access team on any site. If anything happens to your team, you have the ability to implement a rescue scenario. So, knowing this, is this something you want to add to your skills and responsibilities? Or, are you okay with focusing on your main job?
Why does this matter? Because there is a difference between IRATA and SPRAT on how fast you can move up levels.
IRATA requires you to have 1000 rope hours and at least 1 year of work experience before upgrading while SPRAT requires 500 rope hours and 6 months of work experience. So, if you go with the SPRAT route, you have the opportunity to move up the levels quicker, which may lead to higher paying jobs with SPRAT companies.
Other than these main questions, the IRATA and SPRAT curriculum are similar in terms of what you will learn. At the end of the day though, the levels between both are synchronous.
Keeping all of this in mind, when you chose IRATA certification, you open yourself up to more global job opportunities. You are also required to have more hours on rope by the time you are an L3, so some may argue that IRATA technicians typically have more hours and therefore more experience on rope. An investment in IRATA is truly an investment in becoming a member of the comprehensive IRATA system, with the added benefit of being qualified to work for a SPRAT member company as well. Keep in mind that IRATA focuses their membership on the company level.
SPRAT offers you a similar certification process, but with fewer hours required of you to work through to the 3 Level certification system. The unique thing about SPRAT is that their focus on membership is on the individual level in addition to the company level. So, as a SPRAT technician, you qualify for membership, which allows you to have a vote within the SPRAT association. This may not be of an interest early on in your career but as you advance, being able to have a voice in where the industry goes, what decisions SPRAT should make to their procedures, and what focus our rope access community should have is a very empowering place to be.
From the perspective of Pacific Ropes, taking the dual certification option opens you up to the greatest amount of career opportunity and Rope Access expertise. It gives you geographic freedom, employment flexibility, and technical competency in both systems.
If this is not an option for you, just be sure to do some leg work and research what career path you wish to take in Rope Access and which certification system is required of you. At the end of the day, both are excellent choices and carry great integrity and safety records within their associations.
Ready to learn more about your choices? Check out our training pages!