Pacific Ropes Training Blog

What you should know before your IRATA Upgrade

Rope Access training is hard. The work we’re called to do as Rope Access Technicans is often even harder. The systems in place to govern this work, ie. IRATA, SPRAT, SOFT, FISAT and all others you can think of around the world, all have a tiered system. Much like an apprenticeship, the systems allows for progression through levels of difficulty as far as rope skills, but also in responsibility and expectations on a job site and with clients.

One of the most challenging elements for instructors in an upper level course is the fact that it’s been, possibly as long as, three years with no rope access training. This is a long time for rust to collect.

The other element being that 85% of the skills required to pass a level 2 or level 3 upgrade will not typically be utilized day to day on your job site.

These two things are a messy combination when you’ll be required to demonstrate those skills, ultimately flawlessly, over an 8 hour day, after practicing for just under a week. This is a challenge for everyone. Don’t get it confused. In both IRATA and SPRAT, every three years the assessor or evaluator who gave you those 2 discrepancies on your last assessment will be under the same scrutiny from another assessor, and the chain continues. The systems are designed so that no one gets a free pass in this industry.

So, below are a few things you need to be aware of before going for your IRATA Upgrade:

1) Make sure you are well versed in your current level of certification

4.3.1 Candidates applying to upgrade shall be competent in all practical and theory requirements of their current level prior to attendance of an upgrade course, e.g. an existing Level 1 attending a Level 2 course shall be capable of performing all Level 1 techniques and answering Level 1 theory questions prior to the start of a Level 2 course.

Fortunately, the solution is to put in a little bit of effort outside those 4 or 5 days of training. The pre-requisites of upgrading are that you are proficient in your current level. That means you’ll be expected to perform all level 1 maneuvers if upgrading to level 2, and both level 1 and level 2 if you’re upgrading for your level 3. Just to make that real for you upgrading level 3s, that means a flawless hanging haul rescue on day 1 (; No, we’re not that cruel, but you get the picture. There’s not enough time to refresh those skills if you really want to get into the nitty gritty of an in-depth level 3 course. Ultimately how prepared you are will determine how much we can realistically go over…

2) If you're not well versed in your current level, consider signing up for refresher training before upgrading.

4.3.2 Candidates who are not competent at their existing level may require additional training. As little time is available on upgrade courses for refresher training, pre-course evaluation is recommended to verify the candidates’ current level of competence.

Luckily we’ve got you covered. It’s part of the responsibility of an IRATA training centre to evaluate candidates pre-training course and offer refresher training to get caught up on your current levels skills. During this time of uncertainty we’re working tirelessly to try and put out as many of these skills and lessons so you can keep current if you’re stuck at home! This will allow us to jump right into our upgrade material when we get back to training. So that’s always an option, if you’re concerned about progressing up a level reach out and let us know! We’ll accommodate some refresher training for you during a different week of training! We also offer private lessons.

Another option is to sign up for our Open Gym nights, when they kick off again, they’re free! Come in and hang around with other like-minded rope techs looking to hone their skills or get a jump start on new skills. One of our instructors will be present to give demonstrations and correct any mistakes so you can feel confident before the first day of your next course!

If you really can’t get into a training centre for refresher training or an informal evaluation, there are plenty of resources all over the place with tips and tricks, breaking down each maneuver in a multitude of different ways! My advice to you based on that is don’t take anything you see as gospel! Those videos are meant to expose you to different techniques, none of them, including ours, are by any means the ONLY way to perform these rescues, or techniques. Take pride in an ability to adapt to different methods. Sometimes one method will work better over another because of the subtleties of a situation. If you like to see our techniques, head over to our YouTube page

Basically you don’t want to pigeon hole yourself into one specific method. Therefore, don’t rely on the 4 days of training to teach you everything you need to know about your trade. Take it upon yourself to look at all these techniques, fall in love with the art of Rope Access and educate yourself on the possibilities surrounding it that aren’t packed into your 4 days of training. If you’ve made it this far through this article, chances are you are a Rope Access technician; you are part of a constantly evolving and rapidly growing industry, and you are still at the fore-front of bringing it to the spotlight in Canada, and setting a standard for the rest of the world as Rope Access Techniques extend their reach globally.

3) Consider the fact that having enough hours doesn't mean you are necessarily ready to upgrade.

4.2.6 Candidates should consider their experience carefully before attempting to progress to a higher level. Candidates without appropriate experience, adequate pre-assessment training and knowledge of the syllabus are unlikely to meet the required standard when assessed.

Many people strive for their upgrades as soon as they have 1000 hours and 1 year of work experience because they want the pay uplift. However, we've seen students who come in for their upgrades, only to be unsuccessful, because their overall experience is not enough. Whether you don't have the diversity in your work experience or not enough opportunities to be exposed to different work scenarios, having just 1000 hours and 1 year of work experience does not mean you're necessarily ready to upgrade. It allows you to go for your IRATA upgrade but doesn't guarantee that you're ready to upgrade. 

In this scenario, we encourage you to seek out Supervisors and employers that know you well enough to mentor you on what you need to do before upgrading. They may have advice that can help prepare you. Alternatively, don't be shy to email or call us. We can advise you on what to expect based on what your current experience is.

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