Should you invest in IRATA, SPRAT, or both?
On the technician level, we've already created a blog post on how to choose between IRATA or SPRAT certification here. But what if you're an Employer or Manager footing the bill? Does it matter on a company level which certification you put your employees through? If you have clients or legislation that dictate for you then it's an easy decision. But if not, does it matter that you pick IRATA or SPRAT or both for your company? Let's start with a few scenarios, then we'll list a few questions for you to ask yourself that will highlight the pros and cons in order to help you make the right decision.
The difference between both Associations
There are actually more than two associations for rope access that are more relevant to other parts of the world. But here in North America, we only need to concern ourselves with IRATA or SPRAT.
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). IRATA membership is based on company level which means only business and companies can apply for membership. Membership is granted on the condition of initial and ongoing safety audits, which may be costly for a company.
SPRAT (Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians) is influenced by IRATA during it's conception but was created mainly to serve the specific needs of rope access in North America. SPRAT certification is still principally recognized in North America. They have membership on the company level and the technician level. Membership is granted upon payment of a membership fee.
Here in North America, both IRATA and SPRAT have different influences in different regions depending on regulations and industry. Both associations contain committees and execs that are centered around their members. So, having membership in either one or both associations will give your company an opportunity to have a say in what happens in the certification process of these companies. Having a say and involvement might be important if rope access is a significant portion of your business service offerings.
When your industry has no preference
If you're in an industry that does not specify which certification is preferred then you will need to consider the probability of which one they will choose in the future as rope access influence grows. What values and trends do you recognize in your industry? What do your clients care about?
For example, the oil and gas industry places importance and emphasis on safety in the work place. IRATA meets that requirement because IRATA members are required to go through audits to maintain high safety standards for rope access training and services. Although SPRAT has similar expectations of how a rope access team is conducted, they don't perform audits on their members to ensure all standards are being met.
On the contrary, SPRAT is highly used in the Engineering industry in the states. Why? Because SPRAT itself was created and built by individuals involved in Civil Engineering. SPRAT was originally manifested to serve the needs of this industry although it's grown now to encompass more than civil infrastructure. Nevertheless, SPRAT influence remains strong here.
In BC, the high rise maintenance industry favors SPRAT. This trend was mainly due to the fact that in the SPRAT certification system, technicians can upgrade quicker than IRATA. This meant that if you were to invest in an employee, that employee can become a L3 Supervisor quicker in the SPRAT system than the IRATA system.
As you can see, industry trends can vary significantly for diverse reasons. To begin, sit down and think about where your industry started, how it's evolved, and where you think it will go. What do you think your clients will want in the future?
When there is no local legislation on rope access
Generally, this means that your local legislation body is not aware or educated on the benefits of rope access. If you're using rope access, it's probably because you see the value that this will bring to your clients. At this point, you can operate within SPRAT or IRATA or a mix of both and it wouldn't matter. The problem with it not being legislated is that your competitor may also offer rope access but not under either association, therefore allowing them to underbid because they can cut costs including sending untrained employees to do rope access.
Using BC as an example, our rope access regulation came into effect because we wanted it. There was enough rope work happening that we wanted there to be some standardization across the industry. So as a collective, we made enough noise for them to look into it. In the end, our regulation here stipulates that either IRATA or SPRAT are acceptable but in order to do any rope access work, all technicians need to be certified by one or other. Which leads us to our next question.
How does each certification influence my rope access teams?
Both IRATA and SPRAT have three levels of certification. There are a few minor differences in the levels between the associations but generally, a level 1 IRATA can perform and have the same responsibilities as a SPRAT level 1.
The main difference comes in how soon a technician can upgrade. For SPRAT, they require 500 hours and 6 months of rope access experience while IRATA stipulates that you need 1000 hours and 1 year of rope access experience. So if you need to have Supervisors sooner rather than later, a SPRAT certification will help you achieve that.
Along the same lines, general certification procedures for IRATA are more stringent than SPRAT certification procedures. When it comes to upgrading, logbooks, expired certificates, and direct entries, IRATA has a lot more requirements and stipulations than SPRAT.
A thorn for some companies that we have seen is that if they invest their money into providing IRATA certifications for their employees, many employees don't fully commit to their contracts because with an IRATA certification, there tends to be more job opportunities knocking on their doors. IRATA is internationally recognized so their IRATA certification can provide them work beyond where they live. IRATA technicians can work for IRATA companies and other rope access companies while SPRAT technicians cannot work for IRATA member companies.
Now, it's time to do a bit of Q&A with yourself or your team to decide which direction your company should take in order to maximize the efficiency of your rope access team. Use the chart of pros and cons at the beginning of this blog post to help you decipher your answers!
- Does it make sense for our company to have a say or be involved in the direction of the rope access?
- What are the values and goals of your industry? Which association aligns with those goals?
- What are the values and goals of your clients? Which association aligns with their goals?
- What is the current level of knowledge your local regulatory body possess in regards to rope access? Speak with a rep there and learn which association they may have a bias towards.
- Do you need your teams to upgrade quicker?
- Do your employees have a preference of one over the other?
In the end, it doesn't really matter which certification you put your employees through if:
- It's not in the company mission to expand their influence into the rope access industry and support one association over the other,
- You don't see your clients or your industry leaning to one association over the other,
- You don't need your employees to upgrade faster,
- Or, your regulatory body isn't biased towards one association over another.
Good news is that if your employees are a mix right now, there are options to having them convert to one or another in case things change for you in the future and you need to be committed to one association. If you find yourself in this situation, make sure you're educated on the well keeping of SPRAT and/or IRATA logbooks as these hours determine how easy it will be for them to convert or do direct entry.
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