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There is an old saying expressed by teachers, authors, and comedians alike that no one is actually afraid of heights. They are afraid of falling.
Fear or no fear, working at heights is critical in a wide swath of industries such as construction, communications, and utilities, and applications from mounting billboards to servicing wind turbines. To help ensure that workers are properly instructed not to fall—or can be rescued from a fall—Kee Safety introduces a full suite of fall protection and other safety training programs. It is grounded in IRATA Rope Access Training and will be in full swing with the opening of a dedicated new training facility in Calgary, Alberta, as of May 2023.
A veteran of the fall protection industry since 1998, Martin Castle formed his own training company in 2008 in the U.K. In 2020, Kee Safety acquired his business, and Martin Castle joined the company’s training division. He is now tasked with launching comprehensive training programs and facilities throughout North America, starting with on-site programs in Canada and the new facility in Calgary.
Although railings, scaffolding, lanyards and harnesses have been in use for ages, the discipline of fall protection started to come into its own in the 1990s as Kee Safety and others began to introduce more sophisticated and specialized fall protection systems and equipment.
The Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA) was established in the U.K. in the late 1980s by oil and gas companies using rope access to provide worker safety on offshore oil rigs. Rope access techniques developed by IRATA are now the worldwide inspection, maintenance, and repair standard.
“The oil and gas industry is the trendsetter. Whatever they do for rope access training flows to all other industries,” Martin Castle said. He added that the strength of the oil and gas industry in Alberta is a compelling reason to locate the first North American Kee Safety training site in Calgary. In that respect, Alberta is typically on the leading edge of rope access and fall protection standards and regulations in Canada.
Kee Safety offers three levels of IRATA Rope Access Training:
Level 2 requires up-to-date Level 1 qualification plus one year of experience, and 1,000 hours of work on ropes. Technicians are trained to rig working ropes, perform rescues, and undertake other rope manoeuvres.
Level 3 builds on the previous courses and brings the technician’s capabilities up to site supervision for rope access projects, advanced rescue techniques, and further legislative and IRATA certification and assessment knowledge.
Each course runs five days, including four training days plus one for assessment. Successful trainees will receive a three-year certificate at their level. One-day refresher training is available.
The extensive GWO suite provides two-year certification. All other courses award a three-year certificate or validation plus refresher training. Classes can also be developed to meet the specific needs of individual clients.
Kee Safety provides on-site training and will continue to after the new center opens in May. While it may be convenient for a company to have Kee Safety instructors visit its site to conduct the training, Martin Castle notes the advantages of having the training in a controlled environment at Kee Safety.
“On-site locations are often limiting, but our new facility is nearly 630 square meters and 10 meters high. We can accommodate all the equipment necessary in their proper use.”
He said on-site training can run into difficulties with permits and local regulations. These are tangible differences, yet an intangible benefit is also critical.
“When people come to our site, they can focus on their training and improvement without the daily distractions at their workplace.”
There will be four Kee Safety instructors when the new center opens in May, with plans to ramp up to eight instructors soon. The maximum student-to-teacher ratio will be 6:1. A class can have trainees from various companies, or one employer can reserve training solely for their people.
“Our trainers are not only experts in multiple sectors,” Martin Castle added. “They have suitable teaching qualifications to help make the instruction more enjoyable and effective.”
IRATA Rope Access Training came from the oil and gas industry, though that is just one sector in which working at height is prevalent. The need in construction is “massive,” Martin Castle states, and points to many other areas.
“In advertising, people hang banners and signs. The entertainment industry is filled with mounted light standards and has people building large sets. Maintenance and repair are ongoing challenges for utilities and power generation. Rescue operations. Emergency services. Shipyards. Aviation. Window washers. It is hard to think of an aspect of everyday life that doesn’t involve someone accessing an elevated area to perform a vital function.”
The technicians that work at heights are the primary beneficiaries of fall protection training. The courses are also aimed at health and safety managers, project managers, inspection and survey engineers, and anyone needing access or to support working at height.
“There is often a large gap between what people know and what they need to know for the safety of themselves or their employees,” Martin Castle said.
From its modest beginnings nearly 90 years ago building structural pipe fittings, to its central focus on fall protection and other safety solutions during the past quarter-century, Kee Safety is uniquely able to offer rope access and additional training. The company has technical people worldwide dedicated to making the industry safer.
Martin Castle and other company officials sit on boards and serve on committees to stay updated with the latest standards and regulations. They advocate for safety awareness and education and leverage strong relationships with customers to understand their concerns and expectations to protect their workers.
“Companies already using Kee Safety products and equipment should provide a good springboard for launching our training services in North America,” Martin Castle said.
Building on the success and expertise of Martin Castle, plus the experience and extensive resources of Kee Safety, expectations are high for the new fall protection training center.