Primary and Secondary Training For Working at Height

The Difference between In-House and Third Party Training

When it comes to implementing safety procedures as required by the working at height regulations 2005, training is a key piece of the puzzle. Safety practices are only as good as the employees who actually perform the work. Therefore, they must be trained in current safety requirements, how to use the equipment and tools provided, and how to work in a way that is cautious, proactive, and as risk-free as possible.

To provide workers the proper training requires two things: primary training and secondary training. We’ll discuss both types of training in the following paragraphs as well as the difference between receiving the training in-house or through a third party organisation. The UK law requires all workers who will be performing working at height tasks be properly trained and kept up-to-date with safety procedures. Furthermore, safety equipment and tools need to be inspected and certified on a regular basis.

Primary Training

Primary training must be undertaken by every employee before they are allowed to work at height. The training should consist of classroom time and, where appropriate, practical training. Some of the topics that might be covered in primary training include regulatory standards, how to properly prepare for working at height, the types of access systems available, and also the different types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and how these can be used to prevent falls.

An example of primary training might be ladder safety. Workers will learn why the ladders are inherently dangerous and when there use is appropriate. Their training might include case studies demonstrating how improper use of ladders resulted in falls and injuries. They will also learn how to properly utilise a ladder and make it secure when it is the appropriate access system. Workers should certainly be encouraged to perform all work from ground level whenever possible, thus reducing the need for ladder use.

It is important to note that primary training needs be as thorough and inclusive as necessary for your particular type of work. Generally the information in Primary training is new to the employee and this will help him on his way to prove competency regarding the task at hand. Primary training must be conducted by a fully qualified instructor. The instructor will come from a specific industry back ground. In the case of working at height that background would normally be a manufacturer of safety equipment and their training comply to current British Standards on training.

Secondary Training

UK legislation stipulate that workers undergo further training every six months beginning from the time their primary training is completed. This is what’s known as “secondary training.” The purpose behind secondary training is to keep workers up-to-date on regulatory changes, new safety practices, updated methodologies, and so on. When secondary training is not completed on schedule workers fall behind and their limited knowledge increases the chances of a workplace accident. For example an employee that hasn’t used their harness since their primary training (and many who have) will get skill fade thus has probably forgotten how to use this equipment correctly when needed.

Primary training should not be conducted by in-house trainers due to it being very difficult to prove the competency of the instructor under British Standards. Some training companies offer courses to train the trainer and while this may be acceptable in some subjects it certainly isn’t in critical and complex areas such as working at height. Knowing how to put on a harness just doesn’t cut the mustard. Primary trainers need an extensive breadth of experience in training operatives to be able to assess their competency to work at height as well as be constantly up to date with legislation. Trainers need also to have a thorough familiarity with a broad range of solutions to the various applications and tasks the operatives may be called on to perform at height. Primary trainers also need to be regularly audited to ensure their skills are maintained at the required level.

Having said this there can be a case made for a competent person to be trained to do secondary training as a 6 month refresher for those who have received primary training.

Secondary training can be conducted through in-house programs or through third-party training. In either case, those providing the training must be trained and competent themselves.

The working at height regulations 2005 gives details of the competency level required and what it means.

In-House Training

In-house training is provided by employees of the company who have the skills for that purpose. Typically only larger companies provide in-house training because they are the ones with the financial resources to do so. Such companies typically employ hundreds of workers and have multiple jobs going on simultaneously. Although it’s possible for smaller companies to provide in-house training it is not as common as it is with larger companies.

In-house training is also a great way for companies to manage financial resources because they have their own dedicated staff for secondary training. However, the one danger of providing training through an in-house program is the possibility that standards will be allowed to relax every now and again. Whereas a third party training firm must always keep its standards top-notch in order to compete for business and comply with audits for training standards, in-house trainers don’t have that motivation. It’s important for companies who employ an in-house method to always make sure trainers are adhering to high standards and best practices.

It is a great resource to have within your company the capability to conduct in-house refresher ‘Secondary’ training, however it must be clear that ‘Primary’ training must take place with an external independent third party company. If you try and go down the route of in-house primary training to save money, the training received may not be recognised, therefore exposing your company’s indemnity and more importantly the safety of you employees.

Third-Party Training

Third-party training is provided by dedicated training organisations or equipment suppliers who have incorporated such training into their list of services.

Third-party primary training typically occurs at the headquarters of the company receiving the training; secondary training typically occurs on the job site. However, these locations are not set in stone. Training can occur anywhere agreed to by both parties. Sometimes both primary and secondary training is best achieved on the job site. Other times, training organisations will have a more conducive learning environment set up at their location, and will encourage primary training to take place there. Location can be important especially with in a construction environment when it is always advisable to train the employee at the job site. For example, when it comes to working at height it is always good for the instructor to see specific working at height applications and therefore be able to tailor the training to that application. This would mean the employee is getting the best information and training to protect them in their working environment.

Choosing a Third-Party Training Organisation

The quality of training your employees receives depends on the individuals providing the instruction. That’s why it is very important when selecting a third-party training to choose one with a good reputation within industry, HSE recognised and a solid track record; companies that offer training need to demonstrate that they are fully knowledgeable in current legislation and its application. They should also be familiar with your type of industry – at least at a basic level. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for references from other companies they have worked with. You wouldn’t trust a contractor to work on your home without references, why would you trust a firm to train your employees in something as important as at height safety, without them?

Something to consider if you’re planning to use third-party training is to work with a company that sells tools and equipment into your industry. As long as that company has the proper accreditation to provide training there are several advantages to going this route. First of all, you’ll get top-notch training from a company that has some knowledge of the type of work you do and the tools and equipment needed.

In addition, the company will probably be able to inspect and certify your tools and equipment as well. This is a good way to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. It is a very cost-effective way to receive training, equipment supply and inspection services all in one shot. Again, just be sure to choose a company with a verifiable history.

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