How Is Rope Rescue Regulated By OH&S in Alberta?

One of the best parts of travelling around oil & gas sites throughout Western Canada to develop rescue plans and perform rescue work is getting to meet the corporate operations team on each site, talking to them about high angle rope rescue and confined space entry rescue work.

Questions continuously comes up at sites about the legislation and required certifications to field a rescue team. The answers you would think should be in the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Code (OHS). In truth though, from a rope rescue standpoint, the code in a number of areas could use some additional support and clarification.

Currently the code does not specify any minimum certifications for rope rescue technicians.

This blog post, at a very high level, is to help those operational managers responsible for site safety and in need of rope rescue services:

  • Understand the legislation
  • Understand when a rope rescue team may be required
  • Provide guidance from a rope rescue team standpoint

Alberta OH&S Regulations on Rope Rescue

The “Alberta Occupational Health and Safety code 2009” edition states the following about rope rescue.

Part 41, “work requiring rope access” at the top it states under exemptions
“806. Workers involved in emergency rescue services or training for the purpose of emergency rescue may use equipment and practices other than those specified in this Part.”

So in Part 41, it appears as though any emergency rescue worker can utilize not only high angle rope rescue equipment but any other equipment they require to do their job, but it does not indicate what certifications this person must hold.

Part 9 “fall protection”
Rescue personnel exemption
“138 Rescue personnel involved in training or in providing emergency rescue
services may use equipment and practices other than those specified in this Part.”

So where does the rescue team fall according to the code? There is no mention of what certifications rescue personnel must have nor is there anything specific around rope rescue related work. It appears by the wording that the code leaves it wide open for any rescue technician, trained or not, to use a wide variety of equipment that they may or may not be trained on.

Part 7 “Emergency Preparedness and Response”
In this section there still is no minimum certification or level of training for those hired as the rope rescue teams. The code says:
-117 (1) an employer must designate workers for rescue
-117 (2) an employer must ensure these workers are trained
-117 (3) training under section (2) must include exercises appropriate to the work site and potential emergencies.
-117 (4) training in section (3) must be repeated at a frequency to ensure the rescuers are competent.

With these vague regulations, how is the employer supposed to ensure they are in fact meeting the requirements set out by the code in the most cost effective way possible?

Other Industry Standards & Regulations

One way to do that would be looking at the industry standard for fire fighters through the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The NFPA sets standards for rescue personnel performing rope rescue and other rescue services. In addition, under the NFPA, a board made up of industry professionals, independently evaluates rescuers and certifies that they meet the standards set out by the NFPA. Standards for rescue such as high angle, confined space and swift water fall under NFPA 1006.

As an example, Protocol Rescue technicians carry the pro-board certificate meeting the NFPA 1006 standard of rope rescue technician as well as in house competency testing through regular drills and practices.

Other associations that set standards for rope training and rescue include the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA), the world’s leading authority on industrial rope access, and the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT).

Checklist for Selecting a Rope Rescue Vendor

When selecting a rope rescue services company or even individual technicians for a project a few simple ways to evaluate them, including:

  • Checking references and review past work experience
  • Checking PICS and ISNetworld
  • Asking to see their LTIR and TRIR statistics
  • Verifying their WCB rating

Ensuring a safe work place is your responsibility and an unsafe workplace is your liability. Many companies in the rope rescue industry have regular training courses in their written safety program, and many follow the schedule with regularity. On site practice drills and mock rescues are an excellent way to gauge the quality of your rope rescue team and keep them sharp.

For more information on selecting a rope rescue team, contact us at (780) 819-8027 or