Early indications from the online Safe Pass renewal are that there has been a much higher failure rate on the online renewal than from the full-day in-person course. The online course is set up with a much higher pass mark, requiring a minimum of 45 correct answers out of the 50 multiple-choice questions correct to pass. This compares to only 14 out of 20 correct answers for the full-day in-person course.
Another reason for the higher failure rate would appear to be that participants are not preparing adequately and not reviewing the course material provided sufficiently before the online renewal. SOLAS advises that the course material must be reviewed thoroughly, and they suggest that 8 hours should be allowed for this. Safe Pass tutors have indicated that they are getting many now attending the full-day programme who had tried and failed the online route and who didn’t want to go back to repeat in the same format.
SOLAS Safe Pass online background
Since January 23rd 2023, workers can renew their Safe Pass cards online. Minister Simon Harris announced this new initiative: “Having this new streamlined option for Safe Pass renewal is a simple but highly effective way of removing some of the barriers facing construction workers. Over 30,000 people will avail of this option within the first 12 months of the programme going live. And that’s just the start, as we see increasing numbers of Safe Pass applications all the time. I would like to acknowledge with thanks the work undertaken by SOLAS, CIF trade unions, and members of the Construction Industry Advisory Group who oversaw and guided the establishment of this initiative. This is part of a number of reforms we intend to take over the next few months as we continue to promote careers in our construction sector.”
The new online system will lead to some savings for employers in both course costs (now €93.84 for the online version, full-day courses usually around €130 to €150) and on the time required to complete the course, which will now be just 45 minutes.
The new system still requires participants to attend a SOLAS approved test centre to complete the re-assessment, so there will still be time away from the workplace required. SOLAS also sends participants course material to review before the assessment, so employers will have to allow participants some time for this.
Safe Pass was first introduced into Irish legislation in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2001. For the first time, mandatory prescriptive health and safety awareness training was compulsory under the law. Thousands of construction workers (over 125K in 2022 alone) have since completed the course. SOLAS and its partners in the Construction Safety Partnership Advisory Committee (CSPAC) update the course on an ongoing basis to reflect updates in legislation, work practices and accident trends, etc. Safe Pass has undoubtedly contributed to improving safety behaviours on construction sites and significantly reducing fatal and non-fatal accident rates since its introduction.
Who needs to do it?
Legally all general and craft construction workers, and any on-site security workers, require Safe Training (or recognised equivalent, eg, NI CSR).
While it may not be a legal requirement for some construction professionals (e.g. architects etc.) to complete it, many construction companies insist that all persons entering the site have Safe Pass training. It makes it easier for the Project Supervisor Construction Stage (PSCS) to control and ensures a good base line level of safety awareness training for all entering the site.
The HSA have the table below on their website, which gives an outline of the different construction professionals who legally require Safe Pass:
Are there any exemptions?
Yes, the regulations allow for a derogation of the requirement for Safe Pass training under certain circumstances.
Under Regulation (4)(3) of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013, there is a derogation for work involving installation, maintenance repair or removal of mechanical, electrical, gas, compressed air, hydraulic, telecommunications and computer systems, or similar services.
The circumstances where the derogation applies are:
- The person involved doesn’t normally live in Ireland.
- The person involved isn’t normally employed in Ireland.
- The person has not been (will not be) working on the project for more than 20 days in any 12-month period.
For example, if a specialist contractor was coming in to Ireland to work on a project, and the work fell under the description of the works listed, they would be exempt from requiring Safe Pass if they weren’t normally living and working in the state and provided the work in under 20 days in any 12 month period.
Training from other countries?
Schedule 4, Safety Awareness Scheme, of the Construction Regulations recognises that a valid safety awareness registration card includes a card from an equivalent safety awareness scheme in another Member State (and non-member state, as amended in 2019) where SOLAS has approved the scheme as being equivalent to the Safe Pass Scheme. Currently, the Northern Ireland CSR card is recognised by SOLAS as equivalent, so if a work has a valid CSR card, they do not need a SOLAS Safe Pass card also.
Recognition of Professional Qualifications
The Recognition of Professional Qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC) Regulations 2008 (now updated European Union (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2017) also apply to Safe Pass and CSCS. While complicated, they allow EU Members to move and work throughout the EU and try to minimise any restrictions on this.
Safe Pass and CSCS are listed in Schedule 1 of these regulations as a ‘regulated profession’ with the competent authority named SOLAS. The Regulations allow for a worker who is ‘established’ in another EU Member State to work in Ireland on a ‘temporary service’ basis without restrictions. The duration of the temporary service is not defined. SOLAS have a system whereby they request those looking to use these regulations apply to SOLAS, and they will issue a ‘temporary service CSCS card’.
For somebody to work in Ireland permanently and become ‘established’, they need to submit details of their training and experience to SOLAS for assessment and may then have a SOLAS CSCS issued if approved.