Safe Pass “Letters of Comfort” disallowed by SOLAS.
This week (w/c 20 May 2019) saw the issuing of “Letters of Comfort” by SOLAS registered tutors and Approved Training Organisations (ATOs) being disallowed.
SOLAS claims that it has introduced the ban because of some employers’ concerns that some “letters of comfort" have been fabricated. SOLAS in fairness, has stated that it has checked the validity of these employer submitted letters and is satisfied the letters are fictitious.
How does this impact Safe Pass course attendees?. Well, it depends how organised or last minute you are? Cards are valid for four years to the end of the month of your course date, i.e. if you attend and pass the Safe Pass course on 21 June 2019, your card will be valid to 30 June 2023.
As cards are currently taking about three weeks to issue, you do need to plan ahead and attend a course about three weeks in advance of the expiry date of your card.
For persons who are new to the construction industry or are conducting work on a construction site, you really need to plan ahead and attend the Safe Pass training at least three weeks in advance of you needing the card.
Is it fair to penalise the construction industry and its workers who may be depending on some sort of course attendance confirmation to enable them to commence or continue work within the construction industry or should SOLAS be targeting the fraudsters. Some are saying that it is a heavy handed approach by the State’s training body, others say that the issuing of “fake” letters will only stop if the only form of Safe Pass attendance confirmation is the Safe Pass Card.
…which leads to the questions - can Safe Pass cards be easily forged?
As expected, there has been both muted and loud protestations from workers who need their cards immediately. The previously issued letters of comfort were ideal to have during the wait time for the Safe Pass cards to be issued. Now some workers are being told that they cannot commence work on a Monday because they do not have a card / letter of comfort. In addition, within days of the ban on the issuing of the comfort letters, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), the national body representing Construction firms, has added their weight behind the issue, by asking safe pass tutors and ATOs to address the current situation where attendees of a Safe Pass course are not issued with a confirmation of attendance.
CIF states that the new situation is unacceptable for the construction sector and is causing difficulties on sites for workers and employers alike and is generally unfair to all involved. It has designed a new “Confirmation of Attendance Form” with CIF branding and urges all tutors and ATOs to use this form.
SOLAS has hit back in a communication to training managers and internal verifiers advising ATO’s not to complete or issue the CIF “Confirmation of Attendance” until further information is received from SOLAS on the matter.
SOLAS has contacted the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) seeking clarification on the status of the proposed CIF intervention and is awaiting a formal response.
In a further communique this week, SOLAS has advised to facilitate improved turnaround time for processing all card applications, SOLAS will be commencing a twice weekly print run that will occur every Tuesday and Friday with effect from Tuesday, 28 May 2019. SOLAS also state that it is planning to introduce further system efficiencies to reduce distribution times.
The improvements in turnaround times will therefore be a maximum of up to three days, depending on the day the tutor uploads the course attendees information.
Have your say on the matter.