Must I do an OPITO Authorised Gas Tester Training Course? – Find out.
A question we are very often asked is – must I do an OPITO Authorised Gas Tester Training Course? And the honest and quickest answer is, only if your employer requires it.
So why you might ask, are so many organisations starting to ask for gas testers to have the qualification?
Well in the past; chemist, chemical engineers, process engineers, occupational hygienists and other similar workers did gas testing. These were experts in their fields, having obtained a science degree followed by practical experience working alongside experienced gas testers.
But in recent times and in an attempt to cut costs, such professions have become a dying breed and the gaps filled with less qualified and experienced workers. Many organisations no longer have employees with a chemistry background and have to look for help elsewhere. Therefore, sending some of their workforce on Authorised Gas Tester training courses appears to be a quick and simple solution.
Secondly – there is such a lack of gas testing qualifications out there, that the OPITO (Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation) approved courses are the only option for many to choose. As a result the UK offshore oil and gas industry has adopted this as a benchmark gas tester training course; although, it is not a formal qualification in its own right.
Other organisations such as the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) in North America have recognised qualifications such as the Certified Marine Chemist .
But this is only available in the U.S. The Certified Marine Chemist qualification requires a degree in chemistry, followed by six months practical education and training in marine and shipyard safety. For the offshore world, primarily shipping, this qualification sets the highest standard to attain to and is rarely matched. It mirrors the type of gas tester previously used in the UK (A science degree followed by gas testing experience)
“Just to compare – OPITO’s three gas testing qualifications can be obtained online in just 5 hours.”
In the UK, there isn’t a National Occupational Standard for gas testing and OPITO describe their Authorised Gas Tester qualifications as Industry Training and Competence Standards as defined below.
“We assist industry on the development of training and competence for safety critical roles including offshore crane operations, rigging and lifting, painting and blasting, permit to work, gas testing and elected offshore safety representatives.”
So it is wrong to think OPITO hold the National Occupational Standard for the UK and all gas testers have to proceed via this route.
However – in fairness to OPITO, they do have 3 well-defined and managed certificate levels for authorised gas testers.
- Level 1 – For confined space entry.
- Level 2 – Testing for hot work.
- Level 3 – Providing safety watch duties.
Each course takes 12, 7 and 4 hours respectively for classroom tuition. (E-learning is much shorter). Accredited OPITO training centres are audited regularly to ensure they meet the organisation’s standards and learners recorded on OPITO’s database.
So for many without advanced knowledge on the subject, the only way to training someone to be a gas tester, appears to be to send them on one of these courses.
But this is where the plot thickens, because it’s important to note, an OPITO authorised gas tester certificate is not an assessment of competence. Neither is it a good assessment of the learner’s ability to be a gas tester. Now you might think this is a little unjust, given all the hard work that has gone into developing these courses. And please be assured we don’t want to deride any of OPITO’s courses and would still endorse many of them. But as there is no requirement in the syllabus to use a gas detector in order to attain their qualifications, it seems impossible to assess the learner’s true gas testing ability at the conclusion of the course.
(To illustrate – It is possible to obtain one of these qualifications after doing a one-hour e-learning course at home, for just £75!)
Hopefully by now you can see how it is hard to compare these types of courses with the Certified Marine Chemists and the other professionals who previously undertook such roles.
It is understandable, given changes in industry that gas testers need to be trained. It is also reasonable to accept those doing the confined space entries and hot work should be able to undertake gas testing. And for many, a simple authorised gas tester training course is all that is required. For example, those working in an industry, which the standard 4-gas (oxygen, methane, hydrogen sulphide and carbon monoxide) gas detector is all they ever need.
But in the offshore, shipping and chemical worlds, gas testers need to test for a whole range of additional substances, such as: benzene, ethyl benzene, toluene, xylene, mercury, oxides of nitrogen, ozone and even NORM to mention a few.
Therefore a short, fixed syllabus, which requires no pre-existing scientific knowledge doesn’t truthfully fit the bill.
How About Competency?
OPITO state – If there is a need to have such competence formally confirmed, this can be done at the workplace through a company’s competence management system against the Occupational Standards in section E of their standard (not a National Standard). Or by one of their approved training providers.
Therefore having an OPITO Authorised Gas Tester Certificate alone does not mean that you are:
- A competent gas tester
- Able to test for gaseous hazards in confined spaces
- Capable of testing for gaseous hazards during hot work
- Qualified to fulfill the role of a chemist or occupational hygienists, etc. etc.
So as a minimum, always check a testers competency records before accepting them as an authorised gas tester. A certificate isn’t sufficient.
(Other countries such as Holland have gas testing standards, but to our knowledge most don’t. Therefore if you have additional information on this subject, please feel free to get in touch so we can share it with others.)
So – Must you do an OPITO Authorised Gas Tester course?
Well the answer is as already mentioned – only if your employer requires it of you. As you will see from our online modules, these courses are designed to meet a specific market and workplace – offshore oil and gas. The three levels are a good attempt to standardise testing and raise standards. But they fail to ensure a learner is competent and don’t really replace scientifically trained and competent gas testers.
No practical content, or actual testing, means the “Authorised Gas Tester simple becomes an Authorised Gas
It would be far simpler for employers to assess their gas testers competency in the workplace; against a specifically designed set of work procedures without the need to attend a course designed on a fits all basis. By assigning competency and regularly monitoring performance, qualified assessors could provide large financial savings in a short space of time. Admittedly there is still a need to have training in gas detection, and this would include theory and instrument user training. The OPITO levels 1 to 3 may well play a role in this for many. However, we would suggest to look for a more progressive approach to gas tester training, following the example used in many other industries including the offshore oil and gas sectors in Norway.
Take a More Progressive Approach
Previously Norway had a one fits all authorised gas tester programme, but recently moved away from this idea and now places the responsibility on each employer to ensure their workers were adequately training and competent for the gas testing jobs they undertake. In this way employers and trainers are required to work together in developing learning and assessment programs that are affective and meet the needs of all those involved.
This approach has allowed organisations such as ours, to build training programmes and assessment schemes, which give learners the skills they need, and employers the assurance their workers are competent in undertaking gas testing in their specific circumstances.
We encourage organisations to have a range of gas testers and specialists. The vital part of any gas testing exercise is to:
- Establish in the first instance what gases need to be tested for? We describe this as a “gas tester’s risk assessment.”
- Determine how to detect and measure these accurately – which gas detector and sensors should you use?
- Where and when to take measurements?
- How to act upon and report the findings?
These 4 basic principles are the backbone of any skilled and competent gas tester. “A trained monkey can take a standard 4 gas detector and lower it into a confined space and shout if the alarm activated.” (Not wanting to deride monkeys of course!)
Once these 4 basic principles have been established, a less skill “Authorised Gas Tester” could take over. By following work instructions and permit requirements establish by these basic 4 steps, a less skilled authorised gas tester could undertake the initial and on-going gas measurements. The 4 step method undertaken by a specialist is a tried and tested formula used in many industries and one we have led for many times.
Finally – AGT courses are often delivered for purely commercial benefits and therefore the quality of them varies. (Again your experiences will be beneficial if you are prepared to share them with us?)
So – if you are looking to do an authorised gas tester course. Or simply need to develop your skills. We would suggest you look around first before purchasing. There are a few well-established trainers and assessors out there, including us ready to help. Ask them for a trial course. Question their trainer’s experience. Is there a chemistry background? Review their assessment programmes. Experience their practical sessions. Enquire about their continuing support. Don’t be afraid to ask and please don’t go for the cheapest and quickest option.
“If you simply want to be just an “Authorised Gas,” then choose the cheapest e-learning package out there. But if you want to be a true Authorised Gas Tester, then please dig a little deeper.”
In the coming weeks you will find lots more information on gas testing continuing to go up on this website. Simply click the follow link to get this information sent directly to you. By reading all the articles you will eventually have the knowledge of an Authorised Gas Tester, if you haven’t already.
For anyone wishing to become a specialist or Advanced Authorised Gas Tester, we suggest talking to us directly and working along with our team. So please feel free to contact us.
We currently have classroom and practical based authorised gas tester training for:
- Confined spaces theory (2 days)
- Hot work theory (2 days)
- Purging theory (1 day)
- Advanced authorised gas tester theory, includes confined spaces, hot work, purging, hazardous substances, gas detector and sensor selection and gas testers risk assessments. (5 days)
- Gas tester’s risk assessments theory (1 day)
- Hazardous substances theory (1 day)
- Gas detector and sensor selection theory (1 day)
- Shipping theory (3 days)
- Tunnelling theory (2 days)
- Gas tester competency assessor theory (2 days) following advances authorised gas tester qualification.
- Practical 1 day re-assessment for confined spaces
- Practical 1 day re-assessment for hot work
- Practical 1 day re-assessment for purging
Our primary aim at @gt is to inform and share gas testing information. Our training courses are a not for profit way of financing this website and those who support its production.
Author – Senior Trainer @gt