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Pacific Northwest Operators Compete for Positions in Crane Operator Skills Championship

Construction News: Crane Operator Rodeo

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From left to right, Stever Frein, Mike Parnell and Andrew Seid


 October 9, 2013 - The final crane operator to arrive in Woodland, Wash., last Saturday for the Pacific Northwest's regional qualifying round of the Crane & Rigging Hot Line & CIC Crane Operator Skills Competition nearly missed the competition but quickly shot to the top of the day's standings to earn a berth in the championship in March 2014 at ConExpo-Con/Agg in Las Vegas, Nev.


The staff at Industrial Training International (ITI), which hosted the Northwest regional event at its Woodland location, said Andrew Seid's performance was essentially perfect as the Boise, Idaho, operator completed three tests that make up the skills competition.


Hometown contestant Stever Frein of West Coast Training Inc., also in Woodland, was the first competitor and clung to the top spot until Seid took control of the 35-ton-capacity RT Grove 635C that ITI provided for the event.


Seid and Frein earned paid trips to the championships in Las Vegas, where the top two finishers from nine regional qualifying events will vie for the title of North America's top crane operator.


The Northwest skills competition was the sixth qualifier, with additional regional events scheduled this fall in Houston, Texas, Sanford, Fla., and Corpus Christi, Texas, and one in Las Vegas right before the national championship. The crane operator skills competitions held across the United States and Canada are a partnership between Maximum Capacity Media, publisher of Crane & Rigging Hot Line magazine, and Crane Institute Certification (CIC), an independent certifying organization for mobile crane operators and riggers.



Operator Experience

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Grove RT crane used for testing at ITI's Woodland facility.


“I've run everything from 23-ton boom trucks to 600-ton ringers,” Seid said. He grew up around the family business, Seid Crane Service in Boise, and has been an operator eight years. “I've spent quite a lot of time in Groves; lots of work on dams and steel erection and bridges.”


Meanwhile, Frein expressed surprise to land a spot in the championship round because he is a little rusty. He started in the business 33 years ago, operating cranes with carrying capacities up to 450 tons, but he hasn't been at the controls on a daily basis for a decade. He currently works as an instructor.


Seid flew in from Idaho that day, and the seven other operators in the regional challenge came from Washington and Oregon.


While top finisher Seid traveled the farthest to compete, contestant Luis G. Rojas of Richland, Wash., took an extremely long route: He hadn't operated a crane for more than a decade since leaving his native Peru. He didn't mind finishing last but hopes to update his operating skills so he can work in the United States.


Cami Pearson, another hometown competitor and the only female in the Northwest regional, had an obstacle of another kind. She is four months' pregnant and had to wait for nausea to subside before her coworkers at West Coast Training could talk her into competing. “Me and mornings don't get along,” said Pearson, who completed the courses cleanly but finished fourth based on her time.



Testing Criteria

Competitors must complete three skills tests while aiming for the lowest score. Judges start with a base score and add points for elapsed time and errors, such as moving drums and cones that mark the courses.


For the first test, contestants attempted to lower the crane's headache ball into open drums without moving them.


For the second skill, operators maneuvered a weighted test drum through a slalom course. The goal was to keep the test drum airborne and the 3-foot chain attached to its bottom in contact with the ground while weaving the load through a line of empty drums.


The final test required operators to raise a cement-filled, 10-foot PVC pipe on end, move it to the other end of a corridor marked by safety cones, and then lay it back down.


“I love it,” said Kevin Parrish, a 10-year operator who works for Sulzer Pumps Inc. in Portland, Oregon. “It's something you want to do when you're a kid. I probably had a couple of Tonkas like this.”


The judges were ITI employees Jay Dyson, an instructor, and Alex Faris, who works in field services. Both are CIC examiners and operators. Mike Parnell, ITI's president, also helped judge several rounds.


ITI is known as a world leader in crane and rigging training, lift management and planning, and inspection.


Parnell, who also serves on CIC's Governing Committee, said the talent needed to score well in the qualifying event, which is representative of the abilities operators also must bring to the jo site in the many types of markets where his company trains.


“It takes good management skills. You can't cowboy the thing—you'll blow it,” Parnell said of the competition. “If we can have better operators out there as a result of these kinds of activities, we've met our mission.”


Parnell's company also hosted an open house, tours and provided food and drinks to competitors and their cheering sections. ITI is donating the competitors’ $30 entry fees to the The Doernbecher Children's Hospital Foundation in Portland.

By Eric Apalategui

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