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Crane Hot Line

Crane Hot Line Names Top Trainers

Training is important in engaging students, creating safe habits and jobsites, and keeping employees informed. 

Trainers, particularly great trainers, are worth their weight in gold. Their ability to engage students and teach vital information that makes workplaces safer and more productive keeps on giving for years after a class is done.

The winner in the Corporate category of the 2019 Top Trainer Award is Adam Franz of Mazzella Companies. The winner in the Professional category is Randy Bucher of Crane Institute of America. Honorable Mention (second place) in the Corporate category went to Wayne Wille of Straightpoint, and Honorable Mention in the Professional category went to John "Red" Bartlett of Industrial Training International.

Franz and Bucher will be presented with engraved trophies and scholarships made possible through funding from Top Trainer sponsors.

This year’s Top Trainer sponsors are Platinum: Lifting Gear Hire, Bridgeview, Illinois; Gold: Rigging Institute LLC and SlingMax, Aston, Pennsylvania,; Silver: Terex Corp., Westport, Connecticut; Mazzella Companies, Cleveland, Ohio; Morrow Equipment Company, Salem, Oregon; Altec Sentry, Birmingham, Alabama, Crane Inspection and Certification Bureau (CICB), Orlando, Florida; and Bronze: American International Crane Bureau (AICB), Brookside Village, Texas.

This year's competition saw 20 entries, all from excellent candidates. The industry is lucky to have such skilled and passionate trainers helping improve its knowledge and safety.

Honoring North America's Best Trainers

The Top Trainer Award competition is endorsed by the Association of Crane & Rigging Professionals (ACRP).

Top Trainer Award nominations are reviewed by a panel of judges. One Top Trainer is selected in each of two categories, based on their use of innovative or hands-on instruction; encouraging peer or corporate accountability; evidence that their training is successful; and their overall impact on the students, industry, or environment.

Crane or rigging trainers, craft instructors, safety directors, CTE instructors, contractors, equipment dealers, rental companies, rigging suppliers, manufacturers, or training companies are all eligible to enter.

The contest chooses one winning trainer in the Professional category (trainers from companies whose principal business is training), and one winner in the Corporate category (trainers employed by a company whose principal business is not training; for example, manufacturers, contractors, equipment rental companies, or equipment dealers).

The top award recipient in each category receives an engraved trophy, complimentary registration to the year's ACRP General Assembly, hotel accommodations at the ACRP meeting, a $2,000 education sponsorship, and recognition in Crane Hot Line magazine. 

Tom De Soo, director for I and I Sling/SlingMax Rigging Solutions, and ACRP president, said, "ACRP is proud to honor these expert trainers through the Top Trainer Award Program. It's a

great way to recognize trainers who do outstanding work and to raise awareness of the benefits of training throughout the industry. To all trainers, thank you for what you do."

Corporate Top Trainer: Adam Franz

Top Trainer in the Corporate category, Adam Franz, is a master at engaging students and keeping them engaged for the full training course by his lively delivery, real-life examples from the students' own workplaces, and friendly competition with prizes.

He is inspired by the opportunity to improve the safety and lives of his students, and by their ability to improve the lives of their co-workers and their workplace culture by passing along what they have learned.

One event that inspired Franz to become a trainer was seeing an accident investigation at a large paper mill where an improperly protected round sling was cut by its load and a suspended roll fell, nearly landing on two workers beneath. Luckily, it was a near miss in terms of injuries, but the accident cost a million dollars in downtime.

Knowing that proper training can prevent accidents, Franz does all he can to educate workers about the use of slings and lifting equipment. Encouraging class participation is one of Franz's keys to successful training.

Typically, each pre-class walkthrough turns up at least one homemade lifting device. That gives Franz the opportunity to speak about the risks workers bring to themselves, their co-workers, and their employer by using it.

"The way I look to capture my classes' attention is to bring in real-life examples of good slings or shackles that will pass a visual pre-pick inspection as well as bad slings and shackles that won't," Franz says.

"Sharing hands-on examples of what is right and wrong lets classmates engage and get hands on. Along with examples, I like to share stories that I've been told over the years about some failure of a lifting or rigging device and what it has done to all involved."

Another way Franz engages students and keeps the training lively is using candy and swag to create a competitive culture in the class so students stay involved and are eager to answer questions. "You'd be surprised at what a grown man will participate in to get a free Snickers bar," he says.

Also, Franz keeps a list of questions and issues that come up in class so he can address them with the company to make sure all safety-related issues are taken care of.

One of Franz's key messages: Share what you've learned with your teammates in the factory or on the jobsite.

"If classmates spot something not being done correctly, they should point it out with positive intent to their peer who was not able to attend," he says. "The employer has invested in this class not only for the one person being trained, but to create awareness for their whole workforce to create a culture of safe care, use, and inspection of lifting and rigging items.”

"I've found that most people want to do the right thing and go home safe at the end of the day, but they just don't know what to look for,'' he says. Top Trainer Adam Franz is helping them learn. 

Professional Top Trainer: Randy Bucher

For Top Trainer in the Professional Category, Randy Bucher, it's personal. 

He had been an excellent trainer for years, but facing death from pancreatic cancer in 2011 and seeing his family's reaction to the possibility of losing him drove home what it is like for families of workers who die suddenly on the job.

Fortunately for Bucher, his family, and the industry, he survived.

In what he calls his second chance at life, Bucher's passionate mission is instilling in his students the importance of training properly so they can do their jobs safely and go home every day to the ones who love and need them.

"I tell students that their lives and the lives of their co-workers depend on them, and that it's critical for them to get things right every time in the field. I emphasize that through their decisions and actions they hold their lives and those of others in their hands."

To help drive the point home, Bucher uses the analogy of working at a fast-food restaurant. He says that if the students were working at that kind of job and messed up an order, an apology and some free fries or dessert would likely fix the problem and the customer would leave happy. 

Mistakes while operating cranes or rigging loads, on the other hand, could be devastating. "There are not enough free fries or desserts in the world to rectify that kind of problem,'' he says. 

Bucher says one key to effectively reaching students is getting them engaged right away. "I always start out with my story about having a second chance, then I ask each student individually what their family would do if he or she were killed on the job, and who would look after their loved ones." 

Bucher says that making things personal gets students' attention and helps them realize that the class offers information that they need. 

Sometimes Bucher's training transforms not only the individuals in his classes, but also a company's processes. In one case, a company where he was teaching a crane inspection class had been hiring an outside supplier to inspect its cranes monthly and annually. The company was hoping to save money by training its own people to perform the monthly inspections. 

Bucher's contract on that job included an extra day after class was done for some hands-on training with the company's employees who had completed the class. 

During the hands-on training, Bucher and his students found deficiencies on all four of the company's cranes even though the hired inspection company had just completed annual inspections of all the cranes about a month earlier. As a result, the company started an in-house monthly preventive maintenance program and began performing its own crane inspections, too. The changes at that plant led to changes at all of the company's plants statewide. 

"An instructor's greatest reward is knowing that what we share can make a difference in the students' lives and make positive changes in the workplace,'' says Bucher.  

Corporate Honorable Mention
Wayne Wille, National Business Development Manager, Straightpoint  

Wayne Wilie's nearly 20 years of experience training crane and rigging professionals has taught him that getting students involved and engaged is vital.

"A key component of training is audience engagement. If the students aren't locked into the content, they won't absorb it,'' he says. 

Wille uses several tactics and techniques to get students involved and keep them engaged and learning. "I move around the room, change my tone and emotion, and ask them questions. It has to be a two-way thing," he says. 

He also brings a case full of products, props, and application photos to help give students a visual demonstration and hands-on experience. "It's one thing to talk about the equipment but another to see how it is applied in a real life," Wille says. 

He also uses PowerPoint presentations so he can control the pace and focus of the discussion.  

But, he says, the real secret to successful training is the trainer's passion for the process. "It's not about just standing in front of a class and flipping through slides. I have to earn the students' trust. The best way to do that is to show them that I really care about what we're trying to achieve. If I care, students think that the topic is important," he says. 

Besides excelling at training and business development, Wille contributes to his community and the industry by being a volunteer commissioner on his city's public utilities committee and a member of the National Association of Tower Erectors; the Associated Wire Rope Fabricators; and the International Society of Weighing and Measurement.  

Professional Honorable Mention  
John (Red) Bartlett, Trainer, Industrial Training International 

John "Red" Bartlett brings nearly 40 years of experience as a crane and equipment operator and inspector, rigger, rigging inspector, trainer, and project manager to every class he teaches. 

Bartlett's stellar resume includes certifications from NCCCO, New York State, Massachusetts, OSHA, and other organizations for crane operation, crane inspection, lift planning, rigging, administering practical examinations to crane operators, and hoisting engineering. 

One of Bartlett's keys to getting students to absorb his vast knowledge is developing a solid relationship with them immediately. Said one student, "John develops a good relationship with the students right away. He emphasizes safety right away, and keeps emphasizing it throughout the training. He is also patient with students' levels of knowledge, which ranges from no experience to having taken the refresher many times." 

Another client called his approach warm and inviting. Bartlett's knowledge, caring, and patience pay off in well-educated students who appreciate his efforts. "Our training evaluations allow students to rank the trainer and training on a scale from a low of one to a high of five," said a training manager who hires Bartlett to teach his company's employees. "John typically scores between 4.7 and 5.0. He does an awesome job that students appreciate."

Bartlett goes above and beyond by giving customers his personal contact information so they can reach him directly with questions anytime, even long after the class ends.


Crane Hot Line is part of the Catalyst Communications Network publication family.