By Seth Skydel
For all types of commercial asset service operations, qualified technicians are essential, and implementing effective training programs help ensure proficiency. At the recent 2023 EUFMC, three fleet professionals detailed their approaches.
Southern California Edison
Technician training classes range from basic to intermediate and advanced skill levels, reported Robert Ruiz, principal manager — TSD Fleet Operations & Maintenance. Included are:
In-house training is completed throughout a technician's progression or step program. Vendor training programs account for 85% of the classes and there is also leadership training in place at SCE for foremen and managers. Mandatory training includes approximately 35 online safety and compliance modules, and in-person classroom sessions for CPR, AED and first aid.
Central Hudson Gas and Electric
James Kuha, operations supervisor of transportation, reported that training for different levels of technicians includes:
The utility also has a three-step progression program with time in grade requirements and successful completion of hands on and written exams.
Dan Remmert, sr. manager fleet services, reported that training includes:
“We have a cross functional team of Ameren Illinois and Ameren Missouri management and technicians that identifies training needs and matches it with available training for the year,” Remmert said. “A schedule is sent out and technicians can sign up for classes. This process includes supervisory oversight and we assign certain technicians to classes they need.”
Operator training is a critical component of crane operations for improving safety and limiting liability, related Christa Fairchild, product marketing manager, CM Labs Simulations. “Training works best when it is engaging and relatable to the operator’s work situation,” she added. “It’s not enough to be technically proficient; an operator needs to be prepared for real world unpredictability.”
To meet that objective, Fairchild noted, simulation is an excellent tool, in part because it helps ease the transition from theory to practice.
“With the ability to replicate the worksite environment, equipment response, tasks, and weather conditions, simulators allow trainees to become comfortable with equipment and hazards and make mistakes without costly or dangerous consequences,” Fairchild said. “In addition, operator training with simulation prevents novices from developing negative habits from unrealistic training situations, which could potentially cause dangerous problems when operating real equipment.”
Training techniques using simulation can also present a variety of increasingly challenging scenarios and conditions that are not always practical or possible with traditional training methods.
Simulators have the added benefit of enabling crew training, which can be difficult and dangerous to reproduce with real equipment due to potentially hazardous interactions between equipment and personnel. For example, Fairchild related, that might include a scenario with multiple crane operators for tandem lifts, and a signal person.
Qualification vs. Certification
For CCO (formerly the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators), while OSHA or ASME standards require an individual to be qualified, a key question for crane operators is, “What’s the difference between qualification and certification?”
Typically, according to the organization, an individual is deemed qualified by having the knowledge, skill, and ability to perform a task, which can be obtained through experience, training, testing, or a combination of the three.
While there are some instances where the requirements are clear, qualification can still be a gray area for employers because there is ambiguity around how qualification is assessed when testing is not required. For example, years in the field is not a good gauge of qualification nor is simply attending a training course without validation that the training has been effective.
“When testing is required, questions often develop in relation to how exams should be created, who creates them, what employees should be tested on, how tests are maintained/updated, how frequently qualification needs to occur, how all of this is documented and, when the unfortunate need arises, how are they defended,” the group explained further. “All of this puts the burden and liability on employers.”
Certification, on the other hand, requires testing and determines a minimum baseline level of knowledge and skill. It shows that individuals understand the basics and can perform fundamental tasks.
Likewise, certification exams are designed after a lengthy job task analysis process and certification is issued for a specified period of time and requires retesting to ensure that individuals stay current on standards, regulations, and technological advances.
Seth Skydel is an editor, writer and subject matter expert with more than 38 years of experience covering commercial asset management subjects in the trucking, transportation, logistics, utility, construction and related markets.