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September 12, 2012

National crane safety council being established

A new Canadian crane safety council is being launched at a national conference in Edmonton this week.

It is the result of a unique initiative to harmonize regulations and credentials in B.C. and Alberta.

“The new council is really a burst out of a relationship that developed when organizations in B.C. and Alberta worked together,” said B.C. Association for Crane Safety executive director Fraser Cocks, who is also the acting chairperson of the Canadian Hoisting & Rigging Safety Council (CHRSC).

“Alberta is adopting the B.C. assessment process for crane operators, after we established a relationship with the Occupational Health & Safety Council for the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board."

“The B.C. model is financially feasible because it is 100 per cent fee for service and eliminates all of the associated costs, except for the people who do the assessment,” he said.

The CHRSC will be established during the Crane & Rigging Conference (CRC) Canada 2012, which is being held at the Sutton Place Hotel in Edmonton on Sept. 13-14.

On the second day of the event, the new national crane safety council will be introduced to attendees.

According to Cocks, the meeting is designed to use a culture of safety to bring the crane industry together and make positive change.

“The panel members, which are the initial starting directors, are composed of companies, organizations and associations,” he said.

“It is structured in this way to ensure every industry sector, as well as all applications of lifting equipment are included. The intent of the council is to ensure that the members consist of applicable major stakeholders across Canada.”

Before the panel is formed, attendees will be given an opportunity to ask questions and make comments.

In addition, the discussion format will allow panel members to explain their views and outline the aims and objectives of the council.

Economic growth in western Canada and the increase in construction activity is the driving force behind the CHRSC.

“At last year’s conference (CRC 2011), we thought we would get started by focusing on the western Canadian provinces,” said Cocks.

“So, we did our thing and representatives from Ontario decided to come, but they were a little upset because they did not receive an invitation. We welcomed, and asked, them to go back to their province and find a way to make this work.”

The BCACS business model is the main benefit that Alberta will receive when the province adopts their assessment process.

In Alberta, the provincial government administrates and pays for the assessment of crane operators.

The process requires the rental of a site and crane, as well as the cost of an unbiased observer and the assessor. It is subsidized by the government.

In contrast, the BCACS undertakes the assessment and certification of crane operators without any provincial government funding.

Under the model, assessors go out to a site to do the testing. This eliminates the cost of renting a site and a crane, and relieves operators from the stress of being tested on an unfamiliar crane.

The practical assessment is supervised by the BCACS and conducted by a third party assessor, Fulford Harbour Group.

A pilot program for assessing crane operators in B.C. was launched by the BCACS and Fulford in May 2008.

As of Aug. 26 2012, about 9,000 crane operators have been certified and nearly 300 are currently in the assessment process.

WorkSafeBC required all crane operators to have a valid certificate or register for a mandatory written and hands-on exam by July 2008.

Before this date, crane operators were not required to have any formal training or experience.

In the initial phases of the CraneSafe Certification program, the application process and the assessment fee was $500.

But, as the demand for training shifted away from the backlog of operators already working in the construction industry, the assessment volumes declined and the practical assessment fee increased to $750.

The assessment involves spoken questions, as well as the operator using the crane to show that they have the basic knowledge, skills and ability to safely operate it.

The practical exam includes setting up the crane and doing the usual checks.

The exam then puts the candidate through a series of tasks to see if their skill level is up to the standard.

The BCACS spent three years developing the CraneSafe Certificate system, in partnership with WorkSafeBC, the BC Industry Training Authority and 52 members of the crane industry.

Established in November 2005, the BCACS promotes the development of an industry-driven crane operator qualification system in BC.

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