Overcoming Barriers to Strategic Skills Development

Debbie Dickinson, CEO of CIS, addresses the importance for employers to continually develop people with the right skills for the job in an article for the October 2017 issue of Incident Prevention magazine. “Crane operation and rigging skills development presents greater challenges than some other areas,” she says.

Fostering crane and rigging skills across all departments

The utility industry has high expectations for employing safe work practices, and readily invests in equipment and training. Yet, there is one area where these organizations continue to lack employees with the right skills—crane operation and rigging. It’s not uncommon among utilities for individuals with crane operator certification to have less than 100 hours of actual operating time in a year. OSHA requires employers to ensure that crane operators are trained and competent; 100 hours or less is not sufficient to maintain crane operator skills. In emergency situations, utilities need crews who do not routinely operate cranes to serve as operators. A strategic approach to developing crane and rigging skills across business units could narrow or close the skills gap.

However, utilities, like all large and complex organizations, battle the 5 Cs: complex corporate culture causing complications. Different groups within the utility may, out of necessity, operate as silos, with little shared knowledge or resources. Construction groups usually have the most skilled crane operators and riggers, and readily invest in training these people, but crane and rigging experts are needed on T&D and Emergency Response crews as well.

Utility workers, especially those serving on emergency response teams, must wear several hats—meaning a single individual may need to be qualified for very different types of work, such as lineman, rigger or equipment operator. Having multi-skilled and trained personnel creates a more nimble and responsive workforce. Yet, the reality of maintaining skill levels in several trades, may also require staff and budget that is in opposition to the complex, corporate culture that thrives on efficiencies.

Management appreciates that it’s less expensive to have one person on a crew with qualified crane and rigging skills, instead of the whole crew. But in a widespread power outage, time is money. The fewer skills crew members have, the less productive they might be. In an emergency response situation, that may mean the difference in getting power restored later rather than sooner.

Organizations should ask: What is the best strategy for their needs? It might be developing a single individual with abilities to perform varying levels of tasks or having a dedicated crew of crane operators and riggers. Either option could work depending on safety, budget and timeline requirements.

Read the full article on page 37 of the October 2017 issue of Incident Prevention.