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INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVES: Trade compulsory certification needed, says IUOE official

Mike Gallagher
INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVES: Trade compulsory certification needed, says IUOE official

I would like to respond to an article entitled ‘Report scrutinizes key areas of OCOT’ that was in the March 23, 2015 edition of DCN.

The report in the article was highly critical of compulsory certification and contained a number of inaccurate and misleading statements that need to be corrected, in our opinion.

I’m disappointed that the consultant quoted in the article would make such comments. We (IUOE — International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793) represent the vast majority of tower crane operators in Ontario and the truth of the matter is that compulsory certification leads to better trained workers and safer worksites.

Does anybody really believe that the trade of 339B tower crane operator should not be compulsory given the responsibilities of an operator to work safely in close proximity to the general public?

Anybody who follows our industry knows that the introduction of compulsory certification in 1978 for hoisting engineers has had a dramatic effect on fatalities in the trade.

A report prepared in 1991 by Don Dickie, who was at the time assistant general manager of the Construction Safety Association of Ontario, showed that from 1969 to 1978, when there were no training requirements for crane operators, crane-related fatalities accounted for 19.8 per cent of all construction deaths.

However, from 1979 to 2004, when compulsory certification and mandatory training for crane operators was established, that percentage dropped to 8.8 per cent. From 2000 to 2004, when training was compulsory, that statistic dropped further to 4.7 per cent.

These figures are a striking example of how safety on construction sites can be dramatically improved by introducing compulsory certification.

As for the inference by consultant Laura Dawson that we’re not bringing enough young tower crane operators into the marketplace, this is a misguided perception with no basis in fact. We closely monitor industry demand and constantly adjust the number of tower crane operators that need to be trained.

As demand rises, we recruit and train more apprentices. We can respond fairly quickly to an increase in demand. Our statistics show that between 2009 and 2014 it took an average of 23.7 months for a tower crane apprentice to complete the required 3,000 hours of training.

Between 2007 and March 2015, 327 students completed their mobile crane apprenticeships and 179 completed their tower crane apprenticeships.

Presently, demand for tower crane operators has decreased in Ontario. Dennis Cancian, executive director of the Ontario Formwork Association, reported at a Dec. 9, 2014 meeting of our training trustees, that the tower crane industry was running at only 75 to 80 per cent capacity. We will continue to adjust our training requirements in step with industry demand.

Given the evidence to support the fact that compulsory certification makes worksites safer, it would seem only logical to strengthen the system by also requiring certification for heavy equipment like excavators, dozers, tractor-loader-backhoes and concrete pumps.

In fact, a coroner’s jury recommended that compulsory training be introduced for concrete pump operators to make the industry safer. In October 2014, a coroner’s jury that examined the facts surrounding the death of Local 793 concrete pump operator Renato Marchione at a construction site in Markham on July 12, 2012 made nine recommendations, one being that concrete pump operators have mandatory training and apprenticeship and also a mandatory recertification program at prescribed intervals. Yet, nearly six months later, no action has been taken on the recommendation.

The political agenda of those who are opposed to mandatory training should not trump the health and safety of operators on jobsites, nor the safety of the public at large.

In my opinion, the DCN article was one-sided and failed to accurately portray the benefits of compulsory certification. Contrary to the conclusion in the Dawson report that a "lighter touch" on regulation is best for Ontario, what is needed is unbiased research that the College of Trades will provide into issues such as demographics. Factual information and quality research will support the industry and government in meeting actual future skills training needs. Further it will allow trades such as our own to have a neutral arbitrator of whether certain equipment such as mobile concrete pumps should be classified as a mandatory trade.

Mike Gallagher is the IUOE Local 793 business manager. Send comments and Industry Perspectives column ideas to editor@dailycommercialnews.com.

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