High-Level Cooperation

Three partners' Train-the-Trainer course helped 12 ironworkers master the proper skills of machine operation so they can pass them on to fellow workers.

MICHAEL White is the executive director responsible for apprenticeship and training for the Ironworkers union. He oversees numerous training programs for their members at a variety of locations, as well as classes at three permanent training centers the union maintains in New Jersey, Missouri, and California. The goal of the union's programs is to teach the members how to work safely and efficiently with the highest standards of quality.

Although White's director for the California center, Dick Zampa, doesn't have "matchmaker" listed on his business card, that was exactly the job he performed when he introduced JLG Industries, Ahern Rentals of Northern California, and Ironworker training coordinators from his area to one another. It all started when Zampa met Jeff Ford, JLG's product champion, during a one-day operator training session Ford conducted at the 22nd annual Ironworkers training meeting in San Diego. Both Zampa and Ford realized a one-day session wasn't enough to meet all of the needs of the workers, but no more time was available. A better solution was to organize a three-day JLG Train-the-Trainer session at the union's regional center in Oakland, Calif.

The union encompasses bridge, structural, reinforcing, and ornamental ironworkers. Almost all of their jobs involving bridge and structural erection require the use of aerial work platforms and telehandlers at some point during the construction, so training in the safe operation of this equipment is important to everyone.

JLG manufactures aerial work platforms and telehandlers, and training is big business. The company offers not only Train-the-Trainer classes (14 were conducted during the past year), but also operator training courses such as the one Ford conducted, classes in efficient parts purchasing, and a variety of equipment service schools. Ahern Rentals is a JLG dealer with 29 outlets in the West that specialize in the rental of aerial work platforms and telehandlers. Operator training is also a significant part of its business because the company wants rental customers who know how to operate the equipment safely and efficiently.

It's important to know that simply taking an operator training class does not qualify a student to teach operator safety classes. A comprehensive Train-the-Trainer class is required to qualify the individual to conduct operator training applicable to aerial work platforms or telehandler products. Re-certification is required every five years to maintain qualifications.

Teaching the Three-Day Course
Jim Smith, JLG's training coordinator, traveled to Oakland to conduct the training, which used a JLG boom lift, scissor lift, and telehandler provided by Ahern Rentals. JLG offers its operator training and Train-the-Trainer course at the McConnellsburg, Pa., factory, in Las Vegas, and on location when there are a sufficient number of students to warrant it. In this instance, 12 students from all over California attended the three-day Train-the-Trainer course covering both aerial work platforms and telehandlers.

At the Ironworkers Training Center, Smith devoted the first day of the Train-the-Trainer program to teaching instructional training methods, adult learning styles and theory, equipment operational theory, and how to conduct proper machine inspections. Day two started the students' oral presentations, which permit an evaluation of the students' public speaking abilities and their effective use of the training workshop material from day one. The third day was devoted to conducting the required inspections on each unit and then performing the hands-on evaluations to demonstrate proficiency and safe operating skills for all three pieces of equipment.

The students were assigned a task to perform with the equipment and were further challenged with hypothetical questions to test their knowledge. Additionally, Smith introduced mock hazards for them to avoid to fully complete their assignment. They wrapped up the three-day training event by successfully completing three written examinations covering proper aerial work platform operation, proper telehandler operation, and effective training techniques.

What the Students Learned
Smith's training classes weren't holidays for the ironworkers. By the time they had finished, they had 10 measurements of their learning progress.

The operational skills and coaching portions of the testing were conducted by the students themselves. They took turns acting as coaches and operating the equipment and then evaluated one another's performance.

Smith said that the 12 ironworkers who took his course "did great!" He added, "These guys were already professional instructors, so they were highly motivated to master the material. They know that there are OSHA-enforced regulations that require operators of aerial work platforms and telehandlers be trained. They also know that the people that they are responsible for teaching need to be proficient and safe operators of the equipment--not only for their own well-being, but also for the well-being of others on the job site. One of our company's chief concerns is the safe operation of our equipment, so I am really looking forward to continuing the training relationship with our distributors and the Ironworkers."

Zampa summarized the training experience as a "win, win, win" for everyone involved. Ahern introduced itself to a new group of customers who are now familiar with the JLG equipment the dealer represents. JLG was able to educate more workers in the safe operation of aerial work platforms and telehandlers and had the opportunity to demonstrate its brands of equipment to a group of qualified end users. The ironworkers benefited by gaining knowledgeable trainers among their ranks who can pass on the proper skills of machine operation to their fellow workers.

"Future employers of ironworkers benefit, too," Zampa added. "By hiring union ironworkers, they're getting workers that are properly trained in the safe operation of aerial work platforms and telehandlers and meet OSHA-enforced standards for training. It makes for a safer work site. I guess if you add the employers to the mix, it's a win, win, win, win situation. And you can't get much better than that."

This article appeared in the April 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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This article originally appeared in the April 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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