Association News, Australia, C&L, CICA

CICA president’s industry report

The focus on industry improvements in the area training and competence is now at its greatest level within CICA. The CICA board is unified in supporting purpose driven initiatives in many areas, such as, a nationwide traineeship program, and the development of a standardised verification of competency (VOC) program accessible to all.  But at times, some issues naturally evolve in industry as different regulators fail to deal with some of the more intricate and dynamic idiosyncrasies, which exist.

One such area is in licensing, both High Risk and road access licensing, for use of Pick and Carry mobile cranes (PC’s). In particular, the road registered PC’s, and by these I am referring to Franna, Tidd, Humma and the remaining lost players in the market such as Linmac, Zoomlion and the Panda.  Each of these are common in their design of a hydraulic articulated steering system, different to other road-based vehicles. Further, they differ in crane mode, as their dynamic nature is compensated through design by such mechanisms as derating the load chart when used on uneven ground, or once the crane is articulated greater than 5 degrees.

According to the CICA CraneSafe database, PC’s account for approximately 40 per cent of annual inspections. On face value this is fine, but couple this with incident statistics and we gain some clarity of the problem. Although absolute statistics are hard to establish, through best estimation from insurance data, and crane hirer incident information, PC’s currently account for somewhere between 64% – 68% of all crane incidents. This disproportion has prompted a large focus on the PC market and placed enormous pressure on hirers to provide evidence to their clients that operators are trained and experienced adequately.

The focus on PC safety has been so much so, some large tier one civil contractors and builders have banned the use of PC’s on their sites. Others have allowed their use, but demanded only those with the most modern operating systems, which detect uneven ground and adjust the load chart downward accordingly. These types of reactions in the market are absolutely justified because industry has no faith that the formal regulation process can deliver safe operator use in this sector. This is the reason why CICA, as the authority for the crane industry, has established a strong presence in multiple areas to improve safety in the PC hire market and to help our members regain the confidence of their clients.

The first area to influence is training and traineeships. Anybody external to the crane industry is astounded that we have been unsuccessful in implementing a nationwide traineeship program. To date, we only have a small number of trainees in NSW, with a further intake commencing next year after a recent recruitment drive by the NSW CICA branch. A small contingent of Victorian trainees will start in 2019 with CICA achieving a grant through Incolink to hire a traineeship mentor/liaison officer to ensure quality is delivered while the program is in its infancy. This is a huge breakthrough for Victorian trainees in a state that hasn’t seen a mobile crane trainee since the late 1990s. We are more confident than ever at CICA that once we establish programs in both NSW and Victoria, following on in other states will occur quickly.

CICA, along with other industry stakeholders, including the CFMEU and some volunteer crane owners have purposefully designed the traineeship in Victoria to require a non-slewing, CN High Risk Licence as part of the traineeship progression.  This includes road use training after attaining a heavy rigid truck license. This means our qualified trainees of the future will follow the first structured program which specifically identifies the CN license, plus hours of practical learning, as an independent training module. This is absolutely overdue but pleasing to see for the future in our industry.   

The success of the traineeship is essential to build better skills for the future, but how do we deal with the present? A very large proportion of PC incidents occur with experienced operators who have held a High-Risk Licence for many years and have operated varying types of cranes throughout this time. The existence of the two-week ticket through the High-Risk Licensing system has created many skill voids in the industry and created a generation of skill gaps, which are potentially impossible to fix entirely. One of the greatest flaws in this licensing system directly impacts the use of PC’s. That is, a slewing crane endorsement, such as C6 (slewing cranes up to a 60 tonne MRC), is transferrable as a legal endorsement to operate any PC in the market.

This technically means there is no legal requirement under the current High-Risk License structure to have ever seen a PC prior to attempting to operate one. If that’s not alarming enough for a health and safety regulator to issue a safety alert, then what is? An outdated standard involving an independent winch brake to lift personnel perhaps?

One reaction throughout the hire market to questionable competency is the demand on hirers to attain an independent VOC. The VOC, however, doesn’t by its nature demand that the assessor has any crane operating experience at all, rather it relies on the assessor holding a Certificate IV in Training and Assessing. Although this system evolved with the best intentions, it is our position at CICA that a peer assessed review of an operator on a specific crane model will deliver industry greater competence verification than the current VOC process. That is, experienced operators who have been initially familiarised by the manufacturer at point of delivery, are then in a position to peer review a second, third (and so on) operator for that specific machine model. This is what has formed the foundation of the fast emerging CrewSafe program designed by CICA.

Through CrewSafe an operator is assessed by their peer. Each critical function of the machine allows video evidence to be uploaded on to the verification database. The program is make and model specific and stores this video evidence on a member login interface, which allows clients to view video of the operator actually performing and verifying their competence. There will still be those in the market who insist on a Certificate IV assessor determining the VOC but the assessor can gain access to the video evidence and on this basis should be able to concur the competence off the CrewSafe member login. We see this as important across all crane models but specifically in the PC market where client confidence in operator competence is low.  This system will allow the client to view video evidence of an operator prior to them arriving on site, a solution CICA see as innovative and progressive in helping to solve an entrenched industry problem.

Issues surrounding the safe use of PC’s are not isolated to the machine in crane mode. PC’s are coming under increasing scrutiny during road use. A Queensland coronial inquest in 2017 placed a heavy focus on PC road speeds and licensing.  This prompted a working group with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) specifically on the issue of PC’s on the road. In this case, the coroner recommended capping PC road speeds at 60km/h, a position not supported by CICA due to a range of peripheral issues such a cap would create, including forcing PC’s off arterial roads and on to smaller roads in more densely populated areas. In mid-2018 the SPV1 Notice, for which PCs fall under, was amended to limit the PCs to 80km/h. At the time of this writing the working group on road use competency is kicking off the development of a PC training and assessment module. The soon to be launched Victorian trainee program also specifies training candidates for road use of PC’s, an area which has been void of a targeted learning program in the past.

The old saying “if you keep doing the same thing, you’re going to get the same result” certainly exists for safety innovation in pick and carry mobile cranes.  All of us at CICA are not prepared to follow a status quo, which has failed to deliver real industry safety improvements in this extremely important facet of our marketplace.  We continue to work hard in the development of traineeships, we continue to invest time and resources in developing the CrewSafe program to create a better, more targeted and visible VOC program; and we continue to work closely with the NHVR and road regulators to find improvements in road safety, road access and driver training.

Innovation and progressive industry programs will deliver improvement in pick and carry mobile crane safety, and at CICA, we are committed to invest the resources to deliver.

Tom Smith

CICA President

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