Is Your Employee Competent or Just Trained? Why does it Matter?
Tower climbers are a special breed of person, let’s just get that out there to start with. They are a person with strength and agility; a person that is willing to travel many miles, work long hours, and scale great heights. They are not the average person; they’re special.
A tower climber can be a jack of all trades within the telecommunications industry. They work on tower systems like broadcast, radio, internet and cell phone towers. They may be involved in the construction and installation of towers; perform routine maintenance or modifications of the towers and of the equipment on the towers; or complete decommissions. With 5G being on the forefront, they may find themselves completing installs on utility poles – a completely different type of training and crew. Are you aware of that?
Traditionally, tower climbers learn by on-the-job training. The more time put in equates to being more experienced with a broader skill set to reinforce work knowledge, right? But is that enough? The world’s changing -that’s how it used to be but not anymore.
According to OSHA, it is the employer’s responsibility to train their employees:
1910.268 – Telecommunications (partial excerpt; please refer to 1910 / 1926)
Training: Employers shall provide training in the various precautions and safe practices, and shall insure that employees do not engage in the activities until such employees have received proper training in the various precautions and safe practices required.
However, where the employer can demonstrate that an employee is already trained in the precautions and safe practices required prior to his employment; training need not be provided to that employee.
Where training is required, it shall consist of on-the-job training or classroom-type training or a combination of both. The employer shall certify that employees have been trained by preparing a certification record which includes the identity of the person trained, the signature of the employer or the person who conducted the training, and the date the training was completed.
So as an employer, is being “trained” enough to insure a safe workplace and a competent employee?
Trained vs Certified vs Qualified:
§ Trained: (adj) having been taught a particular skill or type of behavior through practice and instruction over a period of time; having been developed and improved through instruction or practice.
Will your employee be considered qualified, able, capable? Possibly. Will they be considered proficient, well-advanced, competent? Maybe? They will be trained only as good as their on-the-job trainer.
§ Certified: (adj) officially recognized as possessing certain qualifications or meeting certain standards; guaranteed, recognized as an authority.
Being certified will insure your employee has been independently verified to a certain level of expertise in that particular area; that they have completed the steps required to receive a particular designation. But does it make them qualified?
§ Qualified: (adj) fitted, as by training or experience, for a given purpose, competent; having complied with the specific requirements or precedent conditions for employment.
Being qualified means that the employee is competent*. The employee has not only completed the coursework but has actual on-the-job training from a qualified person to support the certification. They will be able to recognize all appreciable hazards and how to abate them.
Time is Money. The historical meaning of the cliché is speed, the faster it gets done the more money you save. But is it? Is time money when a life is lost?
Let’s look at this from a different angle. Let’s look at it from an investment angle. If you take the time to invest in the right employee, build the right team, the time spent is money in your pocket. How? It’s a valuable marketing asset to the contracts you’re attempting to gain, and internally to your own safety culture.
· You’ve handpicked the employee based on personality traits, work history, ability to grow as a person; and provided certification and on-the-job training so that they’ve gained the knowledge and know how to accomplish the job right.
· You’ve built a crew that’s a team – they have harmony, they click, know the rhythm, know each other – they’re invested in each other and have each other’s back.
· You’ve built retention; the institutional knowledge stays with your company and that’s valuable, that’s bottom-line finances as an employer.
· There’s no second-guessing if your employee’s training documentation is real or not because you’ve provided it; you know because you’ve built it. That’s security.
Today’s trend is changing. It’s not always getting the job completed at the cheapest price, it’s getting it done right the first time, finishing the work with no liabilities and no tickets from state agencies or OSHA. It’s being assured that your employees go home after each and every job. That’s bottom-line finances as an employer.
The tower industry’s culture of safety needs to change, and it is changing - no life lost is worth it and that’s the bottom-line.
*A competent person is a person who has been trained pertaining to their job assignment and can identify existing and predictable hazards in their surroundings that are either unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees and has the authority by the nature of their position to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them. The person must also be knowledgeable in the requirements of all regulatory agencies at all levels in relation to the telecommunications field of work. [WAC 296-32]
The Hubble Foundation was created to assist where it’s needed most: financial assistance to those cell tower technicians that were injured on the job; financial assistance for the family of the deceased as well as scholarships for their kids.
Please feel free to contact us for more information on donating to the case or for receiving a blessing provided by others.