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CHRSC aims to standardize crane industry regulations


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August 1, 2013 by Corinne Lynds

An immediate need for certified crane operators is the driving force behind the Canadian Hoisting & Rigging Safety Council’s (CHRSC) goal to harmonize industry regulations.

Inaugurated nearly a year ago at the Crane & Rigging Conference in Edmonton, the primary goal of the CHRSC is to determine the best approach to establish common crane industry regulations and credentialing across Canada. In other words, work with all provinces to make it easier for crane operators to work outside their home jurisdictions.

“In speaking with crane industry people from all across the country, I found that there were all these different groups, doing different things, trying to get the same results for the most part,” says Fraser Cocks, chairman of the CHRSC and B.C. Association for Crane Safety (BCACS). “So, there was a clear need for us to come together.”

As it stands right now, each province has its own set of standards and regulations for crane operators. This doesn’t pose a problem until an operator is recruited from outside their jurisdiction.

And as the crane industry is currently in a position of change—that has become standard practice.
“The larger companies are buying up the smaller companies. They’re not buying them for equipment or market share. They are buying them for their people,” says Cocks. “That’s the driver, especially in the larger crane operator category. We are dealing with a skills shortage issue in Western Canada.”

As a direct result of this shortage, it is becoming more and more common for crane operators to travel long distances for jobs. The problem with this is the extra cost and wasted time that comes along with getting their credentials in order once they get to the jobsite.

Ryan Burton, who heads up DLB Cranes, a division of Surespan Construction in Langley, B.C., knows firsthand the hassle that working out of province can create. “We find when we go to Ontario it is a challenge. We have to have someone from the apprenticeship board come out and assess our operators and then they will give us an equivalency certificate. We have had these challenges in Manitoba too.”

“A lot of our guys have the Red Seal, which I guess has been a long-standing harmonization across Canada,” adds Burton. “But one of the issues with that is that it takes quite a long time to get your full certification, and it’s only another theory test. A lot of people feel that’s not enough and that you need a practical assessment too.”

(The Red Seal program was developed more than 50 years ago as a partnership between the federal, provincial and territorial governments to provide greater mobility across Canada for skilled workers).

In light of the delays caused by jurisdictional differences and the pressing need for more qualified operators, the CHRSC has garnered a lot of interest and support from industry. With roughly 100 members to date, the Council is led by an all-star executive committee including representation from BCACS, Northern Crane Services, Construction Labour Relations B.C., Cenovus and the Manufacturers Health & Safety Association.

Next steps
Now that industry has begun to come together, the CHRSC is working with its members to develop some common crane industry goals. “That was the first step. The second step is that the regulators start to take notice, and the messaging that’s coming from their local industry is consistent,” explains Cocks. “We’re not going to change laws or processes in government, we’re just going to become the unified voice of the crane industry.”

And that voice is already being heard. The Council submitted two proposals for project funding in Ottawa that will move them ahead with the objectives they are trying to achieve.

The first proposal is fairly simple: The CHRSC wants to create a map of the country so it will know what credentials are issued and what regulatory requirements are there. “We’re setting it up kind of like an airline ticket purchasing system,” says Cocks. “So you can go online and say I am a tower crane operator from Quebec and I want to work in Alberta, what do I need to know? Are my credentials recognized? If not, who do I contact and what are the laws that are applicable?”

The second proposal is to develop and standardize the practical assessment tool, so each jurisdiction is using the same tool to measure its operators. “We have Red Seal, but Red Seal is theory only. We want to have a practical assessment tool—that some of us are already using—used everywhere across the whole country.  [Incorporating this] through the Red Seal program would be the ultimate outcome.”

Both of these proposals are involved projects that will likely take up to two or three years to complete.

Each jurisdiction is unique, with its own host of challenges. But the hope is that regulated standards across the country will make it so operators from Halifax or Toronto could hop on a plane first thing in the morning, and be working on a jobsite in Alberta by the afternoon. No delays, practical assessments or lost time. Contractors keep their cranes moving, and Canadians stay employed even when their local job market slows.

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