Crane and Hoist Canada

Canada-wide test protocols for mobile crane operators in the hands of safety council

November 3, 2016  By Keith Norbury

A national demonstration of skills test, or DOST, for mobile crane operators has been created.

This “turnkey” package has been transferred to the Canadian Hoisting and Rigging Safety Council, said Krista Bax, executive director of the Asia Pacific Skills Table, an industry non-profit

organization that led the federally funded project to develop the DOST over the last two years.


An Oct. 6 news release from the skills table said the DOST protocol and candidate guide documents are available for downloading from the DOST website, However, in a subsequent interview, Bax explained that the hoisting and rigging safety council is going to take stewardship of those documents “going forward.”

While the safety council will make the documents available to the provincial and territorial jurisdictions as well as to crane companies, not all will be available.

“There’s certain ones that need to have more quality control in terms of who uses them because we want to be able to collect feedback from those individuals who use it, as well as there’s some exam content in there,” Bax said.

Include DOST in Red Seal

The safety council’s executive director Fraser Cocks said in an interview that the council is

working on what messaging to post on its website. However, he confirmed that anyone interested in obtaining the materials will have to make a request. And the council’s preference is that the requests come from the jurisdictions.

“Let’s look at jurisdictions doing this and keep it within a certain realm of activity,” Cocks said. He added that a danger with releasing the content too broadly is that it will lose its integrity because it will be like “knowing what’s on the exam.”

Cocks, who is also the executive director of the B.C. Association for Crane Safety, said jurisdictions can contact him or Tim Bennett, the council’s chairman. Bennett, a vice-president with NCSG Crane & Heavy Haul Services, is taking a more active role with the council, Cocks said.

And in the recent DOST news release, Bennett himself said, “Our stewardship of the DOST will provide oversight on the future development, ongoing implementation and review process, including advocating to the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship to include the DOST in the Red Seal assessment process.”

The industry did make that case last fall, but at the time were told that the CCDA was focusing its attention on national harmonization of trades credentials and weren’t able to take on other initiatives, Bax said.

A DOST for a Red Seal trade is not entirely unprecedented. In 1986, the CCDA enacted a policy statement requiring practical assessments for two trades — welder and hairstylist. However, as a 2014 report posted on the DOST website points out, the CCDA didn’t set any criteria or clear standards. So the jurisdictions developed their own practical assessments or adopted (inconsistently) third-party standards and assessments.

“While universal in their implementation and general intent, these assessments have been highly variable with respect to included competencies, standards of evaluation and overall reliability,” the report said.

As for the mobile crane operator assessment, the final DOST protocol and candidate guide haven’t yet been made public, although a 66-page 2015 draft of the protocol is posted on the DOST website. Bax said the final version is “closely aligned” with the 2015 draft but that the final version has been tested and fine-tuned.

And the DOST protocol and candidate guide are “each designed to complement the existing Red Seal endorsement,” the news release said.

DOST assessment has nine parts

According to the 2015 draft, the DOST consists of a two-part written assessment and nine-part practical assessment. The written assessments cover load charts and rigging; as well as hand signals. Among the nine parts of the practical assessment are six tasks, including a complete pre-operational inspection; two timed pattern tests, forward and reverse, with and without a load; and applying safe shutdown procedures.

The DOST protocol includes standardized questions for written assessments, an assessor’s guide, and checklists, the news release noted. The candidate guide provides standardized information for those undertaking the DOST as well as information on the assessment’s scope.

Employment and Social Development Canada, a federal government department, provided $783,456 to the DOST project, which launched in February 2014. It was scheduled to wrap up in March 2016. Bax said the work was completed this June but that the DOST committee decided to hold off announcing its completion until after the summer.

“And we wanted to give a little bit of time to the Canadian Hoisting and Rigging Safety Council to figure out how this was going to be done,” Bax said.

As for the skills table, its work on the DOST project is now complete and she is “very pleased with the outcome,” she said.

“It wasn’t without its challenges, but were able to continually advance the products where we got to agreement across the country about what this would look like in a relatively short time,” Bax said.

Lionel Railton, who chaired the DOST project and is also the Canadian regional director of the International Union of Operating Engineers, said in the news release that he too is pleased with the outcome and remains hopeful that the DOST will become part of the Red Seal endorsement for mobile crane operators.

“We all want that outcome,” Cocks said. “It’s how do we get there from here now? What’s the next step? We’ll have to keep working on it. I don’t know what the next step might be.”

Most jurisdictions lacking DOST

At present, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, B.C., and the Yukon have a DOST for mobile crane operators. The other provinces and territories do not. The DOST would provide a solution for those jurisdictions lacking a DOST but would also serve as a tool for those with DOSTs to compare systems “and make improvements,” the release said.

It was the third crane-related project the Asia Pacific Gateway Skills Table has undertaken in recent years. The others were a pilot project on accelerated apprenticeship learning for B.C. mobile crane operators in 2013; on transferrable skills training and certification for Asia Pacific Gateway crane operators in 2011; and a pilot project to recognize crane certifications between B.C. and Washington state in 2010.

Might the skills table now look at other lifting trades such as tower crane operators?

Only if the industry asks, as it did in 2012 in the case of mobile crane operators, Bax said.

“Our organization is really driven by our stakeholders and our stakeholder advisory board, so we pursue things that come to that table and are proposed from our board as something that we should do and look into,” Bax said.

Keith Norbury

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