Story by The Angry Rigger
Okay we all have to start somewhere in construction whether you want to be an electrician, carpenter, rigger or tower crane operator. Start at the bottom and work your way up.
Fair enough, my issue is with the new legislation; the national Workplace Health & Safety Act 2012 and the impact of that act to WorkCover high risk ticketed workers and people that employ those workers. Previously WorkCover NSW had the 2000 and 2001 Occupational Health & Safety Regulations and Act to follow and enforce.
Under this legislation high risk workers would have a trainee / newbie worker such as a rigger or scaffolder work under the ticketed worker and record their hours and tasks worked with a log book. Once sufficient hours and work tasks were documented a WorkCover assessor could be booked in to come to site and assess the worker with a practical and written test. Most of the training the trainee received was practical real onsite training and once assessed if they passed they were a ticketed high risk worker with months to years experience, they were competent to work doing their high risk work. You would find a worker that did their ticket under the logbook system could do the job they were ticketed for. When I got my tower crane license, for many months prior I took my logbook to work every day, and with the permission of the builder in the quiet periods I would do an hour here and there under the guidance of an experienced tower crane operator. Although when ticketed I was by no means an expert but I did have understanding of the job and the crane I had trained on.
Then... WorkCover updated their legislation to the national Workplace Health & Safety Act 2012
Under the new legislation only registered training providers can train workers for their high risk work license. No longer is there the option to work under the logbook on site without going to a RTO.
No disrespect to the RTO's as they are working within the legislation and are required in the licensing of high risk workers but they pump out a licensed tower crane operator in one week, people hear that they can become a licenced tower crane operator / dogman / rigger in a week and all of the glorious riches they will have once they are licenced and working in a country with a massive skills shortage. They pay their hard earned $2,000 - $3,000, sit in a classroom for a week learning how to do a written test and come out with a high risk license, no experience and no trade. They are lucky to touch a crane and the practical test is basic to say the least. Now they are ticketed they look for work and find that no one wants to employ a tower crane operator with under 3 years experience so they either write off the $3,000 or lie about work experience to get a start, do a few lifts then get sacked.
There are so many problems with this system, mostly though are
The current system makes proper on site training inaccessible to workers
Someone with one week learning for a test and no on site experience as a tower crane operator and a 5+ year tower crane operator have to be paid exactly the same
A builder should be able to expect that someone licensed to do high risk work is capable of doing high risk work at the level demanded in the work environment
Incompetent workers are mixed up with experienced workers making the employers jobs difficult and wasting time for the worker, the co workers, the client and the employer.
I propose some solutions, I am no genius and we don't need to reinvent the wheel we just need to look at what works elsewhere and implement or bring back those systems, the proposals are as follows
1) Bring back the logbook system - it was a good system, it worked, we need it back!
2) Workers on separate tiers - at a minimum there should be a "trainee tower crane operator" and "tower crane operator" job classification with pay rates to reflect the workers output and supervision required. We already have this system for many other trades and whilst we don't enjoy the low pay when starting out it does provide the employer with an incentive and thus opportunities for less experienced workers to build up experience and provides recognition of a workers experience.
3) A formal apprentice system for these high risk trades, in Canada a 2-3 year apprenticeship program is required to become a qualified tower crane operator with two 6 week classroom sessions. A similar system also runs in America. (I have attached a brochure for the tower crane operator apprenticeship)
If anyone else has any suggestions on how to improve the current system I would love your feedback
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