National Association of Heavy Equipment Training Services, NAHETS Blog

Step Forward in Construction Crane Safety

Posted by nahetsblog on April 10, 2007

Last November a 210 foot crane collapsed in Bellevue, WA and killed a man, causing heavy damage to three buildings in the process. It was considered “one of the worst construction disasters in state history.” This accident is the catalyst for new crane safety rules and guidelines.
The need for standardization in crane and heavy equipment operating safety is not new and has been analyzed before. Matt Klabacka, President and Co-Founder of the National Association of Heavy Equipment Training Schools has long foreseen the need for national certification of heavy equipment operators and greater safety training. “The future is going to be certification,” Klabacka stated, and further explained that NAHETS “is an effort to standardize the heavy-equipment industry… right now it’s very unregulated.” This is one of the key reasons for his decision to create NAHETS.

By 2010 it is expected that increased crane safety laws will be implemented in the state of Washington. Governor Chris Gregoire has already expressed her approval of the new laws and is committed to sign them in when the time comes. Washington state legislators were surprised to learn that there are no training, background checks, or drug testing requirements for crane operators. The NCCCO-National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators reported that only 14 states currently have such requirements, with many more in the process of adopting such requirements.

The new safety laws are expected to certify not only the crane operators, but the cranes as well, due to the belief that the recent accident was caused by a failure in the base of the crane. Operators will be expected to have a certain number of documented training hours and pass certain testing requirements. Similarly, the cranes themselves will be tested for structural problems. Such laws will not only increase the safety of crane workers, but for all workers.

With crane accidents still occurring, as well as other heavy equipment accidents, there will no doubt be a necessity for improving safety standards in the industry. The example of Washington State is simply a foreshadow of what is to come.

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Heavy Equipment Rodeo

Posted by nahetsblog on April 5, 2007

Every two years Toronto, Canada hosts The National Heavy Equipment Show, the most recent just having ended on March 21-22, 2007. This year the show drew a record number in audience, exceeding 11,000 visitors.

One of the prestigious events in the show is the Backhoe Rodeo. It’s been nearly 10 years, and Octavio Miranda still not considered a “rodeo champ.” Miranda, a long time backhoe rodeo competitor, achieved his goal this year. Miranda out-dueled his main competitor and defending champ, Joe Trecapelli, in a series of events. The backhoe rodeo includes contestants knocking balls off of pylons; pouring wine into three glasses; moving two buckets and a 4×4 beam with vintage backhoe controls; and placing two hula hoops on a rack with a three-pronged hook. All events were performed by a four-stick Case 580 model backhoe. This year Miranda finally became the Backhoe Rodeo Grand Champion.

The backhoe rodeo is “fun,” but takes skill and “tests even the most seasoned operator.” For the next two years, Miranda can claim bragging rights as being one of the elite in heavy equipment operating.

NAHETS understands what it means to combine fun with skill in heavy equipment operating. As part of its various training programs, the different training schools have an “egg rodeo” where students who have been training attempt to pick-up an egg off the dirt and place it in an egg carton, without cracking it. This is done with the bucket attachment of a backhoe. To view a video of this see:

Events such as the backhoe rodeo at the National Heavy Equipment Show, and the egg rodeo at NAHETS training schools, exemplify the excitement and standards of the heavy equipment industry. These events reflect the skill and capabilities of operators. Despite preconceived notions, certified and qualified equipment operators are more than just guys in t-shirts who move a couple controls around with a cigarette in their mouth.

NAHETS graduates are among the elite in heavy equipment training, education, and operating. The backhoe competition and egg rodeo are simply a mesh and example of higher standards, greater skill, and more fun.

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Accidents Plague Construction Industry

Posted by nahetsblog on April 3, 2007

In the last few weeks numerous accidents have been reported involving construction sites and heavy equipment. Some have resulted in deaths, others in injuries, and fortunately some in neither. However, the concerns of safety and monetary costs are undoubtedly at threat in all incidents.

In Darwin, Australia two families barely escaped injury and possible death as a 50-ton crane crashed into their homes.

Liverpool, UK has suffered its third crane death this year. One man was killed at Wavetree Technology Park when a crane fell on him while another was injured. Another was killed by a steel girder, and the last was killed by a crane collapse in the city centre.

Six construction workers were buried last Wednesday in Beijing, China when a subway construction site collapsed in on them. Their fate remains unknown.

A man was killed in New Zealand on March 31 when the crane on his truck and trailer fell and crushed him.

Four workers excavating and working on the basement of a three-story home in San Francisco were hospitalized with minor injuries after the earth caved in around them.

In San Antonio, TX a crane snapped and sent metal beams onto the 410 freeway. Fortunately, the freeway was already closed for construction work, and no workers were injured.

It is obvious that accidents are occurring too frequently in the construction and heavy equipment industry throughout the world. Some may be unpreventable due to natural causes or other means, but one thing that will assuredly help minimize these accidents is an increased emphasis on safety procedures.

In construction and heavy equipment industries there should be regularly occurring inspections on all pieces of equipment, certified and qualified operators for every piece of equipment, as well as certified and qualified managerial staff on site. Knowing emergency procedures and having emergency plans, as well as trustworthy and capable workers are only scratching the surface in aspects of heavy equipment accident prevention.

Perhaps the only positive thing to be gained from these tragic accidents is to learn from them. Such accidents may be able to help the industry eliminate the root of the problem. The goal is an accident-free industry. This is the aim of The National Association of Heavy Equipment Training Schools-NAHETS.

Posted in accidents, Education & Training, Standards & Safety | 1 Comment »

Heavy Equipment Theft A Growing Problem

Posted by nahetsblog on March 22, 2007

The Contractors Association of West Virginia is holding a seminar today as part of the 28th Annual West Virginia Equipment, Technology, and Design Exposition. Big deal, right? This happens every year. However, this year’s exposition will be holding a seminar on a topic previously not discussed: heavy equipment theft.

The CAWV became aware of this problem as Mike Zirkle, director of member services, heard stories and discussions on the matter at a contractors’ meeting. Although the article focuses on West Virginia specifically, it also exposes heavy equipment theft as a national concern. In other words, such stories and discussions take place across the country.

The crime bureau reports that heavy equipment theft is a $1 billion-a-year problem nationally. Reported instances of equipment theft have increased 10-20% a year since 1996! Interestingly, these statistics still may not tell the full story. Prior to 2001, pieces of heavy equipment did not have uniform vehicle identification numbers, making more difficult to keep track of equipment before that year. Fortunately now the situation has improved, as each piece of heavy equipment has a VIN number that identifies make, model, and more characteristics.

A main factor of the problem is lack of security. About 90% of heavy equipment thefts supposedly happen between 5 p.m. Friday-8 a.m. Monday, when many workers are off for the weekend. Also, it is not too difficult to steal a piece of equipment in broad daylight either, since bystanders usually do not know a thief from a worker.

Another compounding factor is that heavy equipment is not titled by state Division of Motor Vehicles, which means that equipment can be transferred with a bill of sale only, easily falling through the cracks. Some thieves are bright enough to dispose of the original identification plate and say it just got knocked off, while it never gets replaced. Also, in multiple instances one key can fit more than one piece of equipment, making it all the more easier to steal multiple pieces, let alone one.

I have personal experience in the matter. I used to operate equipment for a construction company. I recall that on a Case backhoe and Sky Trak forklift, we would use a bent nail as a key at times, because the keys ended up missing somehow. All we had to do was hammer a nail flat, stick it in the ignition, and turn it. We had hundreds of keys! If I wanted to, I could have gone to the site at night and simply driven away with one of the machines. It is pretty ridiculous when you think about how easy it can be!

Aside from this, construction companies in general are making it too easy for thieves to steal the equipment. How many times have you driven past a road or building under construction and seen empty backhoes, skid steers, dozers, etc…In Las Vegas this is a daily occurrence! There is a lot more the heavy equipment industries can be doing to resolve these issues. The article states a few, such as keeping pictures on file, setting up cameras, filing all papers, and even global positioning tracking devices. However, these ideas and others will do nothing unless put into action.

Simply put, this problem will continue to grow exponentially as thieves find ways to beat the system at hand. It will not be enough to simply have the VIN number. Something more needs to happen before this $1 billion problem becomes $1.5 or $2 billion problem, and further depreciates the heavy equipment and construction industries.

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200 Ton Crane Topples Over

Posted by nahetsblog on March 20, 2007

NAHETS places emphasis on being aware of significant events related to safety within the heavy equipment and construction industries. Monday night a 200-ton crane fell over at an Aventura Mall construction site in Miami.

Surprisingly, only one worker was injured, suffering a broken leg, which was caused when the crane hit the worker. Reporters say that if the crane had toppled to the front instead of to the side, the lives of at least 12 workers would have been at risk.

Inspectors from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggest mechanical issues caused the accident, but are not certain.

It is fortunate that only one worker was injured, considering the type of accident. Such an incident should drive any heavy equipment/construction company to further their campaign on safety. One worker is worth it. Although it was an accident, there is no room for neglect when it comes to equipment inspections, having a certified and qualified operator who knows the piece of equipment he/she is operating, and preparing beforehand should such an incident occur.

The National Association of Heavy Equipment Training Schools, NAHETS, revolves around high standards and safety training. Students learn through classroom education, simulation, and first hand experience everything about the types of equipment they operate. Only professionals teach and train. With nationally certified instructors and graduates, the heavy equipment/construction industry is becoming safer, even if it is one operator, or one piece of equipment at a time!

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National Heavy Equipment Operator Job Placement Researcher Hired

Posted by nahetsblog on March 20, 2007

Friday, March 9, 207 signaled a step forward for NAHETS, one I have been anticipating for quite some time. NAHETS has employed the services of Mary Ellen, whose purpose is to serve as a national job placement officer.

Mary Ellen is an expert at finding employment within the industry as heavy equipment operators or crane operators, and will be working with NAHETS full-time locating jobs for NAHETS graduates.

This is a significant development for NAHETS, one I’ve been waiting on for quite some time. More jobs for our graduates. Within her first ten days of employment, MAry Ellen has already found over 1,000 available jobs for our graduates.

Graduates in the heavy equipment operator program and crane operator programs should see an increase in the number of available jobs provided by our job placement assistance departments. On Tuesday March 20, 2007 at 12:00pm, NAHETS will conduct a special meeting introducing Mary Ellen to member campuses. Welcome aboard Mary!

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