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March 1, 2017

New safety training program educates everyone

"I can’t be everywhere at once."

That’s the dilemma safety professionals face nearly every day. There are too many jobsites, too many workers and too many hazards, especially since our industry must not only protect our employees, but also the general public, which often comes within inches of our worksites.

The transportation construction industry has grappled with this problem for many years. About 1,100 work-zone fatalities occurred annually in the early 2000s, most of them motorists and passengers. Worker deaths average about 135 per year. While the overall death toll dropped to about 700 per year by the end of the last decade, the number has plateaued since then.

That is why a few years ago industry leaders began to discuss how to further reduce these work-zone fatalities. Their challenge was to do something different, even revolutionary, to improve the industry’s safety performance. Their goal was to create a new safety benchmark that every foreman, supervisor, inspector and operator would be expected to know.

That way, trained personnel can be everywhere at once.

The leaders’ solution was to create a safety certification program available to anyone in the industry, which could impact worker and motorist safety—a safety certification for the non-safety professional. It is called the Safety Certification for Transportation Project Professionals (SCTPP) program.  

The program’s goal is clear: To significantly boost the hazard awareness and risk management skills of all transportation project professionals who are in positions of influence through day-to-day oversight—from project inception through completion—to cause a decline in safety incidents.

SCTPP was developed by nationally recognized experts from the industry’s leading companies, organized labor, government and insurance. It is championed by Ross Myers, chairman and CEO of Allan Myers in Worcester, Pa.; David Walls, president and CEO of Dallas-based Austin Industries; and David Zachry, president and CEO of the Zachry Corp. in San Antonio. The program is housed within the American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s (ARTBA) Foundation.

“I think one of the main benefits of this program is to give so many people the opportunity to get the certification,” Walls said. “The target audience is an extremely large group of people. This isn’t a program that’s project-specific; this is a program for the entire industry.”

It’s everyone’s job

In addition to the 700 deaths each year, another 40,000 people are injured in and around U.S. transportation infrastructure projects, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The cost of these tragic incidences—to families and employers—is staggering.

“Ensuring that our project sites are the safest possible environments for all who work in and travel adjacent to or through them can’t just be the safety director’s job,” Zachry said. “There are no safety ‘accidents.’ There are safety incidents. And we need to do our best to prevent them. It is our moral obligation, and it is good business practice.”

He added: “Our goal, collectively working through ARTBA’s Foundation, is to cause a demonstrable reduction in the number of deaths and injuries that occur on and around transportation project sites each year. We believe we can do that if all of the key decision makers, from project inception through completion, have safety top of mind. This program will identify and reward those who have demonstrated competency in this critical management area.”

Zachry noted that in the long term, the program also is intended to create a “safety benchmark” for all future civil engineering and construction management program graduates who are interested in employment with industry-leading firms.

SCTPP certification is open to all transportation project personnel who meet eligibility requirements.

It didn’t just happen

An independent Certification Commission, co-chaired by Walls and Myers, was established to guide the implementation of the program. The group met in Dallas in April 2016 and established operational policies. Commissioners will provide leadership, governance and ongoing oversight going forward. 

Seven other leaders from the transportation project planning, design and materials sectors, government, organized labor, and the trucking and insurance industries are joining them as commissioners.

The development of the program didn’t just happen. It is the culmination of nearly three years of work by ARTBA’s senior executive team, and directed by ARTBA’s safety professionals, who have more than 75 years of combined experience. They have helped manage the direct delivery of safety training to more than 100,000 industry workers in recent years. ARTBA’s communications and information technology teams spearheaded development of content and design for the website.

ARTBA-TDF also engaged Professional Testing Inc. (PTI), an internationally recognized consulting firm specializing in helping industries and government agencies to develop and manage effective, fair, valid, reliable and legally defensible assessment and evaluation services. With PTI’s help, the SCTPP program has been designed to meet the rigorous protocols required for accreditation by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Organization for Standardization ISO/IEC 17024—Conformity Assessment-General Requirements for Bodies Operating Certification of Persons.

A crew of top safety professionals—known as “Subject Matter Experts,” or SMEs, from leading industry firms, public agencies and academia also devoted weeks of time at ARTBA’s headquarters building and via conference calls to shape the program scope and craft the questions for the certification exam. 

Entry exam

In January, the SCTPP exam was offered to the public for the first time. The two-and-a-half-hour test has 120 multiple-choice questions, which probe knowledge in assessing project risks, creating project safety plans, implementing and conducting ongoing evaluation of a site-specific operational safety plan, and conducting incident investigations. It is anchored by a comprehensive website (www.puttingsafetyfirst.org).

Earning the SCTPP credential shows employers and peers that certified individuals have the professional core competencies necessary to identify common hazards found on transportation projects and correct them—whether during planning, design or on-site personnel management—and thus prevent incidents that could result in deaths or injuries.

The exam is offered at Pearson VUE test centers throughout the U.S. Upon passing the exam, the professional certification will be valid for three years. Recertification will require documented, continuing learning on the topic or retesting.

The goal of SCTPP is to boost the hazard awareness and risk management skills of transportation project professionals in order to reduce safety incidents.

Open to anyone

The certification exam is open to all transportation project workers, supervisors, foremen, managers, designers, planners, owners, equipment operators, manufacturers and materials suppliers personnel who meet the eligibility requirements.

This generally includes a combination of transportation construction industry experience, education and previous training.

While there is no mandatory training required to sit for the exam, ARTBA created  Online Learning Center courses that can help transportation construction industry workers prepare for the test. The courses also provide professional development hours (1-2 hours per course).

The self-paced courses are accessible from any device that can access the Internet, including smart phones, tablets and laptops. The digital content is available any time, which allows course participants to learn where they want to, review when they need to, and apply new knowledge, skills and abilities immediately. The first series of new courses includes:

  • Traffic control;
  • Work sites;
  • Personal protective equipment;
  • Hazard control;
  • Communication; and
  • Environmental conditions.

“This program has the potential to be the most significant change to safety in the road and transportation building industry in over 50 years,” Zachry said. “I think this really is an opportunity to fundamentally change the safety environment for everyone who goes through or works in a construction zone.”

Certification Commission co-chair Myers is confident the SCTPP program can save lives.

“This can be a game-changer for our industry,” he said. “It will make a difference.”

About The Author: Sant is the senior vice president of Safety and Education for ARTBA, Washington D.C.

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