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Thread: Certification

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    Default Certification

    Hi All,

    Must one be "certified" to practice this trade (underground utility locating), or is it just recommended? Are there different certifying bodies/organizations?

    Also, does OSHA state that one must go through a study program, or can one just learn "hands-on" on his/her own through books, videos, etc. and become a locator?

    Thanks in advance!

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    Senior Member sprayandpray's Avatar
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    Default Re: Certification

    In a word 'No". Training is done by the Locating companies. The exception is locating of gas and then there is usually a simple test administered by the company that gets you 'certified'.
    There is a Locating School around and you could probably find it's info here on the 'Vine.
    I might not be as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was !


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    Senior Member RD_Wrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Certification

    NO....but there sure needs to be!
    Character is what you are in the dark. It is the things you do, when nobody can see, and nobody will ever know, that define who you are as an individual.

    "Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have ... The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases." Thomas Jefferson

    Per Scientiam Vires!

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    Senior Member ProfessionalLocator's Avatar
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    Default Re: Certification

    There has been some interest at the Federal level, hotly opposed by the locating firms, of requiring training standards and certification of utility locators. I do not have the details but this has been around for awhile and so far nothing.

    There may be an individual state that has this requirement but I have not heard of it anywhere.

    If it comes from anywhere expect to see it from the Federal DOT, Department of Transportation, for locators that locate gas lines. Interstate commerce / transmission of gas is regulated by the Federal DOT.

    While a locator marks almost all there tickets on distribution gas lines they occasionally mark a transmission line that will have a feed that crosses a state line. I have heard that this is why all locators that mark gas are required to take a DOT drug test. Note that there is a common employer's drug test that is very separate from a DOT drug test.

    Some locate firms do a quick and cheap training of locators and do not want to spend the money needed to meet any required training standards. There are some very good firms out there where this would not be a problem, but then there are those others that are not good with their training.

    Making passing a mandated training program and being certified prior to being allowed to mark underground utilities would lessen the time they would have newly trained locators out doing work that would generate income. This would also mean that retention of certified locators would have to be given a higher priority. To meet this higher retention priority they would have to offer better pay, benefits and treatment.

    Firms that train their locators poorly and have the "warm body" in a truck mentality lobby very hard opposing any certification requirements.

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    Senior Member ProfessionalLocator's Avatar
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    Default Re: Certification

    Quote Originally Posted by sprayandpray View Post
    In a word 'No". Training is done by the Locating companies. The exception is locating of gas and then there is usually a simple test administered by the company that gets you 'certified'.
    There is a Locating School around and you could probably find it's info here on the 'Vine.
    Yes, I have had those "certifications". These were for the client company that hired us and administered by the locate firm we worked for. It was what is called an "open book" test where we had all the answers supplied to us. We could look up each question in the materiel supplied so nobody really had to learn anything.

    I studied my butt off leaning the meanings of all those symbols and procedures. Then got of course the same passing grade of those that knew nothing.

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    Senior Member 1idejim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Certification

    Quote Originally Posted by ProfessionalLocator View Post
    There has been some interest at the Federal level, hotly opposed by the locating firms, of requiring training standards and certification of utility locators. I do not have the details but this has been around for awhile and so far nothing.

    There may be an individual state that has this requirement but I have not heard of it anywhere.

    If it comes from anywhere expect to see it from the Federal DOT, Department of Transportation, for locators that locate gas lines. Interstate commerce / transmission of gas is regulated by the Federal DOT.

    While a locator marks almost all there tickets on distribution gas lines they occasionally mark a transmission line that will have a feed that crosses a state line. I have heard that this is why all locators that mark gas are required to take a DOT drug test. Note that there is a common employer's drug test that is very separate from a DOT drug test.

    Some locate firms do a quick and cheap training of locators and do not want to spend the money needed to meet any required training standards. There are some very good firms out there where this would not be a problem, but then there are those others that are not good with their training.

    Making passing a mandated training program and being certified prior to being allowed to mark underground utilities would lessen the time they would have newly trained locators out doing work that would generate income. This would also mean that retention of certified locators would have to be given a higher priority. To meet this higher retention priority they would have to offer better pay, benefits and treatment.

    Firms that train their locators poorly and have the "warm body" in a truck mentality lobby very hard opposing any certification requirements.


    without a doubt a person should be tested on competency and proffesional demeanor, who will be responsible for not over regulating the industry?

    imho, any time the gov gets involved, the public gets the short end of the stick.

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    Default Re: Certification

    Quote Originally Posted by 1idejim View Post
    without a doubt, any time the gov gets involved, the public gets the short end of the stick.
    Amen, Brother!


    ---------------------------------------------------------

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    Senior Member 1idejim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Certification

    wingfoot, i left bruce a pm the other day about his wesite being posted here, i think he'll get a kick out of that

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    Default Re: Certification

    Quote Originally Posted by 1idejim View Post
    without a doubt a person should be tested on competency and proffesional demeanor, who will be responsible for not over regulating the industry?

    imho, any time the gov gets involved, the public gets the short end of the stick.
    Seems to have worked fine for the electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians...and we are responsible for more lives every day than any electrician...
    Character is what you are in the dark. It is the things you do, when nobody can see, and nobody will ever know, that define who you are as an individual.

    "Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have ... The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases." Thomas Jefferson

    Per Scientiam Vires!

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    Senior Member yahoo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Certification

    my answer to the question is yes!!!! or it will come with disastrous results!!!
    wise men talk because they have something to say and fools because they have to say something....plato

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    Default Re: Certification

    Quote Originally Posted by RD_Wrangler View Post
    Seems to have worked fine for the electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians...and we are responsible for more lives every day than any electrician...
    i have worked in the trades and hold more than one licenese, i also have been on the hiring end of the business for quite awhile. although i'm not saying that either of us knows more than the other, maybe we should look a little further outside the box.

    not all states require liceneses for contractors or trades licenses for that matter, all states do require drivers liceneses to drive. not all licenesed drivers are safe, nor do they all obey the law, nor can they all speak english but each driver is responsible for the life of every other person they encounter every time they turn the key on and the wheels roll.

    the point that i'm getting at is the if the industry needs to be regulated, it needs to regulate itself. government intervention can cause nothing but grief if the powers that be put the wrong people in charge, as so often happens.

    the state of ca. has tests for all proffesional licenses and the union has testing for all apprentiships, and lets not forget the teachers either.

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    Senior Member RD_Wrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Certification

    Quote Originally Posted by 1idejim View Post
    i have worked in the trades and hold more than one licenese, i also have been on the hiring end of the business for quite awhile. although i'm not saying that either of us knows more than the other, maybe we should look a little further outside the box.

    not all states require liceneses for contractors or trades licenses for that matter, all states do require drivers liceneses to drive. not all licenesed drivers are safe, nor do they all obey the law, nor can they all speak english but each driver is responsible for the life of every other person they encounter every time they turn the key on and the wheels roll.

    the point that i'm getting at is the if the industry needs to be regulated, it needs to regulate itself. government intervention can cause nothing but grief if the powers that be put the wrong people in charge, as so often happens.

    the state of ca. has tests for all proffesional licenses and the union has testing for all apprentiships, and lets not forget the teachers either.
    With all due respect, a driver's license and a trade license are animals of a totally different species, (with the exception perhaps of certain CDL certifications).

    While not all states require a trade license for Electricians, Plumbers, HVAC techs, Alarm Techs, etc. to do their job, MOST do, and for very good reason. Apprenticeships, level testing, trade/safety knowledge requirements, and inspection serve to insure that not every Tom, Dick and Harry can wire a house, install a septic control system, install a furnace, or manage a fire alarm system, causing possible loss of life or property in the future. Their personal knowledge and abilities are responsible for the protection of said life and property.

    Our trade, particularly the one-call request side of it, does the same and more.

    It would be great if the industry itself would regulate it (I know I would support it), but as Prof. pointed out...they have lobbyists working AGAINST this mindset...which shows their reluctance to even set a standard that is a trade requirement in the industry. To do so would mean knowledgeable locators capable of meeting such requirements would be an actual asset and be paid accordingly, and the time needed to TRUELY protect facilities would HAVE to be alloted.

    No company is gonna cut their own throat like that. It's easier (and more profitable) to hire underqualified "technicians" many of whom lack the ability to grasp locate theory and pay them accordingly, put them through a "training course" and then underbid the competition to keep the company in the black.

    Meanwhile the potential for loss of life and property grows exponentially for every underqualified "technician" out there slinging paint.
    Character is what you are in the dark. It is the things you do, when nobody can see, and nobody will ever know, that define who you are as an individual.

    "Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have ... The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases." Thomas Jefferson

    Per Scientiam Vires!

  13. #13
    Mke
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    Default Re: Certification

    uhhh, I second that (what RD just said).

    What it comes down to is the the liability that the locating industry has on its shoulders.

    Locating is not an exact science and all companies know this. Thats why most large utility companies contract out locates. They don't contract out because they are looking for a company that "really cares" about damage prevention. Its for when utilities are damaged they can have plausible deniability.

    Because of this is industry standard, it is a uphill battle. I am a "in-house" locator, and I take classes all the time. (electrical safety, Haz-mat, confined space, and anything else that might have a slight chance pertaining to my job).

    I do believe that the government may not be the best place to start the regulation of the industry.

    The locating industry should take tips from the Surveying industry, where there is a state board, and you have to take tests to become a "Licensed Surveyor in Training" or LSIT. After you work a couple of years as an LSIT then you are sponsered by a company or Person to go infront of the board again, and apply and take tests to become a PLS. (Professional Land Surveyor).

    Locating can be set up the same way, tests created by locators, for locators. And throw in some time lines so you have to be a locator for a year before you can apply for the Locator in training, and 4 years for the Proffessional Locator tag.


    just an idea.

    mke

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    Default Re: Certification

    Quote Originally Posted by Mke View Post
    uhhh, I second that (what RD just said).

    What it comes down to is the the liability that the locating industry has on its shoulders.

    Locating is not an exact science and all companies know this. Thats why most large utility companies contract out locates. They don't contract out because they are looking for a company that "really cares" about damage prevention. Its for when utilities are damaged they can have plausible deniability.

    Because of this is industry standard, it is a uphill battle. I am a "in-house" locator, and I take classes all the time. (electrical safety, Haz-mat, confined space, and anything else that might have a slight chance pertaining to my job).

    I do believe that the government may not be the best place to start the regulation of the industry.

    The locating industry should take tips from the Surveying industry, where there is a state board, and you have to take tests to become a "Licensed Surveyor in Training" or LSIT. After you work a couple of years as an LSIT then you are sponsered by a company or Person to go infront of the board again, and apply and take tests to become a PLS. (Professional Land Surveyor).

    Locating can be set up the same way, tests created by locators, for locators. And throw in some time lines so you have to be a locator for a year before you can apply for the Locator in training, and 4 years for the Proffessional Locator tag.


    just an idea.

    mke
    I was working at an electric power company when the locate contracting firms really got started up after the call before you dig laws went into place.

    The principal reason then was to cut costs so they could show the state utility commissions their efforts. These clients need permission from the state governing agencies before raising rates and the cost cutting makes them look better.

    As for liability for damages that was not such a big thing. Most damages do to mis-mark do not result in injury or property damage. The utility companies just repaired their own damaged material.

    The potential liability to the client companies can be higher now than before if there is injury due to a contract firm mis-marking if the injured party, or their estate, has a really sharp attorney. An attorney who will take the effort to 'Peirce a corporate shield'.

    If it can be found that a client company of a dangerous utility, such as gas or electric, contracted a locate firm with poor performance over a more expensive locating firm with a good record the client company can find themselves liable.

    The call before you dig laws are not in place to protect the utilities, they are in place to protect public safety. The origin of the call before you dig laws was an unmarked gas line at a school (daycare center?) in Georgia that resulted in an explosion and the death of several children. The selecting a poorly performing contractor due to being less expensive is in conflict with the reason the laws are in place.


    I believe the client companies have contract clauses where the locate firm shall be liable for all law suits and pay all the losses. Still once the size of an award exceeds the ability of the contract firm to pay the client company is left holding the bag.

    If any attorney wins a case against a utility company that hired a poorly performing locate firm then the low ball bidding with poorly trained locators will end.

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    Default Re: Certification

    The elephant in the room is the fact that most utilities treat contract locators not as a service but as an insurance policy, a policy that they award to the lowest bidder.

    As pointed out earlier, self regulation would be the best way for this industry to move forward, BUT that would require ALL of the players to live by the same rules. If just one company did not live by the same rules and underbid all of the others, the next time around the other companies will begin lowering their standards etc. etc. to win the bid.

    If all companies in the bidding process play by the exact same rules then utilities are comparing apples to apples when making a decision, theoretically all bids would be in the same ballpark and the deciding factor comes down to intangibles such as reputation, quality etc, thus raising the bar for everyone.

    Two approaches here:
    1) Government steps in to issue minimum guidleines for locator training-or minimum that e utility can pay for a locate. Government can't run itself...
    2) The industry regulates itself- ALL members vow to train to certain minimums and play by certain rules- no active recruiting of competitor locators etc. NULCA has some of these in place but not all contract locators are willing to agree to this and as long as utilities are not serious about damage prevention and only insuring that they don't have to eat the damage, things will not change.

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