Licensing pops up in so many classes. I've had people raise their hands in my class, in the middle of this discussion, and say, "Well, I know I'm qualified because I'm a licensed electrician." A license, albeit there are times when you have to pass a test, you have to achieve a certain level of confirmation or assessment or whatever in order to be granted that license. It is not the definitive tool, it's not the accurate reflection though a lot of people think that it is. An example that I use for a lot of people is, you know, a lot longer than what I really want to admit, I took a driver's test with the State of Pennsylvania and they gave me a driver's license. That was not an accurate reflection of my driving ability though. For one thing, I mean, from Pennsylvania, if I took my driver's test in June, was that a reflection of my ability to drive on snow-covered roads? There's a good chance I may have never driven on snow-covered roads. But yet, the State of Pennsylvania, after giving me a test, both a written test and an actual demonstration test, they issued me a license. 

So with that in mind, if you're assessing someone's ability, I'm not saying ignore the fact that they have a license, but don't overweight the fact that they have a license. It all goes back to what we talked before is, this is very task-specific. That this assessment, this determination has to be focused on the exact task that this person is about to apply their knowledge, you know, apply their skills to. We have to be careful not to over-generalize. The license, in and of itself, as we were just talking about, is not a guarantee that they are qualified for all tasks at hand.

Electrical work, in and of itself...take this from someone who has been doing this for about 25 years. One of the reasons why I was attracted to this trade was the fact that it requires ongoing education. There is always new technologies, new techniques, new equipment design out there, that requires someone in this trade to stay on the cutting edge, in many ways. It's exciting but it's also demanding. And it's the kind of industry where in newer types of design, newer types of capabilities of equipment, it's not always conducive to safety to apply antiquated work practices or antiquated safety approaches. It's the kind of industry that requires workers to stay on the cutting edge.

So back to our term here again. We've talked about demonstrated skills. We've talked about methods through which we can visually verify that a person may or may not possess the required skills or the required skills or needed skills for the task at hand. We've talked about methods of assessing their knowledge, determining whether or not why possess the prerequisite training, the background, if you will.

Safety Training

Third topic, safety training. This is a biggie. There's a lot criteria here. There are a lot of mandated ingredients to this assessment. I've given you a taste of a few right here. Does the worker the hazard associated with the task at hand? Does the worker understand fundamentally what an arc flash risk assessment is? You hand someone a full-fledged incident energy study, you hand them a three-ring binder that has all of the results of an arc flash study. It requires a certain level of technical knowledge to assess and make sense of a lot of that information. You take the average worker and show them an arc flash label on a piece of equipment, it's not too difficult for them to assess or interpret certain amounts of that information, but some of it...you have to question whether or not they fully grasp the meaning of what some of those values are telling them. And once again, if we're assessing this person's qualifications, that's the answer to a question that we need to know.

Based on the information that they may see on the label, does the worker understand how to apply that information? Do they understand the limitations, the benefits of the personal protective equipment? A fundamental question that I ask my students all the time just to make sure that they are, in fact, making the connection is, you know, why is it that in one piece equipment of a certain voltage, a certain current level, I'm able to wear what is very...you know, apparently minimal levels of PPE. But yet, if I take them into what could quite possibly be the exact same type of equipment, same voltage level, same current capabilities, all of a sudden they need to wear significantly more PPE? And it's not, I think, that they don't understand why they need the PPE, they don't fully understand why those conditions have changed, and why all of sudden they need so much more PPE.

So it's a very tricky thing to assess sometimes, when it comes to certain location and certain workers. Have they been trained to understand and apply the details of the electrical safety program? Oh, stop right there. You can go one step further with that. I encounter a lot of people in my classes who were never aware that they actually have to have a specific electrically dedicated safety program. I mean, if you ask them, "Well, do you have a safety program in place?" "Oh, yeah, we've had one in place for years." "How about an electrical safety program?" And all of sudden you get no reaction. "Well, wasn't that the same thing?" "No. You do have your overall health and safety program in place. The electrically dedicated safety program is one aspect of your overall health and safety program. And it's where all of these requirements, where all of these determinations, all these criteria and everything is listed. And it becomes part of your overall safety program."