New York, NY – Although technology has advanced to improve the effectiveness of building equipment, heating, cooling and maintenance systems, there will never be a technology that can effectively replace the need for well-trained operating engineers. That’s why ongoing, continuing education is so important — across all levels of the various Building Trades.
For example, the computerization of systems has changed the operations of temperature related controls. However, without the proper training, what happens if the controls fail? What happens if there’s an emergency and the computers go down?
For years, operating engineers and building maintenance staff have been part of the changes in the building industry. With their fingers on the pulse of updates and education, training has become the key to an efficient and safer work environment.
“Anyone can push a button or switch machines on or off, but what happens in an emergency? What happens without the proper training?” I post this as a quote from one of my first supervisors. “The last thing you want to be is a Push-button engineer.”
In my experience, I have seen untrained workers at the so-called “Push-button” level. I have seen what happens when they find themselves in critical moments.
They panicked. They were unsure what to do, in which case, they froze because their lack of training led them to a dangerous reaction known as cognitive tunneling.
Cognitive tunneling is the mental state in which the brain focuses on one thing and does not see other relevant data, which can lead to greater meltdowns, property damage, injury and even fatalities. This is why our training must be rigorous.
To counteract this tendency, training professionals recommend creating a mental model of how the systems work. This means skilled workers and skilled trainers. Fortunately, education and training is not lost in the union trades nor do these updates go unaddressed.
To avoid dangerous work environments, mottos of “Safety first” have improved at the training centers. Our education ranges from basic to advanced with new curriculums that acknowledge the importance of a healthy mindset and psychological safety.
Our work and the education of building staff at the commercial, residential, hotel and school levels are imperative to more than building and plant operations. The job consists of more than basic maintenance, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning. There are fire brigades and fire, life and safety standards to be considered. There are emergency action plans and to be considered, which above all; none of these tasks can be safely handled without union workers onsite.
I bring this up on a personal note; and with the 20 year anniversary of September 11, a date that can never be forgotten, the need to sharpen safety skills and building operations must be kept as the highest priority.
I remember. I was working on September 11, 2001. Since my start in this industry, I have been part of building evacuations and in-building relocations, fire emergencies, and suspicious packages. This is all part of the job; however, this part of the job goes unspoken. As for being at the “Push-button” level, technology does not remove the responsibility of the operator. In fact, this only emphasizes that there is more to learn which is why our union trades stress the importance of proper training. To stay safe, to keep our City running, and above all else, to remain Union strong!
Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as an author, writer on thewrittenaddiction.com, mental health first aid instructor and educator, certified addiction and recovery coach, certified professional life coach, and peer & wellness advocate. Ben can be reached at email@example.com