Many treacherous elements comprise the typical utility work environment: high voltage, hazardous terrain, extreme weather conditions and human beings performing unsafe tasks. The risk of this work environment can be greatly minimized if managed by competent utility safety professionals. Utility managers, supervisors and safety specialists each have a critical role to play in minimizing risk. Front line supervisors, foremen and operations professionals also play an important part in the safety of their crews. A clear understanding of expectations and roles is required for an effective safety program.
But just how does the utility industry gauge an individual’s competency level? Making its debut in 2010 is a new certification for utility safety leaders. The credential of CUSP, a.k.a. Certified Utility Safety Professional, will be assigned to those who meet specific requirements and pass the exam. The test will cover regulations, competencies and task-directed skills. There are great advantages to becoming a credentialed utility safety professional, especially as the industry faces an unprecedented transitioning workforce.
The leading benefit is professional recognition as a utility safety professional. Certified employees have a long history of being known as true professionals in their field. They have been tested by their peers and have been proven to possess broad knowledge, skills and abilities in the utility work environment. As the CUSP designation grows in industry awareness and respect, the accreditation will serve its title holders well. Companies will have the assurance of an individual’s knowledge and commitment when hiring or promoting.
Certifying bodies are organizations that provide regulatory control and certification of professional credentials. Typically, these are peer-regulated organizations. They maintain control of the certification process and the number of professionals admitted to the organization. They also preserve the level or quality of service through a continuing education program that ensures members are aware of industry changes.
After the demise of the National Safety Council’s CUSA program, members of the Incident Prevention advisory board, along with other dedicated utility safety professionals, came together to form a certifying body called the Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network (USOLN). The initial purpose of this organization is to build a respected certification program serving the utility safety professional. All participants involved in creating the program bring 15+ years of utility safety work experience to the project.
The Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network is a membership organization that serves as an advocate for a safe, secure and productive utility work environment and as a catalyst for the prevention of incidents. More details on this organization can be found at www.usoln.org.
The USOLN also provides utility companies and their contractor partners with a reliable Certified Utility Safety Professional (CUSP) certification program, legislative/regulatory updates, and networking resources. The CUSP certification is the only program that offers utility-specific safety credentials to meet the unique requirements of utilities and related contractors.
A Two-Tier Program
A two-tier, color-designated program geared towards individual growth and increased value is offered to employers who elect to become a member of the USOLN and support the certification process. The CUSP-Blue is intended for front-line safety leaders – typically (but not limited to) Supervisors, Foremen and Operations Management. The CUSP-Green certification is intended for Utility Safety Directors and Managers and Field Safety Representatives. Each designation has sole qualifying criteria and its own unique test.
An education committee was organized with the objective of establishing knowledge criteria for the two certification levels. A separate exam committee has been established for test and procedures development. Two unique exams, one serving CUSP-Blue and the other serving CUSP-Green, have been created.
The USOLN highly recommends, although it does not require, a 2-Day Safety Leadership course developed by the USOLN education committee. This comprehensive training is designed to enhance job safety knowledge, leadership skills and will assist in preparedness for taking the CUSP exam.
There is no “grandfather” process to becoming a CUSP. CUSAs or CSPs have the opportunity to become a CUSP – but will be required to take the exam. Founding USOLN members are concentrated on building a credible, highly regarded certification program with requirements.