CONNstruction - Summer 2014 - (Page 7)
By Don Shubert
When the state's comprehensive energy policy
was developed, one of the key components for its
overall success was to have Connecticut construction companies and workers perform the work on the
natural gas expansion plans. Since there weren't many
Connecticut-based contractors qualified to do the
work, ensuring that hundreds of expected job openings would be filled by Connecticut employees became
At the outset, we hosted a series of meetings that
included state agency officials, public utilities, training
providers, industry associations, contractors, labor
representatives, and others. Many of the participants
never worked together before and weren't particularly
comfortable working with others who they didn't know.
Fortunately, the fact that all of the participants shared
the common goal of ensuring that Connecticut companies and workers would deliver the natural gas expansion plans overcame those concerns.
The participants in the work
groups plan to continue working
together in new ways to make
sure Connecticut companies and
workers perform the pipeline
expansion work as it comes on line.
A basic challenge facing the group was that the
contractor and workforce qualifications to perform the
work were based on obscure federal regulations known
as "OQ". Almost everyone in the room had different
ideas about how to comply with the rules.
The confusion grew out of the way the rule is
designed. The U.S. Department of Transportation
Operator Qualification final rule 49 CFR 192 Subpart N
requires operators of gas pipeline facilities to develop
and maintain a qualification program for individuals
performing covered tasks on their facilities. The intent
of the OQ rule is to minimize human error by establishing a qualified workforce.
This means that, under the regulations, every public
utility gas pipeline operator in Connecticut has the
responsibility to ensure that every individual, whether
employed by the operator or by a contractor who performs a covered task on the operator's pipeline facility,
must either be qualified to perform those tasks or be
directed and observed by a qualified person.
The challenge arose when everyone realized that
the operators have different interpretations and ideas
about what specific job tasks are covered tasks under
the federal regulations, what the qualification requirements are to perform certain job functions, how to
configure crews, and so on to comply with the federal
rules. Simply, the working group found it very difficult to
figure out how to most efficiently and effectively qualify
contractors and train a workforce when the operators
didn't agree on what was required.
Everyone knew that in order to create a pool of
qualified Connecticut contractors and train workers to
perform the work, the utilities had to agree on a set of
standards for OQ implementation that were understandable and practical. The Northeast Gas Association told
us that this was attempted years ago but abandoned
and offered to facilitate the exercise again.
Fortunately, several very talented representatives from
the utilities volunteered to work with NGA on it. They first
decided to divide the covered tasks into only two categories: repair of existing services and installation of new
services, which was a giant step in the right direction. The
next steps would be to gain agreement on which covered
tasks were required for each, and break it down by crew.
As this edition is published, the Northeast Gas
Association and its Connecticut members will likely have
completed a covered task list for OQ that is going to
be adopted in not only Connecticut, but in New Jersey,
New York, and the rest of New England.
This will significantly improve the apprenticeship
training programs', jobs funnels', training providers', and
contractors' efforts to align their workforce development
efforts to create the cache of Connecticut companies
and workers qualified to perform the work.
It is just the beginning. The participants in the work
groups plan to continue working together in new ways to
make sure Connecticut companies and workers perform
the pipeline expansion work as it comes on line. Some
pretty big challenges still lie ahead, but we are off to a
CONNstruction / SUMMER 2014 / 7
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CONNstruction - Summer 2014
Measuring Mud on Construction Sites
2014 General Assembly Concludes
Transition to Natural Gas Holds Promise of Construction Jobs
CEFIA: Banking on Energy
The Public Policy Behind Energy in Connecticut
Call Before You Dig
The 2014 AGC/CT Build CT Awards and 67th Annual Meeting
The Second Annual Construction Industry Joint Forces Luncheon
Travelers Congratulates CCIA for 15 Years of Insurance Excellence
Agc of Connecticut Honored Nationally
CCIA | AGC of CT Young Contractors Forum - Membership Meeting
Index to Advertisers / Advertiser.com
CONNstruction - Summer 2014