On what turned out to be a blustery fall morning, six Gulf Coast area crane operators competed for top honors in theCrane & Rigging Hot Line & CIC Crane Operator Skills Competition. The regional event was held at Webber LLC in northeast Houston last Friday.
Winning a coveted spot in the finals to be held in Las Vegas in March, 2014 was Mike Barker, representing LyondellBasell, a Houston-based petrochemical company. The Crosby, Texas native has been in the construction business for 37 years—virtually all of his working life. Did the wind, which gusted to 20 mph at times, pose any problems for Barker as he negotiated the course? “Not too much,” he said.
Also going to Las Vegas is second-place winner Cosme Perez, Jr., a freelance operator from Lake Jackson, Texas. He likewise took the weather conditions in stride. He has been a crane operator for 29 years and prefers Manitowoc cranes. Other competitors included Randall Smith of Livingston, Texas, Roberto Garcia of Houston, Johnny Larin of Houston, and “Teflon” John Harrison of Mauriceville, Texas.
The 85-ton Sany SRC885 rough-terrain crane used during the competition was provided by Four Seasons Equipment of Houston, Texas. The course consisted of dropping the headache ball into four 55-gallon drums and then extracting it without moving the barrels off their marks; negotiating a slalom of those same four barrels without touching them; and finally, raising and lowering a 10-ft. by 10-in. PVC pipe in a 12-ft. by 4-ft. area without touching the cones.
Tabulating the scores was Lindsay Strange of Crane Institute Certification (CIC). “Scoring is similar to golf in that the lowest score wins,” she said. “Obstacles must be completed in a set time, and points are deducted if the operator takes any longer to complete the obstacle and when cones or barrels are moved or knocked over.” Jameson (Jamie) Headley of the Crane Institute of America judged the competition.
Webber Construction of Houston, Texas, hosted the regional competition; Houston International Insurance Group co-sponsored the event. Webber employs 50 crane operators who work at sites throughout Texas. Cliff Warren, safety trainer, hires and trains crane operators, reviews lift plans and investigates crane accidents for Webber. He has 30-plus years of experience in the crane industry with four of those years at Webber. Over the years, he has seen many advances in crane technology, and he noted the lack of safety devices, such as anti-two-block and load moment indicators, when he started in the industry. “Most operators did not use load charts,” he said. “It was just by the seat-of-their-pants operation.”
Among the industry partners who attended the event were Megan Fitzgerald and Byron Way of HIIG. Fitzgerald, marketing coordinator for HIIG, flew in from Atlanta to support their partners from CIC. “We are safety supportive,” she said. “The value of the Crane Rodeo is that it promotes safety. A better operator means a safer account which is a better risk, and the CIC is the gold standard of certification.” Other industry attendees included Alisha Gainer of Certified Training and Safety Inc., who came in from Port Lavaca to watch the competition. About 50 people from the industry attended.
Webber catered a luncheon of barbeque brisket and chicken with all the trimmings for all attendees.