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Decoding Maintenance Certifications pt-2

RELEASED ON 6/1/24

In this episode, we delve deeper into essential certifications like the CPO and OSHA credentials, exploring how they elevate your skills and earning potential in the multifamily maintenance industry.

[Paul Rhodes] (0:00 - 38:05) Hey there, welcome to the maintenance mindset, part two of our look at letters behind our name, you know, these letters, if you go on LinkedIn or somebody's bio or their resume, and you take a look at the letters that are behind their name. And they're, they're really pretty. And it's really cool to have alphabet after your name and really, really neat.

But what we're doing is continuing what we looked at last episode, to where what are the letters that are most commonly found for the apartment maintenance technician. So let's take a look at some more letters that are available right after this word from our sponsor. This episode is sponsored today by Appwork.

Appwork is much more than maintenance. In addition to being one of our founding sponsors, Appwork is advanced business intelligence, streamline maintenance workflows and keep an eye on the leaderboard as your service teams enjoy the gamification of maintenance. Visit appworkcode.com and transform your productivity today. All right, so the first episode and I would encourage you to go back if you're starting here at part two. The first episode we covered Camt and all of the the kind of summarized all of the credentials that that one can get through the National Apartment Association Education Institute. That includes CAMT, CAMT plus E, CAMT plus L, a little word about CAPS and the certified apartment leasing professional CALP, I believe is the way that acronym goes into playing.

We also talked about EPA 608 and what it does and and does not allow a technician to do and when one would meet it and when we don't really need it. One additional thing about EPA certification that I do want to highlight is that often management companies will attach a monetary bonus to achieving certification, which I think is great. It's a wonderful way, especially if we're having discussions about the pay rates of our maintenance technician and look to incentivize learning and continuing education.

I'm all for it. The more we as maintenance technicians can get paid, I would be very, very happy to make more money. The caution I would have, though, is that these credentials that we're talking about are tested credentials.

And as an instructor, one of the most common things I hear from students who show up on the day of the exam is the refrained statement of I don't test well. The reason why I bring that up is if one, we're going to attach a monetary value to passing a test, we need to be very careful as organizations that we don't turn that into a value statement about the employee because for whatever reason they cannot get achieve a passing score on the exam. In today's day and time, we are data centric and a test is viewed as a yes or no.

There's not a maybe. Either you pass or you don't pass. You pass or you fail.

And just because somebody does not pass an exam does not diminish their value as an employee. I mean, I would actually argue that the test is less important than the day to day work. Meaning if I have an employee that can go to do a work order and they are very good at showing up in front of that resident, solving the work order with as minimum parts necessary and only the parts necessary without leaving a mess, keeping the resident happy so that they want to renew.

And not only that, it is fixed in a way that one, ensures the longevity of the building and the equipment that they're working on. And two, does not require a callback or a go back to fix the same thing twice. That is of higher value than whether or not somebody can pass a test.

Now, the challenge there is often our operating systems only work or are viewed on a spreadsheet. So the question becomes, how do we validate that? Well, there are tools.

One of the sponsors for Multifamily Media Network, Appwork. They have a tool that does that. There are others that are available as well that do and perform that.

These acronyms, these letters that we're talking about behind their name, it is important to remember that at the end, they're just validated by an exam, by a test, which is good. We need to validate our knowledge. We need to be able to prove that as employees, yes, I can prove I actually know something.

But if we're going to attach a financial incentive to that as employers, be sure that we're providing a feedback loop to prove to our employee that we value them more for their day-to-day contributions to our organization than whether or not they can achieve a passing score on just a piece of paper or a test. Even though achieving a passing score on a test, as we discussed in episode one or the first part of this, for EPA, if you possess the EPA, then you can legally work with refrigerant, which that as a skill adds a large dollar figure and dollar amount. And as we've discussed in episodes prior, being able to correctly work with refrigerants is going to be beginning next year, 2025, a huge financial impact.

So as maintenance technicians, passing that test, the EPA test in this case, gives us the ability to save a management company and save a property a significant amount of money. Therefore, it does add to the financial backing of our properties. And if we're going to add to the financial backing, meaning if my skills by me being able to perform refrigerant repairs in-house, saves the property money, then yeah, there should be a financial kickback, a financial gain for me as a part of the money that we're saving for the property.

Welcome to capitalism 101, which I guess that's how it all ends up working. Okay. So the credentials we talked about in part one of this short series was CAMT, CAMT plus E, CAMT plus L, and AIM, the Apartment Institute for Maintenance Excellence.

Now, those credentials were the authoring organizations or the organizations that oversee them were either the National Apartment Association Education Institute in the case of all the CAMT versions and AIM. And then EPA 608, which is made up of type one, type two, and type three and universal. That is overseen at the high level by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.

Underneath that, you have the proctoring organizations, mainstream, ESCO, Skillcat, our suppliers end up providing that for us. So as a real quick summary, that's those. This episode, the letters we're going to talk about are CPO, the Certified Pool Operator, and the OSHA certifications.

And really at the end of the day, those credentials, the most widespread acknowledged and used ones for the multifamily maintenance industry. So let's take a look at CPO. Now, Certified Pool Operator is a credential that may or may not be required by your local municipality.

It does meet federal standards because the base for the book of CPO, which is a multiple chapter book, that's a good three and a half inches thick. I mean, it is a large manual. The information that's found there comes from the Model Aquatic Health Code.

But understand, the Model Aquatic Health Code is a suggestion of how swimming pools should be operated based on current science and experiment and health standards and needs. You see, that health code is just offered at the federal legislative level or highest level as a suggestion. This is a best way to run or operate our swimming pools.

It's not required to be adopted anywhere at the local level. As a matter of fact, there's only one federal regulated rule that covers all 50 states and that is the Virginia Graham Baker Act. That deals with entrapment and you may be familiar with it in that several years ago, we had to go around to swimming pools and put dual drains in and all new pools require dual drains to help prevent entrapment, vacuum devices and sensors and all of that is legislated at the federal level, the Virginia Graham Baker Act or VGB, you may be familiar with it.

But even that does not require certification in order to operate a swimming pool. That's left up to the local municipality. In other words, your city, your county or your state, depending on which municipality you are nearby.

So first, to know if it's required in your place, go to your local board of health, whether that is the city, the county or the state. That board of health will tell you in their codes whether or not certification is required to be on hand at your property. If it is, that certification might be CPO or Certified Pool Operator put in place by what is called now the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance.

Now it used to be that the Certified Pool Operator program was overseen by an organization called the NSPF, the National Swimming Pool Foundation. A few years ago, the NSPF partnered or became a part or a portion of the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance and now PHTA is responsible for the certification. Now that certification, to be an instructor, which I do, I am an instructor of the CPO program, that certification requires instructors to follow a very rigid set of requirements on how it's going to be taught.

Now CPO as a credential is a tested credential. But in this case, which is different from all of the other credentials, is an open book exam. That means that when you go to a class, classes are very typically operated over the course of two days.

So you have roughly a day and a half of classroom time and then a half a day of exam. That exam is 50 questions and if you passing score out of 50, which if I'm remembering correctly, just off the top of my head, you have to get 37 correct out of the 50 in order to pass. It's an open book test that really, if you are paying attention and you have a good instructor that will explain and answer questions as you go by, it can be done.

Even if you haven't seen the material or aren't familiar with it to begin with, I would recommend if you have the opportunity to get the book before you go to the testing day, do it. And the reason why I recommend that is because you're talking about a lot of very scientific information. Swimming pool operation does require a basic understanding of chemistry.

Now, we don't need to go into the full like Frankenstein lab with all the test tubes and beakers and the lightning bolts and all of the everything that goes into place. But to be a good swimming pool operator, you do have to understand the difference between acids and alkali materials. You have to know what pH is and calcium hardness and the effect that it can have on the equipment and understand the differences in the valve types that we end up having and operating with and why the pool water level is important and how much water we should be pulling off the surface versus how much we should be pulling out of the main drain.

All of these are facts and factors that not only go into operating a successful swimming pool, but they also are knowledge that's required in order to achieve a passing score on the exam for someone to become CPO certified. Now, it is important to understand that in the same way that the EPA certification does not teach somebody how to perform refrigerant repairs, the CPO certification is not designed to teach somebody how to operate their pool. Remember, the CPO certification is based upon the Model Aquatic Health Code, which is standards across all swimming pools.

So that means while the book does cover how to backwash a sand filter, it also covers how to replace the cartridge filter. It talks about DE filtration and even some of the new renewable filters that haven't generally found their way into the multifamily industry yet, but it talks about them in general terms. In order to operate your pool at your property, the maintenance technician is going to have to do some work or learn which valve to turn and even how those valves operate because not all valves are the same.

Depending on which valve type you have, it's possible that it's backwards from what you're used to. For instance, a standard ball valve. If my arm right here is, and for those of you who are viewing the podcast, if you look at my arm, if this arm is a pipe and the valve handle on a standard ball valve is parallel with the pipe, in other words, it's matching the pipe, that means for a standard ball valve that the valve is open.

However, if on a swimming pool you are dealing with what is called a multiport valve or a Jandy valve, then in that case, if the pipe is operating in one direction and on a Jandy valve or a multiport valve, if the handle is parallel, it's closed. For a multiport or a Jandy valve, you have to turn the handle perpendicular to the pipe. And a fact like that or a thing like that is not covered in CPO.

It's talked about, but it doesn't go into any depth. And not only that, it really can't because the book is based on national standards. Not only that, those national standards may be different than your local municipal health codes, which is why the CPO certification is based in a classroom.

Now, if there is a swimming pool available, if it's handy, in other words, if the course is taught in a clubhouse where you have a swimming pool out back, fine. Let's go as a class, go look at that pool. But again, it's going to require the student to take the knowledge that they are gaining and apply it to their pool.

So in other words, CPO as a credential is a course that teaches the fundamental understanding of how a swimming pool operates. It does not teach how your swimming pool operates. That will require some extra knowledge gathering or some extra knowledge gain or some time spent by the technician figuring it out.

That figuring it out is a lot easier to do if you are going through the CPO class or CPO course. Now, that credential at the end of the day is a very, very good one. And in one sense, it's a little bit more challenging than the EPA test and the Cantee exam that we're talking about before.

Even though it's an open book exam, there's a mathematical component. Now, that mathematical component is a part of the exam. Matter of fact, the larger part is actually the chemistry and pool operation and rules that go into play.

But there is a mathematical component of the certified pool operator program that a lot of maintenance technicians find challenging. But be aware, you may not use your cell phone on the exam. In other words, if you're going to go take the CPO test or exam, you have to have your photo ID to prove who you are, who you say you are, and a regular, good, old-fashioned calculator.

You may not use your cell phone on the exam, which actually, that's a good reason because the exam is written to go with the test, not what Google or Siri or whatever search engine you happen to use will give you as an answer if you type in the question into a search engine. So it's actually a bad idea to Google yourself or to Siri yourself an answer for the CPO exam. Our sponsor for today is AppWork.

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Visit appworkco.com today. Our next credential or group of credentials that we're going to take a look at is actually the OSHA credentials. Now, OSHA is an acronym that stands for the Occupational Safety Health Administration.

This is a federal agency which is responsible for enforcement of rules and regulations that are designed to protect one specific group of people, workers, hence the occupational part. What that means is this set of rules is not designed, though in the end it will, but it's not designed to protect our residents. It's not designed to protect our customers.

It's designed, the rules that are there are designed to protect workers, i.e. me. If I'm working somewhere, I fall under OSHA. Now, for the apartment maintenance industry, we're a little bit challenging or weird because you see OSHA regulations are broken down into two parts.

These are set apart by numbers. They're the code numbers. OSHA 1910 are the rules that a lot of what we end up doing falls under, and that's because this is a group of rules and regulations that are set up for general industry, meaning all the types of work that we do on a regular basis as a maintenance technician, that's where it falls under.

Cleaning supplies and lockout, tagout, all of these things fall into that category of items just for what 1910 goes for. It's labeled as general industry. Now, the other part or another portion of OSHA rules and regulations is called 1926 code, and 1926 is a code or group of codes and rules that we need to follow for construction industries.

In other words, when we are painting and doing drywall repairs, and if your property allows people to get elevated on ladders and up on scaffolding and various pieces of equipment that are specific to the construction industry, then your rules would fall under the 1926 category, and the difference between those two at the maintenance technician level or even the on-site level, it really doesn't mean much. It does mean that we have rules we need to follow to keep ourselves safe.

Utilizing personal protective equipment, eye safety, eyewear. By the way, maintenance technicians, these glasses that I wear on my face are not eye protection. The need to wear face protection.

For instance, Mr. or Mrs. Maintenance Technician, did you know that when we go in to plunge a toilet, we're actually supposed to be wearing both eye protection, the goggles, and face protection, which that means we should be wearing a face shield as well to deal with this flashback because that's oh, so appetizing to think about, isn't it? But all of that is a part of the OSHA rules that we're supposed to be following. Now, for our industry, some management companies and some of the insurance for management companies require maintenance technicians to get and or carry what is referred to as an OSHA 10 card.

There's also what's referred to quite frequently as OSHA 30. Now, the difference between 10 and 30 is the number of hours that you spend in class. You see, the OSHA 10 card is a credential.

It is an achievement that you have spent 10 hours in class learning the fundamentals of workplace safety. You're exposed to it. Now, be aware that neither one of OSHA 10 or OSHA 30, it's my understanding, and it could have changed or may change at any time, but it's my understanding that neither OSHA 10 or OSHA 30 are tested credentials, meaning they're eyeball credentials.

If I'm the instructor, and I'm not, I am not an instructor for OSHA 10, I don't teach that particular credential or certification, if you will. But it's my understanding that the instructors who do, they call it an eyeball certification, meaning if I'm in front of the classroom and we're going through the group of material, and I see your eyeballs for the required 10 hours, you get it because all OSHA 10 does is validate exposure, meaning that my employee or my student or whomever has OSHA 10 has been present for 10 hours of a specific group of safety instruction. And during that time, you're exposed to just what we cover, personal protective equipment, safe use of ladders, lifting, situational awareness, proper footwear, you know, the foundational things that as an employee, I would need to know. And that's covered in the OSHA 10.

Now, OSHA 30 adds an additional 20 hours to that. And it is what is added in is the leadership portion. In other words, as a leader of employees, this is what I need to be aware of things like the fact that as an employer, if I am an employer, it is my responsibility to provide safety equipment for my employees.

Meaning, if I expect my employees to follow OSHA rules and regulations, it's my responsibility to provide them the equipment to do so. If I need them to follow lockout tagout, I have to provide it for them. Whether or not it is used, that's when we have to get in touch with our legal department for what as a leader, I am able to do to force or enforce my employees to follow lockout tagout.

At the end of the day, though, if an employee has an OSHA 10 card, and we can prove that they have been exposed to what they're supposed to be doing, then I think this is where I get into a little bit of personal opinion here. So don't take this as gospel until you run it through your legal department and department there. And I am not putting words in your department's mouth yet, all of those disclaimers.

But I got to be honest, as a worker, some of my own safety falls to me. If I am told that I am required to use lockout tagout, if I am provided lockout tagout equipment, and then I decide to not use lockout tagout equipment, doesn't some of the responsibility of any following injury reside with me as an employee as opposed to my employer? I'm not a legal expert.

Again, all the normal disclaimers apply. And I'm not even saying that my stance is, yes, use lockout tagout. Stop power, stop water, and ensure that neither of those power sources can be turned on while repairs are being made.

And then easily remove the equipment, the locking tagging device, and put it back into service. So those thoughts, those impressions really go into play with one little final tag or note. Keep in mind that the OSHA certification, most commonly referred to as OSHA 10 or OSHA 30, are not tested credentials.

They're eyeball credentials. Someone is exposed to that information for a duration of time. And as an instructor there, the only validation there is the time piece, the time validation.

Local organizations can add things to it. For instance, when I worked for NAA, I was doing a lot of safety teaching. And when we were rewriting and updating CAM-T, I went to some higher level OSHA training.

Down in Georgia, I went to Georgia Tech, and I achieved two tested versions of essentially OSHA 30, though it was more involved than that. I achieved what is classified as OTI programs, number 510 and number 511. Now, these are tested credentials that have a test at the end of them.

510 in the Georgia Tech program is for construction, meaning it covers the 1926 codes. 511 is general industry, meaning it covers the 1910 codes. And those are tested week-long courses that, man, they were fantastic.

I do have to admit that the instructors who did that took what is frequently very dry information and did a brilliant job of keeping it interesting and keeping it applicable. Not only that, I met some really, really great individuals who are involved in related industries to us in multifamily. And it was a great learning opportunity.

Here in the future, I plan on taking it again, just because some of the regulations have changed. They update, just like a lot of our standard operating procedures that our companies use. They change with situations.

Well, so too have OSHA regulations in order for us to keep going. So my goal here in going through these credentials has been to provide some information on the letters behind what you may see on somebody's LinkedIn profile. Also, for us as maintenance technicians to realize that there are programs that give us the ability to validate our knowledge.

KMT is industry-focused for the apartment industry. It's got the additional KMT plus E plus L and AIM, the Apartment Institute for Maintenance Excellence. All of those are found on the National Apartment Association website.

EPA, commonly referred to as EPA 608, focuses on refrigerant repairs. And remember, it doesn't go over or validate that you have a skill. It validates that you know what you're allowed to do and what you're not allowed to do with refrigerant.

And that's it. It does not validate that a holder actually knows how to perform or not perform any skill. CPO, the Certified Pool Operator credential, is available through local sources.

A lot of our suppliers, I know that Chadwell Supply, one of the sponsors for the Multifamily Media Network, does provide Certified Pool Operator training available from the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance. And I'm sure there are other suppliers that do for our industry, much the same way that those suppliers do make available the EPA certification as well. Now, that swimming pool certification may or may not be required to operate a swimming pool in your area.

One little caveat on that, and I realize I didn't add this when we were talking about swimming pools, that is the fact that your local municipality, your local city, even though at the county level certification is not required, your city may require it. Or, for that matter, your city may have a special certification that is required that's outside of the PHTA-created Certified Pool Operator. I mean, it could get a little bit confusing.

The last group of letters that we talked about was OSHA, Occupational Safety Health Administration. OSHA 10 is specific for workers. OSHA 30 contains the same information as 10, however, it's focused more for leaders, people who are responsible for the workers.

And it talks about situational awareness and how to lead other people in doing what is taught as a part of the OSHA 10. If you have any questions about the letters that we've covered in these two episodes, please either get in touch with me through LinkedIn or on the Multifamily Media Network page. You can ask any questions, even record a short message to me that I'll be happy to answer either live or separate if you prefer that.

Thank you for joining me and check out our sponsors. Have a great rest of the week and I'll see you somewhere. Thank you again to AppWorks for sponsoring today's episode.

Imagine carrying a digital make-ready board in your pocket with work order tracking and maintenance technician leader boards designed to gamify the process and bring out your team's competitive edge. AppWork offers solutions to headaches that have plagued the multifamily industry for decades. Visit www.appworkco.com today.