The local 600 Safety Passport training classes
Posted 05 May 2004 - 01:42 PM
What is it?
As I understand it, all union members of the entertainment industry in the USA are required to take training courses regarding various aspects of safety in the industry. Each local (and category within that local) has specific courses that must be taken by a given deadline, or else the employee will not be eligible to work on productions after that date. If you are a union member and have not satisfied these course requirements before the deadline for your local, you will not be able to work on pretty much any Studio picture or Television series. By Studio, I mean the biggies and their subsidiaries (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney/Buena Vista, etc...).
For Camera Department people (IATSE Local 600), the deadline is December 31, 2004. It's coming up quickly.
DP's have to take 4 courses:
"A" General Safety Training/Injury & Illness Prevention Program
"I" Respiratory Protection
"G" Scaffold Use
"P" Hazard Communication
Camera Assistants, Camera Operators and Digital Imaging Technicians must take 7 courses (the same 4 courses that DP's must take as well as the following three):
"B" Aerial Lift/Scissor Lift
"D" General Fall Protection
"K" Noise Exposure
The courses range in length from 1 hour for the "A" course to 4 hours for the "B" course, with the rest being 2 hours in length. The courses can be completed in less time and I found they often are depending on how many participants are in a given class (fewer = faster), and also who the instructor is
For example, one scheduled two hour course that I took, the "I" course, took about 1/2 hour from start to finish.
Each course has a written test which is usually multiple choice, and one course that I took, the "B" Aerial Lift/Scissors Lift course also had a practical session in which each participant learns the basics of operating both a scissor lift and an aerial lift.
The good news...
You do get paid a stipend of $15.00/hour of classes that you are required to take. This means that you will NOT get paid (nor will you get official credit for) any classes that you elect to take that are not required for your category. The stipend is not considered salary, so if you are collecting unemployment while taking the courses, it will not affect this, and you can continue to collect unemployment. You also will get paid the stipend for the length of time your class is scheduled for and not the actual elapsed time the class took. In other words, I will get $30.00 for the 2 hour scheduled "I" class mentioned above that only took 1/2 hour to complete, instead of only $7.50.
After taking your courses, you will get a nifty little "Passport" that looks very similar to a national passport (only smaller) complete with a picture, and official stamps for the courses you have completed. You will be rewuired to carry this with you on shoots after the deadline for your local (in our case the deadline is December 31, 2004). The courses that we are required to take as local 600 members have no expiration as of now, and no re-certification is planned at this time for any of our required courses. This means that once you've completed the required courses, you are good to go forever... or at least until they change their minds about re-certification, or add another requirement, etc.
Here's where things get a little strange though...
If you are a DP in category, but you ALSO work as a Camera Operator, you have a classic union "Catch-22" on your hands:
You will only get paid for the 4 classes you are required to take under the DP category, and more importantly, you will only get official CREDIT for those four classes too. So does this mean that technically you will not be allowed to work as an operator on a Studio picture or TV series after this coming New Year? You betcha! Isn't that great?
I hear you asking, "But what if I take those additional classes that Camera Operators are required to take (B,D & K)? I don't care about the stipend, I just want the credit so I can continue working on Studio projects?? Won't I be able to at least get the stamps in my passport so I can do that??
The simple answer is NO. Tough Titties. I was told that my union has determined what classes I need to take based on my category, and if I have a problem with that, I should go talk to them about it.
In a nutshell, I was able to resolve my own particular need to get the credit for the additional courses through a loop hole involving a whole other set of mistakes (not mine) involving my roster eligibility status. That is another boring story that I will spare you from having to read. For any other DP's out there who share the same dilemma, all I can say is good luck. You should try to figure out how to get this resolved BEFORE you take the courses. Otherwise, you risk most likely having to repeat some courses you've already taken in order to get the credit (stamp). To resolve this paradox or Koan, you'll have to talk to someone from the local.
This next part is strictly my own opinion, and in no way does it reflect anyone else's opinion or opinions (although I heard plenty of similar sentiments from fellow participants in these safety classes).
My feeling is that the true catalyst behind this training program is the Studio's (collectively speaking) attempt to reduce their own liability in the event of accidents and injuries and/or death. By requiring these safety courses, they have one more level of insulation from responsibility in the event of an accident or injury. This feeling I get stems from the way in which these classes are structured, and the way that the "tests" are administered. For one thing, the seemingly arbitrary choices behind why certain courses are not required for DP's as opposed to AC's and Camera Op's simply doesn't make sense. I understand that DP's find themselves in fewer potentially hazardous situations than the average Camera Operator or AC, but explain this one to me then...
The "K" class, or Noise Exposure class addresses a hazard that we all have to deal with. DP's are subjected to pretty much exactly the same working noise conditions as AC's and Camera Operators, so why aren't DP's required to take that course? Is it because DP's as a whole don't want to be bothered with taking these courses in the first place, and so the number of courses required for them has been reduced as much as possible? I think that's a likely scenario. None of us likes to use our days off taking mandatory safety classes, but DP's probably have more power within our union than other categories for the most part. Shooting on location in a noisy factory or on an airport tarmac for instance will damage a DP's unprotected ears just as quickly and surely as it will any other crew member's.
As for the structure of the courses, for the most part, it appears as if they have been designed to get the participants in and out as quickly as possible and to have them all pass the "test" in the process. Most of the classes I took were taught in such a manner where the instructor literally gives the answers to various questions prior to giving the test. They would actually say things like... "pay attention, because this next point I'm about to make will be a question on the test."
Then, after taking the so called "test," but prior to handing them in, the teacher reads the questions out loud along with the correct answers. You are then supposed to correct your own test, and initial any changes you made to incorrect answers. The thing is, there is no reason why you couldn't just sit there and not answer anything until the end when the questions and answers are given out, and THEN cirlce the correct answer. This could easily have been done, and I suspect that some poeple probably do just that. If it weren't for the fact that the tests were so damn easy and mostly common sense oriented (with some notable exceptions), I would have been tempted to do so too.
In any case, after this rant, I will say that as a result of taking these courses, and despite my complaints about the structure of the courses, I did learn quite a few things about safety, and that is always a good thing... even if that wasn't the primary interest or goal of the Studios that mandated this training in the first place.
Also, they at least give a better stipend than the Los Angeles Court system does for jury duty. I spent five days serving out my jury duty (one day in selection and 4 on a trial), and got a whopping $60.00 for my time and effort.
For completing the 7 Saftey Pass Courses I had to take (15 scheduled hours), I will be paid $225.00. That at least covers a few rounds of beers!
David, in answer to one of your questions, no, I haven't been paid yet. The pay should come within a few weeks, and the Passport itself will take 8-9 weeks due to a backlog. There are a lot of people in other locals trying to get their courses done before their deadlines (some local's deadlines are in June, and some have already passed).
For more information about these courses check out this site:
The standard disclaimer about this post holds true... if I've made any mistakes in the info presented, well that's too bad... I believe it all to be correct at the time of writing anyway, so if there are any mistakes, I apologize for them. Also, your experience and mileage may vary
Posted 10 May 2004 - 03:42 AM
You bit off quite a chunk there and did a wonderful job in explaining the safety passport procedure. I have spoken to Tim Wade in the past about the specific circumstances that you mentioned regarding working out of classificiation, and his response was that if you are confronted with a situation where you need specific classes for an upcoming roster job, then you should notify him and he will help to get you the needed classes.
Other than that minor tidbit you really covered the subject.
How the heck are you, and when are you coming back east for a beer?
Posted 10 May 2004 - 06:20 PM
Thanks for the kind words! It's been a while. I've been well and busy up until two weeks ago. I am heading back East Monday, May 24th and will be staying just over a week until the Wednesday after Memorial Day. I'm going to get out to Shelter Island for the big holiday weekend, but I'll be in the city for most of the weekdays. My schedule's open so let's get that beer! Let me know when and where's good for you. It'll be great to catch up.
Regarding Tim Wade's suggestion... well, I'm all set . I have all 7 courses for camera operators completed despite the technical obstacle of being a DP in classification. My Passport should arrive with all the stamps for said classes to prove it. I am concerned that for others, there may not be enough time to satisfy the additional 3 courses required between getting booked for a gig, and the start date of the project.
In any case, unfortunately it's every man for himself with regard to that issue. I just wanted to give folks a heads up that there is a conundrum to be dealt with.
I can almost taste that beer!
Posted 01 June 2004 - 01:16 PM
These classes are so incredibly easy that one guy in the "A" class fell asleep throughout most of the 45 minute video and only missed 2 questions. He had to correct the ones he missed and he passed.
I was going to sign up for more for the day but classes were full. For those locals whose deadline is in june, many it appears, have waited till the last minute and are rushing to take those courses.
I met a camera assistant from NY that came solely to take these courses. That would be a bummer. I'm fortunate to live 5 minutes from the training facility. Woo Hoo!
Local 600 has until december but I'm trying to get them out of the way now.
Posted 01 June 2004 - 01:20 PM
You can check to see if your's is updated by going here...
Click on "General Access" under ON-LINE ROSTER
Posted 01 June 2004 - 01:39 PM
Posted 02 June 2004 - 12:21 AM
Posted 02 June 2004 - 12:29 AM