Matamata Piako District Council (MPDC) operate a large number of water treatment and wastewater treatment plants. Following a review of operator training and competency assessment in early 2016 MPDC identified a number of issues:
- Poor records of formal and informal operator training for specific plants;
- Incomplete, missing or out of date operating manuals;
- No clear plan to train and on-board new staff;
- No records of staff competency with respect to operating specific plants;
- Inconsistent practise between operators;
- Lack of skills resilience in the event of resignation or illness.
In order to address these issues and to meet target service levels MPDC commissioned Lutra to develop a new site specific operator training and assessment process. The scheme that was created is called License to Operate (LTO).
One of the key requirements was to develop a system that the operators had easy access to via smartphones, tablets and PCs and thus a web based system was selected. The training material is largely video based with a focus on short clips of “how to do this task” and “how to respond to this event”. Operations and plant controls (SCADA) are covered and where possible the operators themselves are the ones “starring” in the videos.
One of the key benefits in this style of training is that it trains all operators to the same level and supplants the old style of on-boarding new operators whereby they were buddied up with an old hand and “shown the ropes.
The LTO scheme has four levels. The first qualifies a staff member to assist with plant operation under supervision. The second qualifies a staff member to operate the plant for short periods without supervision (e.g. callout cover). The third level is a plant expert, someone who understands all operations and key maintenance activities and is able to optimise the process; finally, the fourth level is someone who is qualified to assess the performance of others on the plant.
To qualify for each level a staff member has to complete all the training material, pass some on line tests and demonstrate competencies to an assessor.
The LTO scheme was initially piloted on the Matamata WTP and has since been rolled out across the organisation to cover all their larger water treatment plants and is now being developed for their wastewater treatment plants.