Feature Article - January 2015
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Certifiably Safer

Why & How Certification Improves Safety

By Kelli Ra Anderson


The Right Tool for the Right Job

Even with an impressive list of acronyms behind their names, certified instructors or professionals still require a position best suited for their qualifications. Some credentials are designed to meet specific needs in the industry, and managers need to ensure they are the right ones for a particular job.

Top facilities see the cost of continuing education for certification as an investment in safety to help employees stay current in their fields and keep their recreational community safe.

When evaluating someone as a fitness instructor, or personal trainer, for example, it is possible they are an ideal group fitness instructor. But, if asked to work one-on-one, they may not have that experience or expertise. Being good at one thing doesn't mean they will be good at all areas of their field.

Or, an instructor may have experience working with the elderly or with teens. It is important to know their specialization; it takes a different person to understand the needs of different demographics, to understand that population's values or goals.

Then there are certifications that are simply good for everyone to have with regard to safety. "The city of Plano has taken a stance that all of our employees be certified in CPR and very basic elements of response," said Amy Fortenberry, CPRE, with 25 years of experience and director of parks and recreation for the city. "We've had great success rates and have even saved lives when some people have had cardiac arrest."

In some cases, certification depends on knowing the unique needs of your facility. At the City of Tampa Parks and Recreation in Tampa, Fla., they require a pool operator to be certified not just as a CPO or AFO, but in scuba. "We don't drain our pools to work on them," explained Barry Thomas, team supervisor. "You have to have scuba certification to use scuba apparatus to do repairs underwater if it requires it."

Continuing Education

In fact, putting their money where their mouth is, top facilities see the cost of continuing education for certification as an investment in safety to help employees stay current in their fields and keep their recreational community safe.

Once certified, many facilities can use these employees to properly train, apprentice and certify other employees for a fraction of the cost. In some cases, facilities can even use it to financial advantage, offering certification classes to the community as part of their regular programming.

Certification, however, is not one-time training. To maintain skills and keep up with new information, technology and trends, quality certifications require regular renewal and continuing education. Continuing education, whether it is through regularly provided in-service programs, approved classes by the certifying organization, or even surprise audits for evaluation, are great ways to keep staff current and on their toes.

Having employees attend annual industry conferences is another key way to ensure staff is on top of the latest information and trends, with the added benefit that often new, improved ideas and renewed enthusiasm follow them back home where everyone can benefit. Trade magazines, too, are an easy way for people to stay on top of industry news and to discover new ways to improve safety.

"Certification is important to the Carol Stream Park District. There is a cost associated with it, of course," Reuter conceded, "but without the training and certification, someone may not be prepared to fulfill their role. And what is the cost of a life?"