PSAI Completes Portable Sanitation Technician Job Survey

Updated certification identifies 90-plus critical job duties and expands credential pathways for industry professionals

PSAI Completes Portable Sanitation Technician Job Survey

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Whether you call them service drivers or portable sanitation technicians, the entire industry benefits when workers on the frontline know what they’re doing.

Unfortunately, when Portable Sanitation Association International attempted to survey the industry on various companies’ job descriptions for drivers and technicians, very few had a concrete list of expectations.

“This process took a lot longer than we thought it would, because at the very beginning, we discovered that a huge number of companies did not have job descriptions for their people,” says Karleen Kos, executive director of PSAI. “Which was pretty amazing.”

PSAI’s goal was to update the certification program first introduced in 1992. It was one of the first guideline, training and certification efforts to codify best practices for the portable sanitation industry.

A new era of service

Karleen Kos, PSAI executive director
Karleen Kos, PSAI executive director

The new, updated program will promote the core competencies that should be expected of drivers and technicians.

Though a simple idea, it had its stumbling blocks. As iterated in PSAI’s report, “Because there wasn’t always a written job description, this part of the process also involved interviewing owners and managers. The point of this was to … dig deeper in areas of major significance to the role.”

The list and report will be available on PSAI’s website for contractors to use, but the ultimate goal of the study was to incorporate the standards into a revised certification program.

“We had to get the job descriptions that we could, then we talked to quite a few people who said, ‘Well, we haven’t really written it down, but I’ll be glad to tell you what we have them do,’” Kos says. “From those folks, we documented what they were telling us and compared it, and then we had a bunch of folks who just didn’t have any job descriptions at all, so we had to go back to them and say, ‘here are some things other people have told us they have their people do, how does that sound to you?’”

PSAI developed five “knowledge domains,” inside of which were a total more than 90 single job responsibilities and task competencies.

“Individuals who meet basic requirements were then found to require competency in five domains, breaking down into 15 subdomains and more than 90 discrete task items,” the report says.

Beyond a simple list of duties, their survey and research also produced a weighted ranking of the 90-plus items by frequency of the task and criticality.

“All tasks are not created equally, so we looked at frequency that you do something, and the relative importance to success,” Kos says. “Then we got weighted numbers, so that those items could be organized from most important, as viewed by how often you do it and the criticality of it, to least important. If something is least important, it doesn’t mean it’s not important, it just means some combination of frequency and critically weighted it below the other things.”

The importance of professionalism

“The initial findings from frontline workers were somewhat surprising,” the report says. “The results clearly indicated that frontline workers see their most important competencies differently than either intuition or the legacy certification program would suggest should be the case.

“These survey results mean that a one-size-fits-all credential is no longer feasible,” it continues. “The updated certification program needs to address professional demeanor in a manner that can be fairly evaluated both over time and at a distance.”

To solve the dilemma, PSAI will expand credentials, such as offering separate exam levels for apprentice and professional workers, as well as a credential for supervisors and managers.

“We have a series of training courses — six specific training courses — of which, three when taken together as a series constitute what we call our basic service technician training series,” Kos says.

One major finding of the task weighting was that “by far the most heavily weighted competence in terms of frequency and criticality is professional demeanor and conduct,” according to the report.

Though the study is done, the certifications and evaluations are still evolving, and PSAI has big plans for the future of this particular project.

“We are attempting to measure competence regarding the role of the service driver, and based on the things that he or she actually does every day, and then consequently creating a framework,” Kos says. “This allows us to develop content specific to those job duties, and on the other side to adjust and relaunch our certification program, which they need in order to be the most successful and succeed at the job.”


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