Does EFNARC (Experts for Specialised Construction and Concrete Systems) certification ring a bell? Would you like to learn more about this important organization in the world of shotcrete? Great, because today, we’ve got something special for you: the first interview in a series on EFNARC and its certification.
To get to ball rolling, we sat down with David Vidal, after-sales technician, Putzmeister shotcrete equipment and EFNARC examiner, to get his take on the organization and its manifold benefits. We hope you enjoy the interview and learn lots along the way.
Hello, David. Thank you for joining us today. Could you tell us a bit about EFNARC certification?
Sure. EFNARC certification is awarded after the successful completion of two components – a written exam and a practical, hands-on assessment – which evaluate shotcrete operators’ skills and knowledge.
The certification is important, as it allows us to assess whether the operator undergoing certification has the skills necessary to carry out quality spraying. As we’ve mentioned on this blog previously, a shotcrete application of quality, as well as the resulting lining, is contingent in large part on the operator.
The certification is currently limited to mechanized wet-mix shotcreting.
How many years of shotcrete operator experience are required to be eligible for certification?
You need to have at least three years of operator experience to qualify. Operators are also asked to fill out a form and include work references, such as engineers and tunnel leads with whom they’ve worked, as well as any projects they’ve collaborated on.
Is EFNARC certification available worldwide or only in Europe? Where is it currently available?
Initially it was only available in Europe, but nowadays EFNARC has examiners in North America, South America, Asia and Australia. As to the physical space, the written exam can be taken either at the client’s facilities in an office or at our facilities. For the hands-on component, we do require real-life conditions and real materials.
Certification is valid for three years. Can it be renewed after that time?
Yes, you can renew the certification directly with EFNARC. They will review the operator’s application and validate the renovation. But worry not, there’s no need to take the test again. There’s also the option of getting in touch with Putzmeister and having us act as the main contact with EFNARC.
In terms of value added, how does the certification rank for operators?
On a professional level, it’s huge – by setting out guidelines for operators, the certification seeks to standardize processes. With it, it’s no longer every man for himself. It may also prove to be advantageous down the road because, who knows, one day certification could very well be mandatory. Having it would give operators a leg up. Finally, the safety aspects are paramount. That’s value added all the way.
How should an operator prepare for certification?
As I mentioned before, the certification is divided into two parts – theory and practice. The exam itself is demanding and requires that operators be well versed in the subject matter. To help operators prepare for it, we provide a 180-page study guide prior to the written exam. We recommend that operators take the time to familiarize themselves with the contents, if they’re not already familiar with them, as inspiration for the exam questions is drawn from the guide. And speaking of questions, you’ll find 25 on the written exam, of which at least 15 have to be answered correctly. EFNARC sets the bar a tad higher in that it would prefer that you answer 17 correctly, but 15 correct responses are valid, too. And there’s no room for error, either – each wrong answer is penalized in the form of negative points.
The practical exam consists of six sections: pre-application, set-up, application, finalization, problem resolution, and health, safety and environment. We grade each section on a scale of 1 to 6, whereby 1 is perfect and 6 is far from perfect, we obtain an average, and if it’s within the range established by EFNARC, you pass the practical exam.
What are some common errors operators make during certification?
One of them is not studying enough. I’ve come upon operators who didn’t dedicate the necessary time to learning the material, and, sure enough, they didn’t pass the exam the first time around. Another common issue is for the operators’ nerves to get the best of them. When this happens, they forget questions, or parts of questions, or to give the examiner the report at the end of the day, like he would in real life, or to take into account environmental factors, etc. I would say that these mistakes can be attributed to being nervous.
Tell us a bit about your certification experience.
I completed my certification in 2012, and since then I’ve examined a good 15 operators, the bulk of which went to work in London, where the certification is required. I’ve also examined the odd operator in South America, for companies wanting to uphold the EFNARC standard.
What are the requirements to achieve examiner status? Why did you want to become one?
To be an examiner, you need at least 5 years of relevant experience, not just 3. The exam is held at the Hagerbach Test Gallery, Flums Hochwiese, Switzerland, and is administered by the International Center for Geotechnics and Underground Construction (CUC) on behalf of EFNARC. As for the practical exam, you’re not asked to physically work with the machine, but rather to observe two scenarios: firstly an experienced operator makes mistakes on purpose while spraying, and you and your fellow examinees have to point them out, and secondly, on a more individual level, the operator performs a spraying, and each examinee is asked to take notes on the process and what they saw. At the end of it, we sit down as a group to go over the notes and grade the operator’s performance. Before leaving the gallery, you know whether you’ve passed or not. To speak as to why I wanted to become an examiner, I was kindly offered the opportunity by Putzmeister, as the company values continuous training in order to better address its clients’ needs.
Why would you recommend EFNARC certification?
I could recommend it for many reasons but at the end of the day I place enormous importance on the safety component. With the job I do, I’m often inside the tunnel, and it gives me peace of mind to know that the people operating the machines are following the same standards, that they’re professional, and that they’re doing things properly. The safety component is huge for me.
What would you have asked David? Let us know in the comments.