In this From the Cutting Room Floor episode, Brian is joined by Kristi Grilho and Mel Chung from the Hawaii DOT. This audio is taken from a recording session for a yet-to-be-release episode, but during their conversation, Kristi wanted to ask Brian some questions. So, in this episode, they discuss training versus certification, and Brian shares insights on what it's like as a laboratory assessor.
AASHTO re:source Q&A Podcast Transcript
Season 3, Episode 40: From the Cutting Room Floor - Questions from a DOT
Recorded: November 21, 2022
Released: February 14, 2023
Hosts: Brian Jonson, AASHTO Accreditation Program Manager; Kim Swanson, Communications Manager, AASHTO re:source
Guests: Kristi Grilho and Mel Chung from the Materials Testing and Research Branch at Hawaii Department of Transportation
Note: Please reference AASHTO re:source and AASHTO Accreditation Program policies and procedures online for official guidance on this, and other topics.
Transcription is auto-generated.
[Theme music fades in.]
00:00:02 ANNOUNCER: Welcome to AASHTO resource Q & A. We're taking time to discuss construction materials, testing, and inspection with people in the know from exploring testing problems and solutions to laboratory best practices and quality management, we're covering topics important to you. Now here our host, Brian Johnson.
00:00:21 BRIAN: This is Brian Johnson, and I am here to talk to Mel Chung, Branch Manager from the Materials Testing and Research Branch at the Hawaii Dot.
00:00:31 MEL: Hello everyone, Aloha.
00:00:33 BRIAN: And Kristi Grilho also from the materials testing and research branch at the Hawaii DOT.
00:00:40 KRISTI: Thanks for having us.
00:00:41 BRIAN: We're going to turn the tables today. I've just interviewed Kristi about a different subject, but Kristi told me before we started recording that she had some questions about AASHTO or AASHTO accreditation or assessment or something. So, I am going to have Kristi ask me a few questions. Kristi the floor is yours. This is your show.
00:01:02 KRISTI: Yeah, this is great. I was excited to have this opportunity to ask you a question. So I guess one of my questions is in my section in the asphalt section. I think we're kind of going through a period where we have a lot of new staff coming in and we still have some people that would have the experience to train, but I was wondering, like if you know about other states like do they often like have third parties. Like certification classes that come in and does that count for like training for AASHTO certification.
00:01:36 BRIAN: Oh wow, so let me let me see there may be different answers for this depending on what exactly you're getting at, but there are a multitude of ways that people get certified through DOTs or because of a requirement by DOTs. Sometimes they always will have somebody else provide the certification program. So they might have a university or the even the paving association regularly provide a certification for testing technicians. There are times when, and I don't know if this was a directive, probably not from directly from a DOT. But I know that there have been times where certification programs have sent staff to a location to carry out their certification program, which is then accepted by the DOT. That has happened before too, does that.
00:02:39 KRISTI: OK, so yeah, I think that helps that. So the DOT's can decide like what they consider as acceptable for certification.
00:02:47 BRIAN: That's correct, yeah. So, DOT can decide how they want to specify the certification requirement now. I also wanted to make a distinction between training and certification, because that comes up sometimes. So, when we talk about training, it's just teaching the person how to do their job. Now I know the DOT's generally also have certifications for their staff, but you can train somebody without certifying them. Those are not the same exact thing, so the reason why I bring that one up is because I just. I don't know if anybody shared this with you, but I I recently put out a ballot on AASHTO R 18. And one of the changes that I put into that ballot was that laboratories had to train their personnel that perform any equipment, checks, or standardization. That they maintained at their laboratory as part of the R18 requirements, and it was just simply training. But I received some negatives that indicated, ohh, I don't know how we would come up with a certification program for that. And we had a a follow-up meeting and I said I was confused by these negatives cause that in nowhere in R18 does it mention the word certification. It does mention training.
00:03:59 KRISTI: Ohh I see. Yeah OK cause I think certification is part of the quality assurance program, right so?
00:04:06 BRIAN: Yeah, I think that's what it is. You know there are requirements for dots to have certification programs. But sometimes that gets mixed in with the AASHTO R 18 requirement of having training and competency evaluations for staff.
00:04:18 KRISTI: OK, I see. OK, I think that helps. OK question two [BRIAN: OK.] is say if we wanted to get accredited for a new test that we haven't been accredited for before. So, nobody in our lab has done it. Do you have to get formal training from like a third party to like first asked to sort of get accredited or can it be something that we try to run the test on our own and once we feel comfortable with it, that's when we ask about getting accredited?
00:04:50 BRIAN: I would say the latter. You don't necessarily have to get external training before you take on a new test, so you may decide. Well, let's talk about like the ideal CT. Let's say you decide, hey, we want to run this test at our DOT, and we haven't done it before. Something specialized like that you might want to get external training because you probably don't have the expertise on staff. But if it's a test that is not that different from some of the other tests, like let's say you didn't do soil specific gravity, typically, but you decide OK, we want to start running soil specific gravities regularly. Well, it's pretty similar to fine aggregate specific gravity, so it's not a big leap for somebody in your training department or some technical manager or something like that to review the standard, say, OK, I understand this. I'm going to put together a training program on this for our, it doesn't have to be a big program, but a training session for our technicians that are going to perform this test and I'm going to document the training and I will be the trainer.
00:05:53 BRIAN: I mean, that's kind of what you have to do sometimes when there isn't that external training available. Did I answer that question? [KRISTI: Yeah] OK, but we now we now we do that all the time here. I mean if somebody says hey we want you to start assessing or accrediting for this test and we look at it, and we say, OK, we have the expertise to figure out how we can deliver training to our assessors on this test. We're going to do it, but sometimes we might have to reach out and get some help from someone now we wouldn't ask them to put together a whole training program for a test, but we might have to ask some questions to get the input that we need to deliver that.
00:06:32 KRISTI: OK, actually those were my two major questions.
00:06:35 BRIAN: OK, those are good questions.
00:06:37 KRISTI: Yeah, although yeah. If I have more, I'm I might have to come back and ask you again. If you don't mind.
00:06:44 BRIAN: Oh, not at all I'm happy to answer questions anytime.
00:06:48 KRISTI: Actually, I like the ones that the on the side ones like I heard the last one I heard was like the cutting room floor one or something. And then you said something like Kim will probably edit this out.
00:06:58 BRIAN: Yeah, she didn't.
00:06:58 KRISTI: I started laughing. Yeah, I enjoyed that.
00:06:59 KRISTI: It's funny, I thought it was funny.
00:06:59 BRIAN: I was counting on her cutting that yeah, I think she does that just just to get to me.
00:07:06 KRISTI: Actually, I thought that was funny.
00:07:08 BRIAN: Mel, what do you say?
00:07:09 MEL: I'm I'm good, I'm good, I'm more worried about our lab accreditation which we just requested [KRISTI: Oh yeah.] so want to...
00:07:17 BRIAN: OK, all right very good, OK.
00:07:19 KRISTI: Oh yeah, next year we're having you guys are coming out so.
00:07:25 BRIAN: Yeah, that's always a lucky trip for someone getting to go to Hawaii. That's a big deal.
00:07:30 KRISTI: Why do you guys choose that anyway? Like who goes where?
00:07:33 BRIAN: You know, I don't, I don't know what they're doing now. But I assume it's probably not too different than what it used to be. It used to be like if you. If you're if you've been around and you haven't done the trip. Then you would get like priority to be able to go on like a good trip like Alaska and Hawaii are like the big ones. You know, it's like it's like a vacation destination for people to go places like that, so I know that's how it used to be. I was very fortunate when I went, I was there for four weeks on different islands like I was in Maui, Oahu and I think it was just those two for work. And then I just stayed extra and and. On my own, being not paid for by AASHTO, but just went to Kawai because I was like I always wanted to go there. And that was as beautiful as I thought it would be.
00:08:17 KRISTI: Ohh wow ohh so when you guys go you hit all the other. The other labs in the area too.
00:08:24 BRIAN: Yeah, yeah, because there's private labs that are accredited to. And now I think that there's there wasn't one on the Big Island when I went, but now there I think it's like one or two labs there.
00:08:35 KRISTI: Oh yeah, wow.
00:08:36 BRIAN: So that's pretty good. But yeah, it's neat. Being an assessor was a great job. I mean, I did it for quite a few years and it was so rewarding. Just going to meeting people and going to different parts of the country you would know you know, like nobody's going to go to. I don't. I don't want to say anything bad about like certain areas, but like sometimes you go to like the middle of Kansas or like the middle of Wyoming or the middle of someplace that you'd never heard the name of before, and you go there and you find like, oh, there's this really neat thing here, like they're just really great people and you wouldn't have met them otherwise, and you wouldn't have seen otherwise, so that's kind of cool.
00:09:15 KRISTI: Yeah, that is that is pretty neat. So, the except they have to like stay out like a lot of the year then too, they're like traveling.
00:09:23 BRIAN: Yeah, well we used to. We used to do three weeks out and then six weeks back and I think they do like 2 weeks out and then I don't know how many three or four weeks back and then two weeks out, so they're only gone for one weekend now. Used to two weekends. Was kind of tough in some areas.
00:09:40 KRISTI: Ohh yeah, they're all based in the same area that they're. Flying out of or.
00:09:44 BRIAN: Yeah, so we're the majority of our staff are in the DC area, so like we're in Frederick, MD and so they're like in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia like that vicinity. But then we do have some people who are contract assessors that they use. Yeah, they're. They're like this. They live in different parts of. The country but.
00:10:04 KRISTI: That's neat, neat.
00:10:04 BRIAN: Yeah, yeah, that's pretty cool. Well, thank you for your time. I know I took a I wasn't sure I was going to take the whole hour, but thank you I know you guys are both busy so I. Appreciate your time today. Thank you all.
00:10:14 KRISTI and MEL: Thank you.
[Theme music fades in.]
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