Cliff Dickinson is Founder and President of Crane Industry Services.
As a globally known crane and rigging expert, Cliff has served on or contributed to ASME B30 main and sub-committees, ASME P30, and mobile crane and rigger/signal person practical exam development. He has also qualified in state and federal courts to provide expert opinions, report on investigation and reconstruction of accidents related to cranes or rigging. Cliff is a NCCER Certified Instructor and Examiner.
As President, the main part of his job is to support his team as well as the dynamic industry he’s in. CIS trainers, customers and other committee members rely on each other to help decide the safest way to conduct safe operations, keep the quality of work high, and build strength through knowledge and skills—and so his work directly contributes to these efforts.
So how did Cliff end up in this role?
“Like most students, when I began college, I considered pursuing different careers. I was interested in being a dentist and horticulturist. After two years of college, a job in construction opened up for me one summer and I never looked back,” he says.
Cliff credits great mentors who took the time to teach him how to do jobs the right way, resulting in a sense of pride in his craft and satisfaction with the results, too. “I completed a three year apprenticeship, while working my trade as an ironworker. As an ironworker, everything we did involved cranes and rigging, which is common for many crafts. I still get a kick out of driving over a bridge I helped construct or seeing a structure that I helped erect, that is strong and lasting,” he says.
After 13 years, he went to work for a company that trained crane operators and riggers. “That path did not pay as well but it was a new career opportunity that was worth the effort and sacrifice. A couple of decades later, my wife and I founded CIS, Crane Industry Services, LLC. I learned all I could about safety, efficiency and how to enjoy work, while producing as my employers needed.”
Today, the CIS team and Cliff are able to produce good training results and their customers and trainees rely on them to do just that.
Keep reading to see his typical response when people ask him how he’s doing, who inspires him, what brings him joy, and why he has a continual learning mentality throughout his life.
What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?
My Pastor from years ago, Pastor DeFore, once jokingly told me that I should not be ironworking because Scripture says “Lord, I am with you always” thus, I should not be working hundreds of feet in the air. We had a good laugh and then he said something more serious to me that really stuck. “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the LORD, not unto men.” Colossians 3:23
When people ask me how I am, my typical response is, “Better than I deserve.” The jobs I am hired to do serve a greater purpose and so do I. Doing work that helps people be proud of their work, secure their jobs and most of all, helps keep them safe, allows me to fulfill the charge that my Pastor gave me so many years ago.
What’s your advice for someone who leads safety in their business?
To be credible, Safety Managers need a solid foundation in the trades. While Safety Managers can be highly effective without journeyman level experience, a foundational knowledge in the crafts used in their industry is important.
Craftsman do not care for, or respect individuals who tell them how a job should be done, when they do not have a clue what is required to get the job done. Safety Managers should be well versed in standards and regulations and what is required for safe, productive work, at all times, for every task.
Do you have any mantra you live or work by?
Be a sponge. Always learn. Listen to the experienced. People who know the trades well are usually pleased to show others how to do a job right. If we act like we know it all or don’t need to know what they know, we miss insights gained over years of hard work. Be a sponge.
What is your superpower?
Listening. I also sing a lot, which relieves stress and helps me maintain joy.
If there was one thing that you could change about how safety is managed, what would it be?
People working the trades without adequate training, mentoring and supervision.
How do you see safety changing in the future? OR Where do you think the future of safety is headed?
Remote learning; shorter classes and use of technology puts more at our fingertips. The more we know, the more we can evolve toward a safer workplace.
We work more safely than we did years ago but in too many cases, are not as productive. For a true safety culture to sustain, we’ve got to optimize safety and productivity. The right technology can help us achieve that goal.
What organization or company do you really admire in terms of safety and health?
When I think of companies that work hard at safety, Maxim Crane Works, LP and Barry Garrett come to mind. New York Power Authority & New York State Canal Corporation, Southern Company’s Mike Watson and many others set high standards for their organizations and contractors. Just thinking of the efforts their people make is humbling. It inspires me to do as much as I can to uphold and support their work.