PEF member honored for ‘going the extra mile’ at DOT
By KATE MOSTACCIO
The safe use of equipment is a top priority for state Department of Transportation (DOT) highway maintenance workers.
Making sure these men and women have the training they need are PEF equipment operator instructors (EOIs), who work to make sure each worker is properly schooled on policy, safety and use of all equipment used by DOT.
Recently, PEF member Mark Piscitelli, an EOI in Region 6, received recognition for his willingness to go the extra mile on the job.
The agency’s Southern Tier Twitter page featured Piscitelli as the January 2020 GEM Award recipient.
“If you’re a DOT region in need of a helping hand, Region 6 Equipment Operator Instructor … Mark Piscitelli will probably show up,” the Tweet stated. “At nearly 100 percent response rate for out-of-region deployments, and as an EOI, he has helped nearly every DOT region!”
Piscitelli has worked for the state for 11 years.
“When asked to do something, I do it,” he said. “I think I go a little above and beyond helping people out. I care for other employees. And when I’m asked to go out of town, I say yes. I get to meet new people and it’s a really cool experience.”
As an EOI, Piscitelli and his fellow PEF members across the state are responsible for training all DOT highway maintenance workers.
“All employees must be certified by us to operate any piece of equipment owned or rented by the department,” he said. “We teach at a journeyman’s level so that they understand our rules and what we’re looking for. Some of these people have never run equipment before.”
Training begins during the first few days of employment with a new employee orientation, Piscitelli said. “We go over all the rules and policies of the department and what is required by them during employment,” he said.
After orientation, employees can request training for specific pieces of equipment. “Backhoes, excavators, graders, mowers, rollers, chippers, snow plows,” Piscitelli said.
Starting in the classroom, EOIs discuss policy and safety. Then, the lessons move to the shop, where EOIs describe equipment from front to back, top to bottom.
“We go around the entire machine, explaining how everything works,” Piscitelli said. “We discuss maintenance and more safety.” The trainees will then have a chance to use the equipment, either in the yard or at a job site.
The final step, once employees are comfortable with the equipment, is to request certification.
“EOIs will come out to certify the employee by doing a walk-around and then running the machine,” Piscitelli said. “Then, it ends with a pass or fail result. Every state highway maintenance worker goes through this process. “
During the winter months, DOT EOIs are especially busy.
“The state hires temps to plow snow,” Piscitelli said. “We have new people that come on and people that come back every year. Some of the other regions, that are much bigger than Region 6, have more people who need training but the same amount of trainers. We get called out to go help.”
To put it in perspective, in Region 6 there may be 250 individuals in need of training and the workload is split among the four EOIs and one supervisor EOI (SEOI), giving each 50 employees to train. Region 6 is currently functioning understaffed, down one EOI, Piscitelli said. The situation is even more striking in other regions around the state, where there may be 1,000 or more people to train — and still only five or six EOIs.
Which is why volunteering to go out into other regions is so important.
“We go assist to get people certified,” Piscitelli said. “Traveling to other regions is voluntary. It’s not an assigned day. It can be bad weather. You are driving during snowstorms. It could be any time of day or night.
“I give the state a lot of credit for the amount of time and money that is put into their employees being safe,” he said.
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