6/16/2016 12:00 AM
COLLEGE STATION - There’s nothing computer programmers like better than a challenge. And that’s exactly what Tony Alotto offered TEEX’s Knowledge Engineering Center when he met with the team in December 2014.
A looming federal deadline was approaching for changes to OSHA Outreach cards issued for students and trainers. It was going to require building a new system from the ground up.
Senior software applications developer John Walter took on the project, with support from KEC Director John Romero and assistance from other members of the team. “It was a blank sheet of paper, so we could brainstorm on how to make it really good,” Walter said.
The result is a new web portal, CertiFi, that makes it easy for OSHA Outreach trainers to log students and track classes, and for employers to verify that a potential employee has actually completed the training. The new website at https://www.certifionline.org was launched on March 1, eliminating a time-consuming process of data entry by TEEX employees and the printing of paper cards.
The data entry is now done by the Outreach Trainer into the web portal, although TEEX still processes the cards – over 20,000 since March. A plastic card, similar to a credit card, is digitally created and printed at TEEX and shipped to the address provided by the trainer.
“Our trainers are enthusiastic about the new TEEX OTIEC Outreach Trainer portal,” said Program Manager Lisa Cumby with the Infrastructure Training and Safety Institute. “They frequently compliment us on the speed and ease of use for reporting their 10- and 30-Hour Outreach training. The new system enables them to more easily meet the newly mandated OSHA reporting and Outreach card requirements. ITSI has also reaped the benefits of the new system through streamlined processing and reduction in paper requirements.”
KEC designed the software program, the user interface and web design, and wrote the code to allow the website to link to the Nisca card printers. Carolyn Abt and Monty Tyagi in Financial Services also contributed by linking the payments to CASHNet. Jonathan Dikes, Manager of Contract/Proposal Services, also assisted with reviewing contracts.
“We created a ‘software as a service’ and made the interface that allows the plastic cards to be printed directly from the list input by the Outreach Trainer,” Walter said. “The trainers have a user-friendly dashboard that shows them the information they need, as well as a user guide.” The new card design, created by Guy Benson, has become a standard for OSHA, he added. It has the student or trainer information on the front of the card with a QR code on the back so a prospective employer can easily verify the validity of the card.
“We saw an opportunity where TEEX could compete and provide software that might interest 20 other OSHA Education Centers,” Walter said. “We think we have a good product and we would like to see other centers come onboard. The portal can be customized for any OSHA Ed Center.”
The Mid-Atlantic OSHA Education Center is one center that is using the TEEX web portal for all of its Outreach Trainers. TEEX imported data in spreadsheets for the past five years from Mid-Atlantic and created logins for about 3,000 trainers. “It has been a good partnership for us,” Walter said.
Each trainer has an ID Number, and a student number is assigned to each student when their card is printed. It takes about 30 seconds to print each plastic card on a Nisca printer purchased by TEEX. The cards are then sent by FedEx to the Trainer, who can go to the website to see the status of their card orders. The web portal also generates a number of reports for users.
“Mid Atlantic OTI Education Center has benefitted greatly from using TEEX’s online portal for submitted Outreach Card Requests," said Program Coordinator Kelsey Duarte of the Chesapeake Region Safety Council, Mid Atlantic OTI Education Center. “The system is simple, straightforward and most of all, effective. The entire team over at TEEX has been extremely helpful and wonderful to work with. We are very grateful to be a part of this program!”
“Working together, we created an efficient system for handling a large number of Outreach cards and eliminated a tedious process,” Walter said.
“Our hats are off to KEC for developing such a great tool for our Outreach Trainers and for us,” Cumby added. “Their quick responsiveness for any of our support requests is a great example of ‘Service Excellence’ for their customers.”
Along with Walter and Romero, members of the KEC team who also worked on the project are Michael Greene, Prashant Pandey and former employee Daeond Palmer.