Authorization Policy Vote

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  • Elizabeth Koprucki
  • Ryan Pierce


  • 2015-02-12 - Vote announced on the mailing list.
  • 2015-02-24 - Language locked in.
  • 2015-03-03 - Vote of the membership. Failed due to lack of quorum.
  • 2015-03-10 - Vote of the membership. Passed.


PS: One enacted a policy in 2009 requiring certification to use certain tools. This policy had a number of faults that became apparent and which were addressed by ad hoc policies and/or selective enforcement. This vote proposal rewrites the old certification policy such that it matches current practice.

Certification vs. Authorization

The term "certification" is a misnomer with respect to PS:One. "Certification" implies completion of a formal course of study and conveys a certain expectation of skill. Generally speaking, "certification" at PS:One only requires a basic understanding of the tool, and to be "certified" one must demonstrate safe and proper use, but not necessarily skilled use. The term "authorization" more accurately reflects the current practice at PS:One. An "authorized" user is permitted to use the tool, but this does not convey an expectation of skill.

Who determines whether a tool requires authorization?

Someone has to make the call regarding whether a tool requires authorization. The existing policy is silent on this issue. Technically, any member could skirt the policy by invoking JFDI and re-labelling the tool. Granting the power to the Board and any Area Host responsible for the tool seems like the best logical choice. The Board is elected by the membership, and Area Hosts are appointed by the Board, so presumably they will have the best interests of the space in mind and exercise good judgment.

Some tools in the space are member-owned. It is expected that the Area Hosts probably will defer to those members regarding authorization policies. But if a member brings in a chainsaw and says anyone can use it without authorization, the Area Host should be able to intervene. If the tool owner and the Area Host can't see eye to eye, then the member probably should take the tool home.

Complex Tool Authorization

The original model where any person can authorize any other person (so-called "Viral Authorizations") works for simple tools, but it tends to fall apart for more complex tools. Important information can get lost as authorizations spread from person to person. Area Hosts and persons experienced and active in the area have, in many cases, worked to develop standardized curricula or checklists for authorization. To this end, a number of tools (Bridgeport mill, Clausing lathe, SEM, TIG welder, knitting machines, etc.) limit the number of people who are capable of authorizing. In some cases, the Area Hosts have established prerequisite authorizations for tools. E.g. the Bridgeport mill and Clausing lathe require the "Tier 1" cold metal authorization; this guarantees mill or lathe users know how to use non-precision tools like the band saws necessary to shape metal prior to precision milling or turning, and it also introduces the user to safety information and metal cutting theory.

Some tools have limitations on function or materials. The SEM user authorization doesn't include use of the EDX detector. ShopBot users generally are not authorized to cut aluminum, and only a small pilot group is doing this until we can develop safe procedures.

Additionally, certifications never expired. A person certified two years ago on a machine who never used it since may have forgotten much of the material from the certification. Although not implemented, having currency and re-authorization requirements (e.g. your authorization expires if you haven't used the tool for 6 months) may make sense for certain tools.

These requirements enhance the authorization process, but they could not be enforced under the existing Certification Policy. The proposed Authorization Policy explicitly allows them.

Revoking Authorization

The existing policy allows for revoking authorizations, but it doesn't say who has the authority to do so. And it doesn't seem to allow revoking any authorization except for limited, specific reasons. This policy clarifies the statement. It also extends the power to revoke authorization for any reason.

Ultimately, the Area Hosts and the Board have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the membership and the tools, and while it is expected that they would revoke authorizations judiciously, their hands should not be tied unnecessarily in situations where the safety of the membership and the tools might be jeopardized.

Additionally, in certain infrequent cases, Area Hosts or tool owners have needed to revoke all authorizations on a tool because of damage caused to tools that couldn't be attributed to any single user but seemed to be tied to improper instruction. This change gives Area Hosts and the Board the explicit ability to do so, after which they can re-authorize people and attempt to correct the deficiencies in past instruction. It is expected that Area Hosts and the Board would use this power sparingly.

Tool owners should talk to an Area Host should they feel the need to take action against anyone's authorization to use their tools. Tool owners also have the option of removing the tool from the space or taking it out of service.

The current policy limits certification to paid members. People using Member Points or other awards (e.g. Area Hosts) might not be paying money to PS:One. This policy replaces the term with "current" members.

Exceptions for Classes, Events, Setup, Repair, etc.

Previously, we have selectively ignored the certification policy in a number of cases. The inventor of the ShapeOko, whose company donated one to PS:One, worked with us to set it up. It would be ridiculous to enforce the policy against him, even though he isn't a member and he isn't authorized to use the tool. We received some on-site instruction on our scanning electron microscope from the donating company's microscopist. Likewise, enforcing it would be ridiculous, considering that she used that very same machine professionally for almost two decades. Technically, we couldn't accept on-site warranty repair of any of our tools that require authorization without first mandating that the company's service technician pay for membership, have his or her ID checked by two Board members, and then we would have to authorize that person on the tool.

This policy carves out exceptions for certain activities that would be in the best interest of the space, like facilitating classes or servicing a tool.

Q: How do we know that the person in question is qualified or safe? How do we know that they really are an expert?

A: The Area Hosts or the Board make a judgment call. Presumably, they would not grant an exception to someone they feel would be a risk. The Area Hosts and the Board are ultimately accountable to the membership, so it would not be in their best interest to do so.

Q: Doesn't this inappropriately extend free membership benefits?

A: No. This isn't a back door to provide membership to people without paying. An Area Host could allow a non-member master blacksmith to teach a class using our forge and anvil, but that provides benefit to the space. The exception granted here is limited to a specific purpose. The Area Host could not permit the blacksmith to come back the following weekend and use the forge and anvil to turn out work for his or her clients. The blacksmith must become a member to do that.

Exceptions for the Danger Committee

The existing policy has a chicken and egg problem in that only certified members can certify other members, but nobody is certified to certify the initial certifiers. Had we followed the policy, the ShopBot would still be sitting in a crate because nobody was certified to start using it. To that end, common practice was to form an ad hoc "Danger Committee" who would self-certify on the tool, become acquainted with it, and then certify other members. This proposed policy allows the Area Hosts and the Board to designate anyone they choose, including themselves, as authorized, which allows them to appoint the initial danger committee for any new tool.


The following policy will be revoked:


All machine tools (and other delicate equipment) have a list of names attached. [Editor's note: as of 2013 these lists are typically maintained in the wiki.] These people have been certified and are the only people allowed to use the respective tool.

a. If you want to use this equipment, ask one of the people on the list to teach you and add you to the list.

b. If you operate unsafely, negligently, or if you otherwise demonstrate poor or improper tool use, you and your certifier may lose access to the tool.

c. If you find someone demonstrating lack of knowledge in the use of a tool, stop them, instruct them in proper use, and report the incident to their certifier for follow-up and additional instruction.

d. Only current paid PS:One members may be certified on a tool.

This certification policy was adopted by a vote of the membership on May 26, 2009.

It will be replaced by the following policy:

Authorization Policy

a. The Board of Directors or an Area Host responsible for a tool may determine whether or not a tool requires authorization to use. Tools requiring authorization must have a label indicating this, and this must be indicated in the wiki or some other means.

b. Tools requiring authorization will have a list of authorized users. These are the only people allowed to use the respective tool. This list may be stored on the wiki, an LDAP/Active Directory group, or some other means as determined by the Board of Directors or an Area Host responsible for the tool.

c. By default, any person authorized to use a tool may provide instruction to other members and authorize them to use the tool.

d. The Board of Directors or an Area Host responsible for the tool may designate additional requirements to become authorized or to remain authorized to use the tool. These may include but are not limited to:

  • Limitations on who is permitted to authorize other users.
  • Prerequisite authorizations a user must first obtain.
  • Currency or re-authorization requirements (e.g. an authorization expires if the member has not used the tool in 6 months.)
  • Limitations on permitted functions or work materials (e.g. a level 1 authorization allows machining aluminum, a level 2 authorization with additional requirements is required to machine steel.)

These additional requirements must be communicated to the membership via the wiki or some other means and may be modified by the Board of Directors or an Area Host responsible for the tool at any time.

e. If you operate a tool unsafely, negligently, or if you otherwise demonstrate poor or improper tool use, you and your authorizer may lose access to the tool.

f. The Board of Directors or an Area Host responsible for a tool may revoke a user's authorization to use the tool(s), and/or may ban a user from becoming authorized on the tool(s), for any reason. The Board of Directors or an Area Host responsible for a tool may also re-instate authorization and lift such a ban.

g. If you find someone demonstrating lack of knowledge in the use of a tool, stop them, instruct them in proper use, and report the incident to their authorizer and an Area Host responsible for the tool for follow-up and additional instruction.

h. Only current Pumping Station: One members may become authorized to use tools requiring authorization.

i. The Board of Directors or an Area Host responsible for specific tool(s) may grant exceptions to allow non-members to use specific tool(s) requiring authorization for one or more of the following purposes:

  • Classes, instruction, workshops, demos, or events that provide benefit to Pumping Station: One and its members.
  • Installing, enhancing, repairing, troubleshooting, or maintaining the tool.

Non-member use of the tool(s) must be limited to the designated purpose or purposes of the exception.

j. The Board of Directors or an Area Host responsible for a tool may designate any member as authorized to use a tool.