Certified Safe Operators

OSHA and NCCCO to produce new certification programs for crane operators.

"You're about to place someone in the cab of a crane that costs a million and a half dollars. How do you know he's qualified?"

--Phillip Kinser, manager of program development for the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators

An increasing number of manufacturers, insurers, and organizations believe certification is the answer to Phillip Kinser's question. OSHA seems to agree, having officially recognized NCCCO's process and also tapping some of the experts on the commission's task forces for its own crane and derricks rulemaking committee. The two task forces will produce new certification programs this year for tower and overhead crane operators. The programs developed by NCCCO (www.nccco.org) and the Crane Manufacturers Association of America Inc. (www.mhia.org/psc/PSC_Products_Cranes.cfm) will assure manufacturers and contractors they're using operators qualified for those cranes.

About 1,000 tower cranes are in use nationwide. "Overhead cranes, there are zillions," Kinser said, but the overhead crane program won't address ones used just as work tools. It's for overhead crane operators who use their machines 6-10 hours daily, he said.

NCCCO's existing certification for mobile crane operators incorporates written and practical exams, medical requirements, on-the-job experience, and a recertification requirement. Similar elements are in the tower and overhead crane programs. CMAA Managing Director Hal Vandiver said the organizations saw a need to set a higher bar for crane professionals. "Where we see the application is very heavy industrial users of overhead cranes, where life and liberty and capital might be at risk," Vandiver added, referring to some 43,000 manufacturing locations in the United States with more than 100 employees. (CMAA published safety guidelines in its Specification 78, Standards and Guidelines for Professional Services Performed on Overhead Traveling Cranes and Associated Hoisting Equipment, in December 2002. Its Crane Operator's Manual lists safe operating procedures, prescribes proper safety apparel, and explains prohibited practices.)

Some large corporations now require crane operators on their sites to be certified. The construction industry and state governments are moving that way: Operators of mobile and tower cranes in California must be certified as of June 1, 2005; Hawaii's labor department began enforcing a requirement for state certification of construction crane operators on Oct. 1, 2003; mobile crane operators in New Jersey must be certified as of April 2004.

Certification goes hand-in-hand with safety. "We don't even attempt to separate the two because we believe that safety is the goal," Kinser said. "We promote training, but it's all for an ultimate result of safer operations and reduced costs."

This article originally appeared in the February 2004 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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