Startup Group Challenges Fairness of NCCCO Audits

A March 30 meeting at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is intended to form a new association, the Crane Operator Examiners Association, to seek changes in how the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) treats independent examiners, training companies, and user organizations.

Phillip S. Ezzell, founder and CEO of Crane Safety Associates of America Inc. in McDonough, Ga., sent a Feb. 23 letter of invitation announcing the meeting in which he called NCCCO's appeals process "flawed due to the composition of the appeals board." His letter also states: "During this past year many of us have been the victim of arbitrary audits conducted without sufficient guidelines to insure fairness. Some of us feel that some audits are the results of organized labor influence on the [NCCCO] Utah office." The letter indicates 10 companies "representing over 50 examiners" have registered for the meeting.

Graham Brent, NCCCO's executive director, said March 3 that Ezzell is upset because in mid-2008, NCCCO revoked the accreditation of an examiner who works for Ezzell. The 12-month revocation followed an audit of the examiner, but Brent said he did not know the specific problem found in the audit. The examiner appealed to an NCCCO appeals committee, which denied the appeal, Brent said. "That's not an unusual situation," he added. "He {Ezzell] didn’t' like that situation; this letter is potentially defamatory and libelous." Asked whether NCCCO will take legal action, Brent said, "We really don't want to do that. We would really prefer the situation hadn't arisen."

Brent said about 500 practical examiners are currently accredited by NCCCO and actively administering tests to crane operators. States increasingly require crane operators to be certified.

"His [Ezzell's] claims are completely groundless," Brent said. "He clearly feels unfairly treated. And our position is, we feel we bent over backwards" in the interests of due process. Twelve months is the standard period for an accreditation to be revoked, but revocations are "fairly rare," Brent said. He said NCCCO conducted about 125 audits in 2008 and revoked about a dozen accreditations total during the past four to five years. He said one of two things, or both, typically cause a revocation: The examiner's test site course is incorrect and/or crane operators' exams are not scored correctly.

"We're not looking to punish an examiner. We're looking to protect the integrity of the exam," Brent said. "There's been nothing unusual happen to Mr. Ezzell's company. The audit process is required of us by our accrediting organization."

Brent sent a memo March 3 to all of NCCCO's practical examiners. The memo says NCCCO represents all industry interests, "with no one organization or stakeholder predominating." The memo says NCCCO is creating an information exchange process that would include a "user group" of practical examiners, and an annual conference and quarterly meetings of the examiners have been suggested. It also says NCCCO will announce "several important and positive changes to the mobile crane practical test . . . in the very near future," with the changes having resulted from a 2007 survey of the practical examiners.

Last year was the 10th anniversary of NCCCO's first receiving National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accreditation for its mobile crane program. This year is the 10th anniversary of OSHA's initial recognition of NCCCO's certification program as meeting OSHA requirements for crane operator competency; NCCCO, a not-for-profit organization incorporated in January 1995, says to date, it has administered exams to more than 60,000 crane operators.

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