Employers Get 3-Year Extension on Crane Operator Certification—but not on Training Requirements

Just ahead of its original deadline for the certification of crane operators under the 2010 final rule on Cranes and Derricks in Construction, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has offered employers and crane operators a break. In a rule finalized on September 25, 2014, the Agency has extended the deadline for operator certification from November 10, 2014, three full years, to November 10, 2017. But, the Agency emphasized, the certification requirement is separate from the training requirements under the standard. Employers must still provide training to crane operators.

In November 2013, a 42-year-old employee of a real estate company was struck and killed by a large section of a 60-foot (ft)-tall eucalyptus tree he was helping to remove from the employer’s property. The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) investigated the incident and found that neither he nor any of the other construction laborers employed by the company had the experience or training to safely cut down a tree of that size, leading to nearly $92,000 in fines for his employer.The change is a relief for employers and industry groups who had argued that OSHA’s crane operator certification requirements were insufficient for determining whether an operator could operate equipment safely on a construction site, and that there was confusion about who could provide certification, and exactly what aspects of crane safety the equipment certification covered. OSHA is promising to reexamine this issue. In the interim, employers will still be required to assess crane operators to ensure their competent operation of the equipment in accordance with the phase-in provisions 29 CFR 1926.1427(k).

Training Requirements are Still In Effect

OSHA emphasizes that the certification requirements that have been delayed by the new rulemaking—which were, essentially, requirements for operator testing—do not delay any training requirements. OSHA noted that some of the commenters on the new rule appeared to be confusing the two requirements. What OSHA does not explicitly say is that, in the absence of a certification process, employers remain responsible for thoroughly training workers in the requirements that would be covered by the certification process.

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Certification Requirements

The training requirements for crane operators are found in 29 CFR 1926.1430. Under that standard, employers are required to provide operators-in-training with instruction in the topics covered by the crane certification standards in 1926.1427, which include:

The information necessary for safe operation of the specific type of equipment the individual will operate, including:

  • The controls and operational/performance characteristics.
  • The use of, and the ability to calculate (manually or with a calculator), load/capacity information on a variety of configurations of the equipment.
  • Procedures for preventing and responding to power line contact.
  • Technical knowledge covering the general technical information, site information, operations, and the use of load charts. A detailed list of the required subject matter for each of these categories of information is found in Appendix C to Subpart CC of the construction standards.
  • Technical knowledge applicable to:
    • The suitability of the supporting ground and surface to handle expected loads.
    • Site hazards.
    • Site access.
  • Subpart CC, including any applicable materials incorporated by reference.

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The ability to read and locate relevant information in the equipment manual and other materials containing the information required above.

A determination through a practical test that the individual has the skills necessary for safe operation of the equipment, including:

  • The ability to recognize, from visual and auditory observation, the shift inspection items required by OSHA;
  • Operational and maneuvering skills;
  • Application of load chart information; and
  • Application of safe shut-down and securing procedures.

Additional Training Requirements

Additional training requirements for all operators of covered equipment include, where applicable:

  • On friction equipment, whenever moving a boom off a support, operators must know to first raise the boom a short distance (sufficient to take the load of the boom) to determine if the boom hoist brake needs to be adjusted.
  • On other types of equipment with a boom, the same practice is applicable, except that typically there is no means of adjusting the brake; if the brake does not hold, a repair is necessary.
  • Where available, operators must be trained in the manufacturer’s emergency procedures for halting unintended equipment movement.

Tomorrow, we will look at OSHA’s shift inspection requirements for cranes and derricks.