OSHA Proposes Delay of Crane Operator Certification

OSHA is proposing to move the compliance deadline for crane operator certification up by three years to Nov. 10, 2017. Currently, the date for certification is set for Nov. 10, 2014. The qualification requirements cover cranes and derricks used in construction work. Once OSHA issued the original notification regarding the compliance date, they began to receive many concerns from within the industry, which lead them to propose the extended deadline. The proposal for extension is intended to ensure that the construction industry is not negatively impacted by the requirement for operator certification.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act was established in 1970 to ensure a safe and healthy place of work. Ensuring compliance to the law is critical for companies to protect against negligence and/ or damages, which can also include workers' compensation and motor vehicle third party insurance. To date, three meetings have taken place with stakeholders regarding the new operator certification requirement date. Some of the questions that have arisen from this extension include the extension of employer obligations as well as some of the details regarding “type” and “capacity” of certification. On the OSHA website, there is a page dedicated to answering some frequently asked questions regarding certification, qualification and certification type and capacity. According to the website, the purpose for the extension covers two issues. The first involves Subpart CC-Cranes and Derricks, under which operator certification would need to be issued based on type and capacity. The hurdle here is that two of the largest organizations responsible for issuing certification do so by type but not by capacity. This would mean that their certificates would not be valid under Subpart CC, raising a concern about the number of operators with invalid certification, the short period allocated for compliance and the impact this could have on the industry.


Concerns raised regarding Certification and Safety Standards

The second concern was raised following the publication of Subpart CC. Much of the feedback received during the stakeholder meetings from the crane industry was that the certification as it stands would not “provide sufficient demonstration or guarantee of competence to safely operate cranes.”

Employers expressed that under the current certification, they felt it was nonetheless necessary to ensure their crane operators were qualified by performing an on-site assessment. A letter submitted by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) reinforced this issue, stating that “in the interests of safety, an employer's responsibility does not - and should not - end with certifying his/her operators; that certification is not, in and of itself, qualification.” The letter names a number of contractors, crane rental providers, steel erectors, certification bodies, accreditation agencies, federal agencies, associations, insurance provides, manufacturers, labor organizations and training companies that were in agreement on this position. Comments on the issue of certification as qualification include: “ If we really want to be safe we need something above certification,” wrote LPR and "The FAA certifies you to fly; American Airlines qualifies you to run a 747," according to Cranes Inc.


Disagreement Emerged Over Certification Based on Capacity

Other issues raised in this letter included the provision of certification based on testing by capacity. It was felt by many that this form of testing was not simply “a useful exercise.” Part of the problem, it was felt by many, is that there are many other aspects other than capacity that require evaluation. Larry Hopkins, a member of the Board of Director of the OECT and Assistant Director of Training of IUOE Local 12 Operating Engineers Training Trust commented in a second letter that the skills required to ensure the safe operation of a crane require ongoing development. The problem, according to Hopkins, is that the electronics involved in the operation of cranes is constantly changing so fast in fact that the testing organizations “cannot keep up with it” Not everyone agreed, however, on the issue of capacity, and in a letter from the President of Sturm Corporation, Jay Sturm wrote that the rule was “right on the money.” According to Sturm, each crane has unique features and the best assurance of safety is to test an operator in the type of crane they will be operating. He stated that in his opinion certifying based on crane capacities would help to categorize operators based on their abilities, whether on small – under 20 ton, larger up to 75 ton, above 75 ton, and those 200 to 300 tons and above.

No mention was made on the OSHA website as to an expected time frame for the appeal for extension.