Working With Your Third-Party Inspector

While specific trade organizations, like the Crane Certification Association of America, can be helpful in finding a crane inspector, asking for references from the inspection firm you locate will give you the best indication of what you're getting, says Gary Campbell, of PIC Crane Safety Services, Clermont, Fla. “There is a lot of competition out there and a lot of companies and individuals might not give you exactly what you’re expecting.”

Below are some tips for selecting an expert crane inspector. For more information on what defines a competent crane inspector, watch for the June issue of Crane Hot Line.

Interview the inspection firm

Gary Campbell, PIC Crane Safety Services, Clermont, Fla.: If someone choosing an inspection firm narrows their search to a handful of companies, they should be able to interview the prospective companies. Ask: 1) What types of cranes does the inspector (not necessarily the firm) have experience on? 2) Does the inspector have documentation of training? 3) What insurance coverage is in place?

Greg Knutson, Mortenson Construction, Bellevue, Wash.: We’ve sat down and interviewed inspectors and then monitored them. We don’t like them pencil-whipping things. They can make heat-of-the moment decisions. Look at the inspector’s credentials and their experience.

Find a firm that knows the crane

Knutson: Some inspection companies can look at many different types of cranes, but different individuals are better at certain cranes than others.

Mike Connelly, Connelly Crane, Detroit, Mich.: Locally, we’ll try to find a dealer who’ll be more familiar with that model. A third-party guy may never have seen a certain make and model. Guys who say they’re certifiers usually live in the states they cover. If we send a crane to New York, we have to have it certified prior to getting it there. In that case, we tell the customer to get a local guy on it.

Look for consistency

Tyler Butterfield, Mr. Crane, Orange, Calif.: Inspectors will usually find the same things wrong when you erect a crane, such as loose tower bolts. And they're usually pretty common things, but should be new items detected each inspection. If his inspection reports are always stating the same items, that should raise a red flag.

Make friends with your inspector

Campbell: Form a good working relationship with an inspection firm, which makes coordination easier.

Knutson: Sometimes people will rent the crane with the stipulation that certification being included in the price. We use two firms because sometimes inspectors get busy and, it’s also healthy competition. Sometimes people rent the crane pre-certified because it’s easier to write one contract than two. We want the certification, but it works better if the customer hires the inspector so you have a true third party.

Check the inspector’s clout

Campbell: Inspectors should have two types of insurance. The first is General Liability, usually in the amounts of $1million with $2 million aggregate, and a $1 million umbrella. This will cover something that might take place during the inspection, such as the inspector dropping something on someone and causing an injury. The second is Professional Liability or Errors and Omissions (E&O). This one is also for $1 million, which covers the inspection itself. It protects the inspector, as well as the owner, for something the inspector might miss. This insurance is expensive, especially to a small firm, and many inspection firms are not adequately covered. You should ask for certificates of this coverage. Some clients even ask to be named additional insured on these policies.

Look over your inspector's shoulder

Butterfield: Even if an inspector has been doing this for 30 years, he still may miss something. To have as many sets of eyes as possible looking the crane over will only help. So, do your own planning, because even though you've got your third-party guy doing the inspection, your planning will come out in the end.

Knutson: In addition to a third-party inspector, we inspect the crane on the ground before we erect it, to make sure there are no dings and kinks in the lattice, for instance. Leaving it up to the crane inspector could be a situation of the fox watching the hen house. And, then we aren’t forced to make heat-of-the moment decisions when we’ve got a $500-an-hour crane and crews on the job.