Crane-Operator Certification

Dec. 29, 2010

By November 2014, operators of lifting equipment subject to the new OSHA Final Rule for “Cranes and Derricks in Construction” (Subpart CC of 29 CFR Part 1926) must have formal verification of their competence.

By November 2014, operators of lifting equipment subject to the new OSHA Final Rule for “Cranes and Derricks in Construction” (Subpart CC of 29 CFR Part 1926) must have formal verification of their competence.

Documentation of qualifications can be secured through one of four means: 1) certification by an accredited testing organization; 2) qualification by an audited employer program; 3) qualification by the military; or 4) licensing by a governmental agency, such as the state or local jurisdiction. You can read the provisions governing verification of operator competence in section 1926.1427, “Operator qualification and certification.”

Most employers probably will  choose OSHA’s “Option 1” (certification by an accredited testing organization) for their operators, because from what we've heard, establishing an audited employer program would be a long, involved process. We’ve been asked by a number of readers to list the accredited testing organizations, and to the best of our knowledge, four such organizations presently offer crane-operator certification. But that statement needs a bit of later clarification.

The four are the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO); the Crane Institute of America Certification (CIC); Operating Engineers Certification Program (OECP); and the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER).

These organizations have attained accreditation by yet another organization, such as the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). NCCA and ANSI thoroughly audit (on a continuing basis) an organization’s policies, procedures and examinations to assure that these parameters meet the highest standards. NCCCO, CIC, OECP and NCCER have met these requirements, and have, in addition, been recognized by OSHA.

The clarification needed is that NCCER does not actually administer certification testing. This non-profit organization is, in the strictest sense, an accrediting body. According to Allyson Butts, certification program manager, NCCER “accredits other organizations to deliver both its curriculum on the one side, and assessments on the other.” But, she says, the actual certification comes form NCCER.

NCCER has “accredited training sponsors” and “accredited assessment centers,” says Butts, and among those might be chapters of the Associated Builder and Contractors, chapters of Associated General Contractors or large contracting firms. To be eligible to participate in the NCCER program, says Butts, the applicant organization must undergo a rigorous training, assessment and auditing process to assure uniformity in the way NCCER material is administered.

Butts also told us that the North American Crane Bureau (NACB) is a partner of NCCER and helped NCCER develop its mobile-crane-operators certification program. NACB, she says, uses the NCCER program.

While section 1427 (j) of the OSHA rule technically allows a testing agency both to train and test, the practice is allowed only if the accrediting agency allows it. It seems to us, having talked to representatives of all four testing organizations, that all are making a concerted effort to keep the two disciplines separate.

NCCCO does no training and is “unable to recommend or endorse any particular training company,” says Graham Brent, executive director. NCCCO does, however, provide a list of companies that “have indicated they offer preparatory training for the certification exams administered by NCCCO.”

CIC does have a partner company that trains (The Crane Institute of America), but CIC is a separate legal entity and managed and staffed by an entirely different group.

NCCER, according to Butts, has policies in place to assure the separation of training and testing.

And policies regulating the OECP guarantee “the separation of church and state,” says Mike Drew, assistant coordinator of Local 150’s Apprenticeship and Skill Improvement Program in Wilmington, Ill.

The intent of all organizations, says James Headley, liaison for CIC, is to “prevent the trainer from teaching the test.”

These four organizations also provide certification for signal-persons and riggers, something to remember if you need help in those areas. Whether other organizations will attain accredited status for testing and certifying crane operators, signal persons and riggers is an unknown at this point, but we’d guess that the four organizations mentioned will be plenty busy in the next four years.

The best advice we’ve heard is not to wait until the last minute to get operators certified. When California mandated crane-operator licensing a few years ago, and gave crane users a grace period to comply, everyone waited until the absolute deadline. It was then a mad scramble to get legal.