OSHA Proposes Revision of Crane Operator Qualification Rules

May 21, 2018
A change to the categories of certifications for crane operators would ensure more operators are able to meet the requirement.

OSHA issued a proposed rule clarifying its crane operator requirements. In addition to providing long-term clarity regarding crane operator certification requirements, the proposal reinstates the employer duty to ensure that a crane operator is qualified to safely operate equipment. 

Under the proposed rule, a change to the categories of certifications for crane operators would ensure more operators are able to meet the requirement.

"As expected, OSHA has removed from its rule the requirement for crane operators to be certified according to the capacity of the crane, a decision supported by the overwhelming majority of industry stakeholders at meetings hosted by OSHA and others since the rule was first published in 2010," the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO), said in a press release.

Proposal Key Points:

  • Amendments are to clarify training requirements for operators
  • Removes certification-by-capacity from certification requirements
  • Clarifies and permanently extends an employer's duty to evaluate potential operators for their ability to safely operate assigned equipment covered by subpart CC
  • Post-certification refresher training is required
  • Requires that employers document the evaluation.

Excerpt from OSHA proposal OSHA-2007-0066 (available here)

OSHA is proposing to revise the crane rule to add a permanent employer evaluation duty based primarily on the extensive feedback received from the construction industry, which warned that certification does not establish that operators have sufficient crane knowledge and operating skills to safely perform crane operations at construction sites in all circumstances going forward. As previously explained in more detail in the background section, industry representatives stated that to ensure crane safety on construction sites, it is necessary for employers to continue to evaluate the operating competency of potential operators and provide training beyond that which is merely sufficient for those individuals to obtain certifications.

The key difference between this proposal and the existing standard is that the proposal would permanently maintain the employer's duty to evaluate its operators, and provide greater specificity as to what that duty entails in order to provide a clear and enforceable standard.

Under the existing standard, operator certification becomes de facto qualification once the employer duty to ensure operator competence (§ 1926.1427(k)(2)(i)) ends in November 2018. There are no other requirements for operator safety qualifications beyond certification after that date.

Under the proposed rule, the employer's evaluation is established as a critical step to ensure safe equipment operations on construction work sites.

While certification (or licensing in states or localities with acceptable licensing schemes) and training may occur under different, prior employers, the proposal would require that every employer evaluate an employee first as an operator-in-training before permitting him or her to operate equipment without oversight.

The process of the evaluation is performance-oriented and discussed in more detail in the explanation for proposed paragraph 1427(f).

An employer's evaluation would assess different operator skills than the existing certification tests. IUOE has pointed to a number of activities that require specific skills that are not evaluated during the certification practical exam.

IUOE has also noted that different skills are required to operate equipment with different attachments and identified in particular the unique skills required to operate with clam bucket or drag line attachments (Id.). By way of contrast, the IUOE stated, the operator certification practical test covers only basic operation functions (hoisting and lowering a load and guiding it through a course), and “does not test on the breadth of activities that are involved in the operation of cranes."

Without the proposed employer duty to evaluate operators, an employer could permit a certified operator to operate tower cranes and other large equipment in any configuration with any number of attachments without determining if the operator possesses the requisite knowledge and skills necessary to address the issues identified by IUOE and others.

The proposal discontinues a 2010 requirement, which never went into effect, that crane operator certification must include the crane lifting capacity for which the operator is certified. 

OSHA recently published a final rule extending the operator certification compliance date until November 10, 2018, in order to provide the agency with additional time to complete this rulemaking to address stakeholder concerns related to the Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard.

Source: OSHA

image: Manitowoc