“A national crane operator certification requirement will certainly lead to safer crane operations,” Peters said in a Web article for the March issue of Professional Safety, titled "Raising the Standard for Crane Safety."
According to U.S. statistics, between 64 and 82 construction workers are killed and 263 are injured each year when working around cranes and derricks. Peters pointed out that crane operators – who hoist thousands of pounds of equipment hundreds of feet in the air – should be required to hold a recognized certification to ensure safety.
"In 2004, the Crane and Derricks Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee (C-DAC) completed its draft proposal for a revised crane and derrick standard for construction. The draft was then submitted to OSHA," Peters wrote. "The draft standard would create a crane operator certification requirement at the federal level. To date, 14 states have enacted legislation to require operator certification, but federal OSHA regulations contain no such provision.”
The existing OSHA rule for cranes and derricks in construction, Peters added, primarily is based on industry consensus standards published in the late 1960s.
Training Comes Before Certification
According to ASSE member Van. A. Howell, crane accidents commonly are the result of failure to maintain the crane in a safe position; properly inspect the crane; properly calculate the load; rig the load properly; and manually compute the load as a check-and-control- measure against the crane computer.
Peters acknowledged that in some circumstances, complacency, pressure to get the job done or using the wrong equipment can be blamed for accidents involving cranes. But he pointed out that most crane and derrick accidents are preventable and result from a lack of training.
It is important, however, to distinguish between training and certification. “Certification is not what makes an operator safe. What makes an operator safe is the training received before achieving the certification,” he asserted. “[B]ased on my experience, the crane operator certification requirement is much needed.”
The National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) offers crane operator certification that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. To pass this certification process, all mobile crane operators must take a core exam featuring 90 questions. Some operators may be required to pass a specialty exam, depending on the type of crane they use. Candidates also must demonstrate proficiency operating cranes by taking a practical exam.
Operators have up to 12 months to complete both exams, which can be taken in any order. The certification is effective for 5 years, as long as operators maintain medical compliance.
Requiring operators to become certified yields benefits beyond improved skills and knowledge, Peters pointed out. In some cases, for example, a firm might qualify for general liability insurance premium discounts for having certified operators.
Most importantly, training and certification can make construction sites safer. After all, Peters said, if operators do not understand or perform procedures correctly, the result can be catastrophic.
For more on the recent crane incidents in New York and Miami, read Buildings Inspector Arrested for Falsifying Crane Inspection and Miami Crane Collapse Kills 2, Injures 5.