Crane operators are the most in-demand employees in the construction world. Especially if you are a certified crane operator, you can get the best offers in the world. And if you wanted to become one of them, here is what you need to do or what you should know.
Your duties involve more than just lifting stuff from one place to another. To drive and maintain heavy and big loads requires training, experience, and testing to get a certification that has to be renewed about every five years.
So, the question is who needs to be Crane Certified in the U.S? Do all Crane operators need to be certified for them to be able to work?
Well, according to OSHA’s Rule, Operators of most cranes above 2,000 lb. capacity that are used in construction, needs to be certified by accredited testing center like the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO).
Other testing bodies are the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) or by the Operating Engineers Certification Program (OECP), each may have different requirements and testing standards.
Based on the new rule implemented by OSHA Section 1926.1427 it is said that operators should be evaluated properly through written and practical testing and providing levels of certification based on equipment capacity and type as well as their ability to identify and avert risks for working safely and hazard free for everyone on site.
What are the Certification Testing Bodies?
There are three (3) Certification Testing Bodies that you can enrol to.
As mentioned above, First in the line is the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO). NCCCO certifications are accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for its objectivity, validity, and consistency in both written and practical testing programs and OSHA has recognized NCCCO since 1999. So, if you are already a CCO certified crane operator, you don’t need to worry even if OSHA has implemented a new rule, since CCO certification given by NCCCO fully meets the new OSHA rule. This applies to certifications on all the crane types that NCCCO currently offers such as Mobile Cranes, Tower Cranes, Overhead Cranes, etc).
Next is the National Centre for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). This school offers training in 124 qualifications, with the most reviewed qualifications for certifications. Completing the trainings depends on the qualifications but approximately it ranges from 1 to 2 years with an average time to complete of 6 months. Prices also range from $30 to $15,000 depending on the qualification, with an average cost of $2,500. But don’t worry, since Employers must also provide licensing and certification at no cost to the employee.
And lastly, the Operating Engineers Certification Program (OECP). It is intended to provide members of the International Union of Operating Engineers the best way to obtain a valid and reliable certification that truly evaluates their proficiency in crane operations, and at the same time making sure to have a safer work environment for all the people involved in the construction industry. Aside from passing the written and practical tests, OECP sets additional requirements for certification, and this includes:
- Being a member in good standing with the International Union of Operating Engineers.
- Possess a valid U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Medical Card or a state-issued Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Medical Card.
- Comply with the OECP’s substance abuse policy.
- Have 1,000 hours of documented crane-related experience and/or training in the last five (5) years.
- Pass written examinations for each type of cranes that they need to work on. AND
Each organization has a different testing procedure and cost structure, however, each meets the OSHA requirements which is what really matters.
Who is Not Covered by the Certification Requirements of OSHA?
A lot of questions from different companies arise because of OSHA’s Crane and Derricks Rule, such as, how can they know if operators should be certified? Or if the work that needs to be done is not covered by the rules. Well, here is what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Directorate of Construction’s response:
“Once a crane/derrick or its components are used in construction activities, this use—including assembly/disassembly, inspection and testing of the crane/derrick—is regulated by the Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard. Section 1926.1400 establishes the scope of the standard as follows: "This standard applies to power-operated equipment, when used in construction, which can hoist, lower and horizontally move a suspended load..." Employers using cranes or derricks to perform non-construction activities are not covered by the Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard.”
Another thing is that, those operators of cranes 2000 lb. below capacity is also exempted from this rule and don’t need to be certified. However, for instance, that operators operate cranes’ with a maximum capacity of more than 2000 lb. but only pick up loads lesser than 2000 lb, they still need to be certified since the exclusion for cranes of 2,000 lb. and below refers to the maximum manufacturer-rated capacity of the crane or equipment used. So even if the operators lift lighter loads, it is the crane’s maximum capacity that must be 2,000 lb. or less for them to be exempt from the requirements of 1926.1427.
OSHA has also excluded many lifting devices, such as excavators, backhoes (even when used to lift suspended loads), concrete pumps, aerial lifts, tow trucks, digger derricks, gantry systems, and forklifts. And all tree trimming and tree removal work are also excluded as per 1926.1400.
- Knuckleboom truck operators are also excluded when used only to deliver materials. However, when they are used to hold, support material to facilitate a construction activity, or they are holding roof trusses, wall panels or structural steel, they are covered by the new rule.
- Digger derricks are definitely excluded from the new rule when used for digging holes for poles carrying electric and telecommunication lines.
However, in some situations, many of these excluded from the new rules can also be included when used for certain specialized tasks.
For crane work in general industry, refer to OSHA 1910.180. There is no need for operator certification requirements at this moment in general industry yet.
How Does the Certification Being Conducted?
There are four ways you can comply with the latest OSHA regulations.
- You can become “certified” thorough accredited testing bodies such as NCCCO, NCCER, OECP.
You can become “qualified” through these following options:
- Passing the written and practical tests of an approved employer training program.
- Qualification through the US military
- Licensing by a government entity (presently there 16 states and 7 cities have their licensing requirement, see them here.)
The most popular option in obtaining certification is through the accredited testing body. Getting the certification involves passing the written exam and practical test.
To boost your chance of passing the tests, you need to take a training course. This happens in school. The school will teach you everything and prepare you to pass the certification tests.
If you would like to get certified, you may have heard that NCCCO certification is widely recognized in the industry, though NCCER and OECP is on par with it NCCCO.
What If You Are Not Certified? Can You Still Operate Cranes?
Many operators are worried because of the new rule for being certified. But there’s no need to worry, If you are not certified, you can still operate cranes that are only covered under the rule after November 10, 2017, if you meet OSHA’s definition of an “operator-in-training,” which means you received training from the company based on the standards and will be monitored or supervised by an operator trainer, then you are still good, though there are restrictions on the types of lifts you can do (1926.1427).
To Make a Conclusion
You need to be crane certified not only that it is compliance with the current OSHA regulation but also you make yourself marketable if you have it under your belt. It may take some time and effort to obtain this credential.
If you don’t have the proper certification, this means you would not be able to find a job as the employers prefer to hire those candidates with such a credential.
You can easily recuperate the investment you exhausted in getting the certification as a crane operator is very in demand right now and would be in the next coming years.