Everything you need to know about OSHA’s upcoming crane operator certification.
By Evan Gurley
On Sept. 26, 2014, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration extended the deadline for crane operator certification requirements in the “Cranes & Derricks in Construction” final rule (29 CFR 1926.1427). The new date for operator certification is Nov. 10, 2017. The rule extends to employers, who must ensure that their operators can safely use a crane.
After OSHA published the final rule, a number of organizations, including the National Precast Concrete Association, raised concerns about the standard’s requirement to certify operators by type or by type and capacity of the crane and questioned whether crane operator certification was necessary for the precast concrete industry.
The three-year delay in implementation offered NPCA more time to work with industry crane operator certifying bodies to investigate the development of a boom truck certification appropriate for the precast concrete industry. It also gave plants more time to prepare for the certification.
Before the original 2014 implementation date, NPCA formed a boom truck task force to track and oppose the OSHA certification requirement. After years of discussion with OSHA, the task force concluded that the requirement would be put into effect. As a result, the direction of the task force changed from opposition to education and compliance. This was to ensure that NPCA members would be prepared when the certification requirement went into effect.
With a new direction in hand, the task force proposed the development of a new crane certification that would meet the needs of the majority of the precast industry. Several existing certification exams offered throughout the industry meet the new OSHA requirement, but some NPCA members who have taken the written portion of the existing exams have failed. This is primarily because of the use of larger crane load charts on these exams. NPCA has not seen any systemic failure rates with operators taking the practical exam.
The new exam would include load charts from QMC and USTC cranes, which are widely used in the industry and thus more familiar to operators. Additionally, those working with A-frame rail delivery cranes who don’t commonly use load charts would be able to quickly get up to speed.
After several months and many meetings, the NPCA Boom Truck Task Force joined forces with Crane Institute Certification to develop a precast-specific, under 21-ton boom truck certification exam that will address a large percentage of the cranes used in the precast industry. The new certification exam was titled, “Precast Concrete Delivery Truck Crane Certification.”
In May 2016, the task force – along with several other NPCA members – met face-to-face with CIC to develop a bank of questions to be used for the written exam. CIC worked with a psychometrician to vet and validate the questions. NPCA then conducted a beta training and testing course in conjunction with CIC as part of the final steps to launch the new exam. This course was held at Shea Concrete Products in Amesbury, Mass., in December 2016.
After beta testing concluded, the new exam was opened to the precast concrete industry for certification of crane operators. Moving forward, to become certified, operators must take two written exams and a practical exam. The written exams include a crane general knowledge exam and the precast-specific exam. Some of the information covered on the general knowledge exam may not specifically relate to the type and size of crane you operate, but is still important to understand. The practical exam must be taken on a boom truck with 36 feet of boom, +/- 5 feet.
Evan Gurley is a technical services engineer with NPCA.