By Evan Gurley
All good fishermen need to know what they are doing before they ever dip their lines in the water. There are certain precautions to follow for everyone’s safety, there are certain regulations to follow, and the fisherman had better know how to handle his boat and tackle. But trolling around the local lake in your bass boat is quite a bit different from trolling the high seas in your 56-ft trawler. It wouldn’t make sense for a bass boat operator to obtain extra skills required to captain a trawler in the ocean.
When we correlate this to hauling concrete, precasters should not be expected to certify boom truck operators who are lifting manholes off trucks with the same certification as operators of huge cranes that lift entire sections of buildings. Certainly precasters should be tested on their capabilities to sling concrete for safety’s sake, but the knowledge and skills required to operate a 100-ton crane are far more demanding than those required to operate a boom truck.
Two certifications planned
In response to a request by NPCA and other industry groups, the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) will develop and launch two new certifications created specifically for boom truck operators. NCCCO will develop a more specific certification subtype addressing the unique characteristics of boom trucks, based on recommendations from a working group that included NPCA technical staff, NPCA members and other industry representatives. The new program will cover boom trucks with fixed controls and boom trucks with swing controls. Most boom trucks in the precast concrete industry fall under the Boom Truck-Swing Controls certification category.
These programs will meet all U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) requirements and establish the highest standard for certification of boom truck operators. An OSHA rule requiring certification of crane operators has been set to take effect in 2014, but is now delayed until 2017. With the delay, employers can now ensure their employees are certified to meet both federal regulations and any site-specific requirements they may be facing now by taking the certification. Both boom truck certifications are expected to launch in 2014. The certifications will include both written and practical components, but have been designed specifically to address the knowledge and skill required of boom truck operators. Some state agencies may require certification between now and 2017 (see the sidebar “Where OSHA Stands”).
NCCCO and issues with certification examinations
NCCCO is a nonprofit organization that develops performance standards for safe crane operation in all U.S. industry sectors. OSHA recognizes NCCCO’s certification program as meeting OSHA requirements for crane operator competency. NCCCO’s certification program is also recognized by the ANSI.
Prior to forming its Boom Truck Operator Work Group, the NCCCO Mobile Crane Operator certification consisted of a core examination in crane operation and up to four crane specialty examinations. The NCCCO written specialty examinations are:
- Lattice Boom Crawler Cranes (LBC)
- Lattice Boom Truck Cranes (LBT)
- Telescopic Boom Cranes – Swing Cab (TLL)
- Telescopic Boom Cranes – Fixed Cab (TSS)
The majority of operators in the precast concrete industry use boom trucks that fall under the TLL and TSS designations, but some NPCA member operators are having issues passing this certification examination. These issues stem from questions in the current written core exam and the current written specialty exams that go above and beyond what precast industry boom truck operators would actually face. The load chart used in the TLL exam was possibly the biggest snag for precasters, because the specialty exam used a load chart for a Grove crane, which is far and away larger than what they would use for deliveries and installations.
In early 2012, the Wisconsin Precast Concrete Association (WPCA) met to address the NCCCO Mobile Crane Operator certification issue, then looked to the National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) for direction and action in resolving this issue. By that summer, NPCA formed a Boom Truck Task Group to address the issue, and by fall it asked NCCCO to consider modifying the program to best fit the needs of the precast industry.
The NPCA Boom Truck Task Group, which consisted of NPCA members Jennifer Burkhart of Arrow Concrete Products Inc.; Ben Gray of Pre-Cast Concrete Products of Maine Inc.; Steve Mader of Crest Concrete Products Inc.; Steve Olson of Huffcutt Concrete Inc.; Greg Stratis of Shea Concrete Products; Andy Winkler of Wieser Concrete Products Inc.; and David Watkins of QMC Cranes presented a strong case, and NCCCO agreed to seek a resolution.
NCCCO formed a task group of its own, so the NCCCO Boom Truck Operator Work Group was formed to include NCCCO, NPCA, the National Burial Vault Association, the International Sign Association, and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.
As a result of the work presented by the NCCCO Boom Truck Work Group, the NCCCO Board of Directors officially approved the development and launch of two new certifications to directly cover the operations related to boom truck operators. The new program will cover boom trucks with either swing controls or fixed controls:
- Boom Truck – Swing Controls (BTS)
- Boom Truck – Fixed Controls (BTF)
Both programs will be restricted subcategories of NCCCO’s existing TLL and TSS certifications.
New program requirements
Under the new program, candidates will be required to take the following exams:
- Revised core exam, which eliminates a majority of questions that do not pertain to the precast industry
- Specialty written exam corresponding to each designation (BTS or BTF)
- Practical exam corresponding to each designation (BTS or BTF)
The NCCCO will stick with the existing TSS Manitex load chart for the Boom Truck – Fixed Controls exam, but it will develop a new load chart for the Boom Truck – Swing Controls exam. This is a positive result for the precast industry, as the current Swing Controls written specialty exam includes the Grove crane load chart that many operators in the precast industry do not understand.
Since a great many boom trucks in the precast industry fall under the Boom Truck – Swing Controls designation, a newly developed load chart will vastly improve an operator’s chances of passing the written portion of the exam with the appropriate level of training. The existing TSS Manitex load chart hasn’t caused the majority of the issues with precast operators, as they are representative of load charts they use on a daily basis, so keeping the load chart in place for the Boom Truck – Fixed Cab exam is not an issue.
Another big change is that NCCCO has agreed to modify its current core exam questions, eliminating the majority of questions that boom truck operators in the precast industry do not work with on a daily basis.
While eliminating the OSHA crane operator certification all together for the precast industry operators would be the ideal scenario, the new certification exams in development by NCCCO will address the needs of operators currently required to have this certification by presenting them with a more representative certification exam.
Evan Gurley is a technical services engineer with NPCA.
Sidebar – Where OSHA Stands
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established a new rule on crane safety in 2010, but its new standard on cranes in construction has been in development for a long time. The previous standard was adopted in 1971, and OSHA has been working on a new rule since 1998.
From 2002 to 2004, an OSHA committee of safety and industry professionals reached a consensus on a new rule. In October 2008, OSHA issued a proposed rule based upon the committee’s work. After public comments and hearings, OSHA published its final rule Aug. 9, 2010, with its provisions that were to take effect Nov. 8, 2010. A four-year compliance period was added in the provisions for the crane operator certification/qualification requirement, meaning that employers were instructed to be in compliance by Nov. 8, 2014.
OSHA once again proposed a rule Feb. 7, 2014, to extend the compliance date for the crane operator certification requirement by three years to Nov. 10, 2017. The proposal would also extend to the same date the existing phase-in requirement that employers ensure that their operators are qualified to operate the equipment.
Boom truck operators were given a three-year extension when OSHA delayed its certification deadline to 2017, but this doesn’t mean all state agencies are waiting until 2017 to require that boom truck operators pass a certification exam. If you’re working at a plant in California, for example, you need to be certified by an accredited testing agency right now. Other states have different requirements, setting up a patchwork of regulation between now and 2017.