Use these tips to help your company’s crane operators complete their certification exams with flying colors.
By Marti Harrell
The upcoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration crane operator certification requirements mean that capable, safe and knowledgeable operators will have to take written exams for the first time in a long time. This can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially for those who haven’t been in school for many years. Luckily, there are a number of techniques you can share with your operators to help alleviate the stresses associated with test-taking.
A major source of exam anxiety is fear of the unknown. Much like going to the dentist, the anticipation of what could happen can be much worse than the actual procedure. The first step in helping your crane operators overcome their exam anxiety is to ensure they know what to expect.
Know the material
Understanding what types of questions will be asked on the exam is key. There are many resources available from OSHA and third parties to help your operators prepare. Live and online prep courses, study guides, books and even your crane manufacturer are all great resources for helping your operators learn the material that will be covered. It’s important to remember that there’s no shortcut to studying. Providing your operators the resources and the time needed to study is essential.
In addition to prep courses and study guides, consider creating a study group for your operators. A weekly, hour-long study group during lunch or at the end of the workday is a great way to keep everyone moving through preparation. To help facilitate learning, consider asking each operator to teach the others about one small section of the material. Knowing they have to explain their sections to others will help motivate operators to understand the information.
Address literacy and learning barriers head on
Some of your operators may have decades of experience operating cranes safely and effectively, but they may also have language barriers that will need to be addressed to help ensure success on the exams.
Consider referring operators with literacy challenges to your local library or literacy center. Many of these organizations offer free classes to adults who want to improve their reading and writing skills. For operators with learning barriers – including any learning disabilities – speak with your human resources department to determine if the disability is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If so, the organizations offering the crane certification exams are required to provide reasonable accommodations for the test-taker.
Talking with your operator about a perceived literacy or learning challenge can be difficult. But failing to address these issues can set your operator up for failure on the exam. Having an open discussion about challenges helps determine if the time, money and resources you plan to invest will be well-spent.
When evaluating your operators’ literacy skills, don’t forget about their computer literacy. Most of the certification exams are administered on a computer. Some seasoned crane operators may have limited or no experience with computers. Help these operators by having them spend 15 minutes per day on a spare computer in your office. Have them perform simple tasks or task a coworker with walking them through the basics.
Practice, practice, practice
Fear of the unknown means test-taking can cause high levels of stress. Help your operators combat their nervous feelings with plenty of practice.
If you’ve deployed study groups, include a 10-minute exam each week that replicates the full exam experience. Have your operators take a timed written exam covering that week’s study material in a quiet room. When they are done, grade it and then review the results. Going through the test-taking process repeatedly will help your operators become familiar with what to expect on exam day. Reviewing the exam as a group also gives your operators an opportunity to see the correct answers and to ask any questions they may have.
Operators with computer literacy issues can take practice exams on a computer. Create a simple Microsoft Word document with 10 multiple choice questions on the study material for that week. Then, have the operator highlight the right answer in color or enlarge the font. This gives your operators additional practice using a computer while also helping them feel more confident heading into the exam.
Preparation is key
Taking the time to prepare your crane operators will give them the best chance to succeed and create a true sense of accomplishment when they pass the exam.
Marti Harrell is NPCA’s vice president of technical services and professional development.