Jim Headley of Crane Institute of America Discusses Crane Operator Certification Changes with Crane & Rigging Hot Line

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Jim Headley, the Director of Crane Institute of America, a training services provider based in Sanford, Fla., discusses crane operator certification with Crane & Rigging Hot Line magazine.

crane operator certification
Crane operator certification adds value to the industry and will improve safety

Jim Headley, discusses crane operator certification with Crane & Rigging Hot Line magazine.

Over the last several weeks, Jim Headley of Crane Institute of America participated in discussions with OSHA over ongoing questions surrounding the Cranes & Derricks regulation. Headley talks with Crane & Rigging Hot Line talks about the Steel Erectors Association of America (SEAA) and OSHA’s crane industry stakeholder meetings.

In March, the SEAA invited Dean McKenzie, Occupational Safety and Health Specialist, and Jim Maddux, Director, Office of Construction Services for the Directorate of Construction, to answer questions posed by its members during its annual convention. Then in April, Headley spoke at one of the crane industry stakeholder meetings hosted by OSHA in Washington, D.C. The two key issues are: Whether certification is equivalent to qualification, and the value of testing operators by crane type and capacity.

Regarding certification being equal to qualification, Headley said it’s interesting that OSHA is at this crossroads when it comes to crane operators, when elsewhere in the regulation, a strong distinction is made between the two as it applies to riggers.

During the Steel Erectors meeting, OSHA officials Jim Maddux and Dean McKenzie made it clear that employers are responsible for making sure a rigger is qualified for the work assigned, which was characterized as: “If you hand me the prettiest, gold-plated card that says you are a qualified rigger, I will take that under advisement then continue my interview process to make sure you are indeed qualified for what you are rigging today. There is no known rigging course that guarantees you carte blanche that you are a qualified rigger.”

When it comes to operator certification and qualification, Headley said OSHA needs to clarify to the industry if it is taking a different approach than it has with riggers. “Is OSHA implying in the regulation that achieving certification is the final authority on an operator’s ability to run a crane? I hope not,” he added. “It is good that the regulation requires operators to be certified by type of crane and capacity, which helps employers match the skill set of the operator to the crane to be operated.”

The second issue regards certifying operators for different capacities of cranes. “Opponents are quick to re-direct the discussion to one about the costs associated with doing so rather than to address the actual benefit of this type of testing,” Headley said. “It is widely assumed that testing to type of crane and capacity is more expensive.

When addressing this opinion at the SEAA meeting, OSHA officials Maddux and McKenzie said: “It’s only very expensive if you are asking people to be certified for the exact crane that they are going to be operating. Two [certification] organizations have figured out how to do this and are continuing to implement certifications that include capacity.”

Maddux and McKenzie agreed that OSHA will not require crane operators to be certified for each individual crane, but rather some type of grouping, levels, or categories offering operators greater flexibility. The rule as it stands is clear that when an operator is certified for a given capacity of crane, they are permitted to operate cranes of the same type at lower capacities.

CIC is one of two certification organizations that tests according to type of crane and capacity. When designing its tests in 2007, its capacity thresholds were established based on typical boom lengths associated with certain capacity bands. “This was done in acknowledgment of the fact that it takes varying levels of skill to operate cranes with different boom lengths. The industry has long recognized that the longer the boom, the more skill required to operate the crane,” Headley said. “The concept parallels the idea that the greater the capacity of crane, the more skill required.”

Headley encourages crane owners and employers to not be swayed by the rhetoric. “Crane operator certification adds value to the industry and will improve safety,” he said. “Employers must continue to take responsibility for making sure a certified operator is qualified for the specific lifting scenario of the job, and employers should look closely at the certification options open to them.” Meanwhile, the industry looks for OSHA to clarify these important issues.

About Crane Institute of America
Crane Institute of America offers training, certification, and qualification programs for crane operators, inspectors, managers, trainers, riggers, and signalpersons on a variety of types of cranes and lifting equipment. Its five-acre facility near Orlando, Fla., accommodates hands-on training for mobile cranes, boom trucks, and rigging. Open enrollment programs are scheduled in more than 80 cities nationwide; training programs can also be customized to your equipment requirements and brought to your facility or job site.

Crane Institute also offers CIC Nationally Accredited Certification for crane operators, inspectors, riggers and signalpersons, and safety and training products, which includes our acclaimed Mobile Cranes & Rigging handbooks.

About Maximum Capacity Media
Maximum Capacity Media is publisher of Crane & Rigging Hot Line, Lift and Access, Industrial Lift & Hoist, and Lift & Hoist International.

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