Another Level of Scrutiny to Ensure Crane Operator Qualification
Joe Whiteman, Director of Safety Services   3-2019

A lot of time and effort has been spent over the last few years on the new crane ruling recently introduced in the construction industry. It is important to note first and foremost; full enforcement of this ruling has been postponed an extra 60 days -- beginning February 15th -- due to overwhelming industry response. This extension is intended to provide more time for companies to comply with por­tions of the new rule. OSHA noted “that during the extra 60 days, they will take into consideration good faith efforts put forth by companies attempting to comply with the documentation requirements of the rule.”

Overall, this rule was developed to combat ongoing crane incidents. Even though there is a requirement for operators to be trained and certified, crane-related incidents remain prevalent within our industry and OSHA concluded that not enough has been done to reduce those incidents. It was decided the existing certification requirements did not go far enough. The new rule seeks to further ensure that operators are also “qualified” to operate a specific type of crane. Crane specificity includes type, configuration, attach­ments, and type of work such as hoisting personnel, performing tandem lifts or performing lifts in the “blind.” Capacity has been removed as a requirement. An employer evaluation requirement has been added, along with requirements for evaluators. Lastly, the new rule modifies existing requirements for “operators in training.”

When you first dive into this new rule it can be a bit overwhelming. The first thing contractors need to do is understand how this rule applies to their operations. The question that needs to be asked is, “Do you directly employ crane operators?” If your opera­tions require you to subcontract crane activities for both equipment and operator, you need to communicate with your crane service provider to assure they are performing evaluations and documentation. In some instances the evaluation may have to be performed on your site to encompass all criteria. If you directly employ the crane operator, or own or bare rent the crane, whether mobile or tower, your responsibility is increased.

The most challenging part of the new rule for contractors who directly employ crane operators is the evaluation provision. Not just the added step of the evaluation, but who is “qualified” to perform the evaluation. OSHA’s definition of a Qualified Person does not apply here. The objective of the evaluation is to ensure the operator has the skills, knowledge and ability to identify and avoid risk, ultimately safe operation of the crane. This process is designed to ensure the operator is familiar with the type of hoisting and physical environment, understands operational aids, safety devices, size and configuration, as well as the software specific to the crane. The requirements of the evaluators are that s/he be your employee or an agent, perhaps a third-party testing agency, or, if applicable, an operator’s union representative.

The evaluator does not have to be certified or have passed the written crane operators’ exam. They must, however, have the train­ing, experience and knowledge to assess crane operators. Since you may already employ crane operators, you could utilize your most senior operator to perform evaluations. Another source is your qualified riggers or signalmen. There are specific criteria to be covered in the evaluation and everything must be documented and maintained on-site including the operator’s name, date of evalu­ation, make, model and configuration of equipment, and the name of the evaluator. The Special Riggers and Carriers Association has a good document for both Mobile and Tower Cranes to properly evaluate the operators, equipment and operations.

Lastly, “operators in training” are those who have not been certified and/or evaluated. These individuals cannot operate the equip­ment without supervision and can only take on tasks within their ability. Until they are certified, they cannot perform near energized powerlines, multi-crane lifts, working over a shaft, in a tank farm or on a cofferdam. They must be monitored by a trainer when operating equipment. On May 8th ASCC will hold a webinar to help members understand and navigate this new rule. Now, with the extra time to comply, ensure your operators are certified, evaluated and qualified!

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