If you use a crane, make sure you are up to speed.
By John Fowler, CSP
Some of us in the water well drilling and pump service industry use cranes frequently, so planning ahead for when OSHA begins enforcing its crane operator requirements can help avoid headaches.
On November 10, 2017, OSHA will begin enforcing the requirement all crane operators in the construction industry, operating a crane with a maximum capacity greater than 2000 pounds, will need to be nationally certified (OSHA regulation 1926.1400 Subpart CC).
The first thing to understand is the operator certification requirement does not apply to a “dedicated drill rig” [OSHA 1926.1400(C)(11)]. Although a pump rig is not specifically mentioned as equipment excluded from this requirement, a pump hoist does not fit OSHA’s definition of a crane. The requirement only applies to a crane, which OSHA defines as:. . . power-operated equipment, when used in construction, that can hoist, lower, and horizontally move a suspended load. [OSHA 1926.1400(a)]
For those of us still affected because we use cranes, we first need to decide who in our company needs to hold this certification. Those who operate cranes the most should be the first to be certified.
But do all of your crane operators need to be certified? No.
If you are an “operator-in-training,” you can operate a crane as long as you are under the supervision of a certified crane operator per OSHA 1926.1427(f). The certified operator must be on site at all times, except for short breaks.
This means you can start by certifying the most experienced operator on each crew and then certify more operators as they gain experience.
But who else needs to be certified? What about a mechanic? Technically, a mechanic’s truck crane rated at more than 2000 pounds capacity is exempt if it is only being used “in activities related to equipment maintenance and repair.” [OSHA 1926.1400 (c)(9)] But the catch is as soon as that mechanic’s crane is used, for example, to load a drum of hydraulic oil or bring some needed equipment for the crews in the field, then the operator needs to be certified.
So how do operators become certified?
In order to certify an operator, the training program needs to be nationally accredited. There are four such nationally accredited training programs in the country.
- Crane Institute Certification (CIC) www.cicert.com
- National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) www.nccco.org
- National Center for Construction Education and Research Crane Operator Certification Program
- Operating Engineers Certification Program (OECP) www.oecp.org
Of the four, only the CIC, NCCCO, and NCCER are open to the general public. There are also third-party trainers available, but they represent one of these companies.
These companies certify operators using both written and practical hands-on tests. Expect the whole process—including the prep class, written test, and practical test—to last about four days, depending on the trainer and experience level of your operator.
While November 10, 2017 may seem far away, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Although OSHA has not begun enforcing its certification requirements, 17 states already require either special licensing or certifications: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia.
In addition to these states, many individual companies are starting to require anyone operating a crane on their property to be certified. So in reality, you may need certified operators right now! It pays to check so you’re not hit with unwanted surprises.
John Fowler, CSP, is a safety manager for National Exploration, Wells & Pumps in Gilbert, Arizona. He can be reached at email@example.com.