Certification is seen by some as a costly and bureaucratic process, but the reality is that being certified shows that an operator has undertaken relevant and adequate training in their chosen field. This is a vital step to providing safety on job sites.
In the USA, crane operators need to be certified by November 10th 2014. There has been some controversy over this deadline, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed to delay to the requirement to November 2017. For some institutions, however, this delay is deemed unnecessary and they are opposed to it.
A spokesperson from Crane Institute Certification (CIC) explains why certification is important, “The requirement for certification raises the bar for better training to take place. Quality training that is job and site specific is essential to reducing accidents. Multiple studies by government and private groups have shown that crane operator certification saves lives through reduced accidents.”
To keep accidents down, it is vital that operators take part in refresher courses to keep their knowledge and skills up to date. Alan Johnson, from the Association of Lorry Loader Manufacturers and Importers (ALLMI), explains, “Training and the subsequent certification is extremely valuable and plays a key role in improving safety and awareness. It is, however, only the first step on the ladder to becoming a competent operator. Other activities must then take place, such as product and task specific training in the workplace; product familiarization; in-house periodic monitoring, and periodic refresher re-training and re-assessment.”
Kerry Edwards, GGR Group, public relations manager, adds, “Regular refresher training can be useful as it can stop even the most experienced operators from picking up any bad habits which could affect how safely they are working.”
Tristan Austin, senior communications officer at The Ontario College of Trades in Canada, agrees, “Continually updating and enforcing certification requirements helps ensure that individuals working on sites are properly trained and know the potential risks of the work they are conducting.”
This idea is felt by organisations in all corners of the industry. The Committee for European Construction Equipment (CECE), for example, is working on a proposal for a European Tower Cranes’ Fitters Licence, and a European Tower Cranes’ Drivers Licence.
Peter Schiefer, elected chairman of the Tower Cranes Division CECE, explains the idea behind the proposal, “The main aim of the CECE licence is safety. We feel that the better people are trained fewer accidents are going to happen and equipment will be handled with more care.
“Our proposal is that we have a standard licence where people have to go through training on a regular basis to keep up to date on their knowledge and abilities. To get this into practice experts have developed a training profile and now crane manufacturers are approaching their national bodies to take it to European level.”
Certification can only help reduce accidents, however, if the institution delivering it offers up to date and approved training. Graham Brent, NCCCO executive director, explains, “Employers and candidates have a right to expect that the exams that they or their employees are taking are fair and relevant and that they have been developed to the very highest professional standards of test construction and administration.”
Many companies offer up to date certification and accreditation services for the lifting industry. The latest certification programme from the NCCCO, for example, is the Lift Director certification. William Dutton, NCCCO commissioner and chairman of the Lift Director Task Force, tells IC, “Lift directors bring to the lift team a wide range of career experiences and have oversight of all lifting personnel, so they play a critical role in safe lifting operations.”
A lift director must know about all of the technical aspects involved with lifting operations, from ensuring adequate ground conditions to managing communications among team members, a company spokesperson explained to IC.
“This new certification is designed to be a powerful third party assessment tool for an employer in determining that the person they have designated to direct lifting operations has been evaluated as to their knowledge and ability to perform these tasks competently,” Joel Oliva, NCCCO programme manager for programme development and administration, adds. The programme is fully compliant with the new OSHA crane rule, Subpart CC and the ANSI standard.
For compulsory certification, the Ontario College of Trades, a self-regulatory body established by the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009 (OCTAA), regulates 22 compulsory trades. For the hoisting engineer trades Mobile Crane Operator 1 (trade code 339A), Mobile Crane Operator 2 (trade code 339C) and Tower Crane Operator (trade code 339B) are all compulsory trades. Mobile Crane Operator 1 certifies operators of cranes that can lift over 8 tons (7 tonnes) with no maximum and Mobile Crane Operator 2 certifies operators of cranes that can lift between 8 and 15 tons (7 and 13 tonnes).
“While there is a certain amount of overlap with respect to the requirements for Mobile 1 and Mobile 2 crane operators, the complexity of the equipment with the greater lifting capacity warrants more training and a separate certification,” a spokesperson from Ontario College of Trades explains. “In addition, while similar in purpose (all cranes lift material), the design, operation and utility of mobile cranes and tower cranes are different and therefore warrant separate certification.”
CIC also certifies crane operators by crane type and capacity. The crane categories include small telescopic boom under 21 tons (19 tonnes); medium telescoping boom, 21 to 75 tons (19 to 68 tonnes); large telescoping boom over 75 tons (68 tonnes); lattice boom crawler/truck, 1 to 300 tons (0.9 to 291 tonnes) and lattice boom crawler/truck over 300 tons (291 tonnes).
CIC’s certifications are OSHA recognised and accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. The certification process requires written and practical exams, including a general knowledge written exam and at least one supplemental written exam for each crane type and capacity for which the candidate is being certified. This is followed by a practical exam, a spokesperson from CIC explains.
For operators being certified in multiple programmes they are required to take just one practical exam by demonstrating skill and proficiency on the largest capacity per crane type, a spokesperson adds.
To successfully gain certification, some institutions require operators to go through various training courses at different levels. In Ontario, for example, training at the Ontario College of Trades is delivered through apprenticeship programmes established by the Ontario College of Trades and administered by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU).
“Upon successful completion of the apprenticeship program, MTCU will issue a Certificate of Apprenticeship (C of A). The C of A holder then needs to take their Certificate of Qualification (C of Q) examination,” a spokesperson from Ontario College of Trades explains, “Once the C of A holder passes the C of Q examination, they will become eligible to join the Journeypersons Class and be issued a C of Q in their hoisting engineer trade. A C of Q in the Journeypersons Class is the highest level of certification available for the hoisting engineer trades in Ontario (a C of Q is effectively a licence).”
In the UK, ALLMI provides an accreditation service dedicated to lorry loaders. Alan Johnson explains the process, “The courses are written by the lorry loader industry and are offered via a network of independent training providers including lorry loader operator, slinger, signaller and crane supervisor.
“The only course on which there is a distinction between types is on the operator course, whereby identity cards are categorised to reflect items such as the size of lorry loader, attachment type and type of control system.”
Most ALLMI courses are available in at least two differing lengths to accommodate levels of previous experience. They also provide refresher training compared to the time required for training novices, a company spokesperson added. Upon successful completion of the course, candidates receive an identity card and certificate, and will be registered on the ALLMI Operator database, the institution says.
The GGR Group, also based in the UK, provides accredited training courses for glass, cladding and stone vacuum lifters, glazing robots and portable floor cranes. Kerry Edwards, public relations manager, adds, “GGR Group also offers a contract lift service, supplying fully CPCS A66 certified operators to work with mini spiders. GGR can also provide Personnel Trackside Safety (PTS) trained operators for rail jobs, National Grid Basic Electrical Safety Confidence (BESC) for work in substations and London Underground work (LUL) qualified operators for work on railways, the London Underground and the power industry.”
Certifying by capacity and crane type is not a standard process in every country and this can provide some difficulties, as a spokesperson from the Ontario College of Trades in Canada explains, “Some jurisdictions have only one crane license. This can present a problem when an individual from a one-licence province attempts to work in a province with multiple licences.”
Having one licence, or only a certain form of accreditation, can present some problems, as Kerry Edwards explains, “Many principal contractors and leading trade contractors are now requiring operators to have completed an appropriate accredited training course before carrying out any lifting work on site. Some have been known to refuse operators on site if they do not carry the relevant accreditation.”
Alan Johnson, ALLMI, explains another concern that the industry faces with regards to certification, “One of our biggest concerns is a scenario we have encountered more than once, whereby an instructor from another scheme has achieved their instructor status in a particular discipline or equipment type, for example a fork truck, and have then only been required to undertake what can loosely be described as an abbreviated practical test in order to make them eligible to deliver lorry loader training. In some cases, they are then allowed to assemble their own course content and assessment methods and the ongoing monitoring of and compliance with the applicable standards is either inadequate or non-existent.”
The need for certification for any operator working with or within the presence of machinery is, as has been discussed here, a must, but making that certification process adequate, appropriate and affordable is just as important.
Author; Laura Hatton