Cranes are usually the most expensive piece of equipment on a jobsite but also have the most potential for damage. With average profit margins in crane-related work a little over 4%, employers cannot afford not to train managers on key safety issues around cranes, insurers say.

“We are trying to take a higher-level look at systemic issues,” says Marko Kaar, senior risk engineering consultant for Schaumburg, Ill.-based Zurich Services Corp. “Is it a failure to inspect? If it is a failure to inspect, is it a failure to train? If it is a failure to train, is it a failure to concentrate proper resources?”

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  • The insurer used to provide hands-on training for crane operators taking the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators exams, but Zurich last year decided to shift its focus to managers. “There are a lot of vendors that have now come forward to teach those [NCCCO] classes,” says Bill Davis, another Zurich risk engineer. “It's really become a commodity now,” Kaar adds.

    Last month, Zurich launched a crane-management seminar series for its clients in seven states. About 100 managers from top crane suppliers and users attended each workshop. “The latest crane regulations and news have focused on the training of crane operators,” says Kaar. “We want to help customers understand that is just one step in helping prevent crane failures.”

    At a workshop in Hoffman Estates, Ill., Kaar explained that many companies put “safety first” by providing checklists to crane and rigging workers in the field. But many lack a culture at the level of engineers and management that appreciates the risks and rewards around cranes. Many projects are also bringing in cranes from outside vendors, and the dynamics of renting machinery presents unique risks. For example, some rental firms “want to wash their hands of the responsibility,” Kaar said, by contracting to rent “bare” and leaving the client to hire a qualified operator. Then, the rental firm will say, “Here’s an operator, put him on your payroll.”