Employers in California that are struggling to meet looming deadlines for certification have forced state regulators to rethink compliance dates this year for two new safety regulations.

Industry fears, coupled with low turnout at testing centers, raised regulators’ eyebrows late last year. Since then, they have extended licensing for electricians, originally due Jan. 1, by six months. But they have rejected pushing back mandatory testing of crane operators, due June 1.

Requirements for certification, a process that proves workers are qualified to perform a job, are often difficult to sort out, but employers have had plenty of time to do it, according to Michael J. Vlaming, executive director of the Crane Owners Association, San Rafael, Calif. “It is always easy to wait until the door is about to open and say, ‘Oh geez, I’m not prepared,’” he says.

The June 1 deadline requires all workers operating mobile and tower cranes with rated capacities greater than 7.5 tons to pass a drug, physical, written and hands-on exam recognized by a national standards board. Employers can use a third-party certifier or apply for their own accreditation. The regulation became effective in 2003.
Various industry excuses failed to convince California regulators to push back the crane deadline. Employers noted “inconvenience, cost and a perfect safety record” as reasons to get more time, says Mike Manieri, principal engineer for the standards board. At least half of the 10,000 to 20,000 operators in the state are certified, he notes.

Electricians must pass a licensing test administered by the state by July 1. Spanish-speaking workers have until Jan. 1, 2006. California started developing the licensing program in 1999, but only 14,001 workers have taken the test so far. Even fewer have passed it. About 75,000 electricians need to comply, officials say.