A large part of the U.S. construction industry may not be aware that crane operators will need to be certified by 2017, according to a report that a training company has published.
This past June, Woodland, Wash.-based Industrial Training International (ITI) received responses from more than 1,300 people; 534 of those said they were crane operators, and 675 others said they work closely with crane operators. Of the total respondents, 515, or 38%, said they were not aware that construction crane operators will need to be certified or pass an accredited exam by 2017, despite a U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration regulation on the books since 2010.
“We were very shocked,” says Zachary L. Parnell, president of ITI, speaking about the results. In addition, he adds, more than two-thirds of respondents said they believed that 50% or fewer total crane operators working today are in compliance with the regulation.
The data suggest that a large portion of the construction industry is not ready for the major OSHA safety rule, set to go into effect in just two years. The rule has taken several twists and turns since its initial 2010 release: OSHA originally planned to begin enforcing the certification rule last year, but it later delayed its implementation by three years to review regulatory language concerning the content it wants to see in the exams. OSHA officials now expect to issue changes to the testing criteria next year, Jim Maddux, director of OSHA’s construction directorate, told ENR in October.
Despite the forthcoming revision, the basic testing requirement still stands. ITI conducted the survey as market research for an online mobile-crane operator test-prep course it plans to launch on Dec. 1. Certification exams are issued in two parts: written and practical. ITI’s test-prep course covers only written exams; to comply with the rule, candidates also would need training to pass a hands-on exam. The course, which costs $500, allows first-time and recertifying candidates to study at their own pace, Parnell adds.
Since 2010, when OSHA issued the rule, trainers “have seen a pretty steady demand” from potential and existing crane operators looking to improve their knowledge and skills, Parnell notes. But Graham Brent, executive director of the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO), says certification needs range widely across construction job titles and geographic regions.
“I think you have to differentiate those crane operators for whom crane operation is a full-time occupation from those who operate a crane much less often as part of their main job,” he says. “There are also likely to be significant geographic variations: A state such as California, where a requirement has been in place for 10 years, will have far fewer crane operators uncertified than, say, Texas, with around the same size crane population.”
Taking both variables into account, “NCCCO anticipates there will be a range of operators who would still need to be certified—that might go from 20% at the low end to 75% at the high,” Brent notes.
More testing locations are available than in the past. The author of this article, who holds a tower-crane certification from NCCCO, in 2013 drove to a nearby community college to take a recertification exam. Under the OSHA rule, certifications are valid for five years.