Photo courtesy CIC Inc.
Some industry experts think the new OSHA rules governing operator testing need to be changed. Here, a crane operator rodeo tests skills.

A wide range of crane-market representatives asked U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials to make changes to the agency's controversial crane-and-derrick standard at a stakeholder meeting held in Washington, D.C., on April 2-3.

Numerous individuals at the meeting said that OSHA has misinterpreted the original rule-making committee’s intent. A key issue discussed was the fine line between the "qualification" and "certification" of crane operators.

Several employer representatives, third-party trainers and certification companies said it is standard industry practice for employers to provide adequate training to ensure that operators are qualified to operate the types of cranes they will encounter on specific jobsites. But the rule as written suggests "certification" is synonymous with "qualification," several individuals said.

The crane-and-derrick standard, the result of a negotiated rule-making process, was finalized in 2010. A piece of the regulation requires operators to be certified, or tested to a national standard, by November 2014.

Robert Weiss, vice president of Queens, N.Y.-based Cranes Inc. and a member of OSHA's Cranes and Derrick Rulemaking Advisory Committee (C-DAC) that wrote much of the rule, says OSHA inserted language into the text of the rule that was not part of C-DAC’s original draft. The inserted language implies that if an individual is certified to operate a crane above a certain tonnage, he or she is “qualified” to operate all cranes below that tonnage.

“There was never any intention for certification to equal qualification,” Weiss says.

But Jim Maddux, the head of OSHA’s Construction Directorate and the meeting's chairman, was circumspect about OSHA’s intentions to change the rules. “We’re looking at all possibilities, which range from doing nothing to rule-making to a directive,” he said.

Another issue discussed was the requirement that accredited certification companies certify operators not only on the type of crane but also on the crane's capacity.

Graham Brent, executive director of the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, contends the type-and-capacity provision is problematic. Most crane certification companies don’t test for capacity, he says, adding that crane capacity would be just one of a number of criteria that could indicate a crane operator is qualified to perform a job.