If a certification card is going to represent the credentials an individual needs to show that he or she is qualified, Brent says, “the current certification process can’t do that" because the tests are geared differently.

“You can’t characterize certification like that with the stoke of a pen without changing the way that testing is done,” he adds. For example, NCCCO, the oldest crane-certifying organization in the U.S., currently tests on type but not on capacity.

Others in the industry concur, saying that testing for capacity is an “arbitrary” criterion. The International Union of Operating Engineer’s (IUOE) General President James Callahan said in an emailed statement, “The IUOE has requested that OSHA issue a direct final rule that an operator who is certified on a type of crane may operate all cranes of that type regardless of capacity. There is no evidence that safety will be enhanced by the arbitrary selection of capacity bands, and separate certifications for different capacities of the same crane type are both cost prohibitive and not feasible to simulate in practical certification testing.”

Contractors note that advanced training usually follows certification. Chuck Cook, safety director of Richmond, Va.-based W.O. Grubb, said that his firm documents in writing that operators are qualified to operate the specific types of cranes they are expected to use.

“Certification gives you the general knowledge to run a crane, but it is up to the employer to determine what individual employees can do,” Cook said. He adds that W.O. Grubb would have to spend about $254,000 per employee in the capacity language as retained. “This is a huge burden on any company,” he said.

However, others in the industry think the rule should stand. Debbie Dickinson, executive director of the Crane Institute Certification, an accredited testing agency that has been in existence since 2007, says her organization made a conscious effort to gear its tests around type and capacity so the institute would comply with the OSHA rule.

“We knew there were some areas where we needed to make some adjustments to say, unquestionably, we’d be in compliance,” Dickinson says.

Operator certification is a “professional credential” that should be seen as such, Dickinson adds. Individuals who have been tested on higher-capacity machines “have demonstrated a higher level of knowledge, skill and ability than people who [have been] tested out on lower-capacity machines. Is there a difference? Sure there is. Is it the end-all? Of course not.”

This article was updated from a previous version at 6:30 PM EST on April 9.