Photo courtesy of Howard I. Shapiro and Associates
OSHA intends to push back a looming crane operator certification deadline to give regulators time to review the 2010 regulation.

Crane operators may have three more years to pass exams while the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration considers reopening its regulation on cranes and derricks. Some safety experts say they are glad to see OSHA reviewing the rules; however, feelings are mixed over the proposed testing delay.

"Safety has now been sacrificed," says Robert Weiss, vice president of Maspeth, N.Y.-based Cranes Inc. "The delay is unfortunate, but hopefully we can now correct an inadvertent error."

In 2003, Weiss and 22 other experts formed the Cranes and Derricks Rulemaking Advisory Committee (C-DAC), which proposed a set of rules that OSHA folded into the regulation. "If OSHA had followed C-DAC's intent … then the original certification date could have been met," Weiss says.

Since the final rules were published in 2010, controversy ignited over a requirement for exams to test operators by type and capacity of crane by November 2014. Two testing agencies currently test by type and capacity, while two test only by type. As such, thousands of existing operator certifications would be rendered invalid in 2014. Another issue is the rule's implication that passing an exam qualifies an operator for work; qualification, some argue, should be at the employer's discretion.

OSHA wants to push back testing to allow regulators time to issue a new rule. The deadline would be Nov. 10, 2017.

"It is gratifying that OSHA appears to have responded … but it is unfortunate that OSHA took so long to realize that there was serious industry concern," says Graham Brent, executive director of the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, whose exams are organized only by crane type. "We'll continue to certify the way we are certifying until this issue is resolved."

Others disagree with OSHA's course. "It's time to sort fact from smoke screens," says Debbie Dickinson, executive director of Crane Institute Certification. "CIC was nationally accredited by type and capacity in 2008, two years prior to the regulation, because this structure has meaning and value to employers and operators."