Courtesy Howard I. Shapiro and Associates
Operators will now have until Nov. 2017 to obtain a valid certification to run a crane on U.S. construction sites.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued a final rule extending by three years the deadline for crane operators to be tested. Operators will now have until Nov. 10, 2017, to obtain a valid certification to run a crane on U.S. construction sites.

Previously, operators had until Nov. 10 of this year to obtain certification. In its decision, OSHA also gives employers three more years to ensure that operators are competent to run a crane safely.

Industry groups pushed back on parts of OSHA’s original cranes and derricks rule, published in August 2010. Some experts raised concerns about language in the rule requiring tests to be organized around the type and capacity of crane.

Also at issue was whether certification—passing a standardized test—was enough for employers to determine competency. Some industry experts argued that such a decision should be left to the employer.

Non-Compliant Tests

The agency received more than 60 comments on its Feb. 10 proposal to extend the deadline. Many experts raised questions over the validity of existing certifications, and OSHA concluded that two of the four nationally-accredited examiners—namely, a testing arm of the operating engineers' union and The National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators—were out of compliance with the existing rule because they only tested to the type of crane and not capacity.

“As a result, those certifications do not meet the standard’s requirements and operators who obtained certifications only from those organizations cannot, under OSHA’s cranes standard, operate cranes on construction sites after November 10, 2014,” says OSHA in the final rule ordering the delay. “Some stakeholders in the crane industry requested that OSHA remove the capacity requirement.”

Out of a total pool of 117,130 operators, OSHA estimates that 71,700 are certified to type only while some 15,000 operators today are certified to type and capacity—compliant with the existing rule. Further, the agency estimates that 30,430 operators remain without certification in the U.S.

During the delay period, OSHA says it plans to make “a more thorough examination” of its testing requirements for crane operators and decide whether or not to draft a new rule.