With a new cranes and derricks regulation published in 2010, officials at the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration may be glad to know that crane operator exams are now covering this material more vigorously than in the past.

Last week, I took a recertification exam for tower crane operators. My certification, which is valid for five years, was set to expire at the end of this month. The exam, which is now administered on a computer, consisted of 30 questions, and I had 45 minutes to finish them.


During my studies in the days leading up to the exam, I figured that the test would have more updated material since I took the main exam in 2008. As such, the three reference materials I used were the OSHA 1926 Subpart CC rules, the ASME B30.3-2012 standard for tower cranes and the Tower Crane Reference Manual, published by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators.


Even though I thought I had studied well enough for the exam, I found the level of detail covering the new OSHA rules to be challenging. Very specific questions discussing procedures for spotters and signalpersons, for example, took me by surprise. And in a moment of head-scratching text anxiety, I'm pretty sure I failed a tricky question covering what OSHA says about the minimum number of wraps around a hoist drum (two according to OSHA but three according to ASME).


Now, I can't tell you for certain which questions I got right or wrong because the computer-based test only gives you a composite score. The nice thing about CBTs, though, is instant gratification:  It took me about 20 minutes to take the test, and before I left the test center, I was handed a paper showing a score of 90%. (Candidates need to score at least 70% to pass.) 


Whether or not you plan to take any accredited exam covering crane operations, signaliing, rigging or the like, I would advise keeping abreast of the new OSHA rules. Read them and know them—they may help you pass a test, or better yet, save a life.