Most of you who read this will be familiar with the draft proposed recently by OSHA regarding crane operator qualification which would replace the original wording of the 1926 (subpart CC) section 1427. This is the section where the operator certification and qualification requirements are covered. You can go to https://www.osha.gov/doc/accsh/accshcrane.pdf to read the entire proposed draft.
In a nutshell, the draft was a rewrite of what qualifies and/or certifies an equipment operator, which includes a variety of crane types. In particular, the draft as written would require an extensive annual evaluation of the operator and require that the operator attend a very strenuous training program. The 'proposed draft' changed the current wording which states that operators are to be "certified by type and capacity of equipment" to "operators are to be certified by type of equipment."
As you might expect, there was an adverse reaction to this proposed draft, especially by employers of crane and equipment operators, since an annual evaluation of each operator would be extremely time-consuming and costly. Personally, I was not surprised by this proposed draft. I knew change was coming when OSHA extended the operator certification date because of the opposition of certain groups over operators having to be certified by type and capacity. Also, it was pretty obvious that OSHA had given serious thought to the subject of cranes, particularly to personnel who operate them, that certification did not equal qualification and there should be a greater emphasis on operator training, assessment and evaluation.
OSHA scheduled an ACCSH (Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health) meeting on March 2, to discuss the proposed draft. ACCSH is a 15-member advisory body that provides advice and assistance in construction and policy matters to the assistant secretary. ACCSH meetings are open to the public and are announced in the Federal Register. As you would expect, the room was full. CIC was represented by Tony Brown, Jeff Dudley, Pete Walsh and myself. Tony and I signed up to be speakers. When it came our time to speak, Tony and I both recommended to the ACCSH committee that the language requiring operators to be certified by type and capacity should remain in the regulation. We made this recommendation based on the following reasoning: half of the four accredited certification organizations (NCCER and CIC) developed their certification programs by type and capacity because OSHA said that would be the requirement. It just would not be fair to these organizations to change the original requirement for certification which was by type and capacity and force them to change their programs. That would not only be unfair, it defies common sense!
Tony and I both understand there are operators that have certifications which are based on type only. Requiring them to be certified by type and capacity would cause them to be disenfranchised. Therefore, we recommended to the ACCSH committee that not only should type and capacity be left in the regulation, but the regulation should also allow operators to be certified by type. The standard would ultimately read that operators of equipment be certified by type and capacity or by type. We felt like this would satisfy all of the certification organizations and would be fair to all of them as well.
The next day, the ACCSH committee recommended by motion several things to OSHA. First, that OSHA needs to rework the operator evaluation and re-evaluation language and that type and capacity be put back into the rewrite of 1427. This would result in operators having the choice of being certified by type and capacity or by type only. ACCSH also recommended that OSHA clarify whether a trainer be certified or certified and qualified and that OSHA develop some reasonable definition of who the controlling contractor would be on the job site.
I've always been a little skeptical of OSHA and its control in the workplace. However, after attending the ACCSH meeting I have a lot more respect for OSHA and what it does to protect workers. I was also very pleased with the meeting and have great admiration for the members of the ACCSH committee. Some of these members might not have even known what a crane was when the meeting first started, but they came up to speed very quickly and were very astute to the issues being presented. They made appropriate motions and recommendations to OSHA regarding the most important points of the proposed draft.
So this is what we can be assured of: OSHA is going to require that operators be evaluated on a periodic basis with signed documentation by an evaluator. There will be more stringent training requirements which will have to be documented along with the periodic evaluations. In other words, people will have to attend more of a professional type training program which covers the topics outlined in the proposed draft. It was also expressed that OSHA would like to get all of this done by year's end. So now we just have to wait for OSHA to do their work and present another rewrite of what was previously proposed. It will then have to go through the process and hopefully by year's end all of this can be done and this certification issue can be put to bed, and the industry can move forward in a direction that would help more men and women go home safely at the end of the work day.
President & CEO
Crane Institute of America, LLC.