OSHA recently announced that it would extend deadline for implementing its crane operator certification rule requiring  employers to ensure that crane operators are certified until November 10, 2017. OSHA is also extending the employers’ duty to ensure that crane operators are competent to operate a crane safely for the same period.

Currently OSHA requires employers to ensure that their crane operators are certified by one of four means:

  • Option 1. Certification by an independent nationally accredited testing organization
  • Option 2. Qualification by an independently audited employer’s program
  • Option 3. Qualification by the U.S. military
  • Option 4. Compliance with qualifying state or local licensing requirements

OSHA’s extension decision was based on the following factors.

  1. Inputs from concerned parties indicated that the proposed certifications wouldn’t guarantee that crane operators could operate their equipment safely at a construction site. They said that certified operators would need additional training, experience, and evaluation to ensure that they could operate a crane safely.
  2.  OSHA also received information that half of the accredited testing organizations were issuing certifications based only on the type of crane, instead of offering different certifications by type and capacity of crane, as required by the standard.
  3. The majority of participants in review forums said that an operator’s certification by an accredited testing organization didn’t mean that an operator was fully competent to operate a crane safely on a construction work site, and compared it to a new automobile driver’s license, or a beginner’s permit. Stakeholders recognized that an operator certification was beneficial in establishing a minimum threshold of operator knowledge and familiarity with cranes.
  4. Many participants supported OSHAs’ proposed extension saying, “While operator certification offers important safety benefits, most current certifications lack the inclusion of the capacity factor and therefore wouldn’t comply with the final standard”. They also said that the confusion about the acceptability of certifications currently being issued and the difficulty, or even impossibility, of many crane operators getting a valid certification by November 2014, justifies the extension.

During the three-year extension period, OSHA will address operator qualification including the standards for crane operator certification. OSHA has already begun the process of developing a standard to ensure crane operator qualifications.

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