Roughly eight years after the original promulgation of the final standard 29 CFR part 1926, Subpart CC – Cranes and Derricks in Construction, OSHA finally revises the requirements for operator certification. In August 2010 OSHA issued the final cranes and derricks in construction standard. As part of that standard, crane operators were required to either be certified or qualified (depending on the option elected by an employer) by November 10, 2014. 29 C.F.R. § 1926.1427(k). On February 10, 2014, OSHA proposed a three-year extension to the operator certification deadline until November 10, 2017 and requested public comment. The extension was due, in part; to issues pertaining to the requirements in the standard addressing crane operator certification that arose shortly after OSHA issued the final rule. After the final standard was issued, OSHA took the position that an operator is qualified to operate a particular piece of equipment if the operator is certified for that type and capacity of equipment or for higher-capacity equipment of that type. Therefore, an operator certified to operate a 100-ton hydraulic crane may operate a 50-ton hydraulic crane but not a 200-ton hydraulic crane.

This interpretation created significant concern for many industry representatives, including employers and unions, and firms that offer crane operator training. In November 2012, International Union of Operating Engineers (“IUOE”) petitioned OSHA to reverse its interpretation and to amend the “Capacity and Type” language in 1926.1427(b)(1)(ii)(B) and 1926.1427(b)(1).

In response to these industry concerns and ACCSH’s recommendation that the Agency delay implementation of the operator certification deadline OSHA issued a three-year extension for operator certification from November 10, 2014 to November 10, 2017, which was further delayed by a year in August 2017 to November 10, 2018 while the agency gathered additional public input on the issue.

In May of this year OSHA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NRPM) to update the cranes and derricks in construction standard seeking to revise the operator certification requirements in several major respects.  In the NPRM OSHA proposed to amend 29 CFR 1926 subpart CC by revising sections that address crane operator training, certification/licensing, and competency. OSHA sought to clarify training requirements for operators; to remove certification-by-capacity from certification requirements and to extend an employer’s duty to evaluate operators for their ability to safely operate equipment.

On November 9, 2018 OSHA issued a final rule revising the Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard addressing operator qualifications and certification. The final rule is effective on December 10, 2018, except the amendments to 29 CFR 1926.1427(a) and (f) (evaluation and documentation requirements), become effective February 7, 2019.

Evaluation of Operators

In some respects the final rule undermines the intention of the initial negotiated rulemaking committee, C-DAC. It was C-DAC’s intention that certification was a definitive means of ensuring that operators were properly trained and competent to safely operate equipment covered by the standard. The standard as revised requires employers to continue to evaluate an operator’s skill and competency to operate equipment safely. According to OSHA,

The certification provides an independent assessment of general baseline knowledge and skill and the employer evaluation focuses on specific knowledge and skills needed for the safe operation of particular equipment for particular tasks.

Similar to the proposed standard, the final standard is written in performance oriented language and does not establish what specific skills must be assessed but provides a list of performance-based criteria that employers must evaluate an operator’s skills and knowledge, such as safety devices, operational aids, software and lifting capacity, boom length, attachments, counter weight set up.  While the individual evaluating the operator does not need to be certified or have previous experience as an operator, the evaluator must have the knowledge, training and experience necessary to conduct the evaluation. The evaluation must be documented and maintained while the operator is employed by an employer.

Certification by Capacity of Crane

The final rule eliminates any requirement that operator certification be based on the lifting capacity of the crane. The final standard permits accredited testing organizations to certify operators based on the type of crane or based on the type and capacity of the crane.  According to OSHA,

The ‘type, or type and capacity’ language was requested by Crane Institute Certification and recommended by ACCSH…The language has been included in the final rule to make clear that while all certifying bodies must certify by type of crane for their certifications to meet OSHA’s requirements, testing organizations may also choose to specify for their certifications different levels of rated lifting capacity of cranes.

The final rule is effective on December 10, 2018, except the amendments to 29 CFR 1926.1427(a) and (f) (evaluation and documentation requirements), become effective February 7, 2019.