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OSHA - Cranes and derricks in construction: Operator qualification

image Joann Natarajan, Compliance Assistance Specialist, OSHA, Austin, TX

AUSTIN - OSHA changed the regulation governing crane operator certification in construction. First, this final rule removes the requirement that crane operator certifications include the crane’s rated lifting capacity. The two testing organizations that have certified the majority of operators have issued certifications by “type” but not “capacity.” These certifications, therefore, would not have been valid without a change to the rule. OSHA has concluded that the capacity requirement for certification is not necessary to protect workers.

    OSHA is also making permanent the employer duty to ensure that operators are competent to operate the equipment safely. While certification ensures an objective baseline of general knowledge of crane operation, it does not ensure that operators know how to operate a particular crane for a specific task. For this reason, OSHA is revising the crane standard to preserve a requirement that employers assess the ability of their operators to run the cranes they will be using for the tasks to which they are assigned. This employer duty would have ceased to exist without this new rulemaking.


    An operator can meet OSHA’s certification requirements by obtaining certification from an accredited, third-party crane certification organization. An employer can also comply with OSHA’s standard by developing an employer-audited program and use this program to certify operators it employs. Finally, crane operators can meet OSHA’s certification requirements by obtaining a state or local crane operator license that meets OSHA’s requirements in those jurisdictions that issue crane operator’s licenses.

    In addition to ensuring that an operator is properly certified, an employer must also evaluate the operator to ensure that the operator has the skills, knowledge, and ability to recognize and avert risk to operate the equipment safely. This evaluation must be done by a person who has the knowledge, training, and experience necessary to assess operators. Once an operator has passed an evaluation on one piece of equipment, the employer may allow that operator to operate different equipment without further evaluation if the employer can demonstrate that operating that equipment would not require substantially different skills, knowledge or ability to recognize and avert risk. For example, an employer may evaluate an operator and determine that he or she has demonstrated the ability to safely operate a large crane in a relatively complex configuration. If the employer determines that the operator has the skills, knowledge, and ability to identify and avert risk necessary to safely operate a smaller crane of the same type and operating system, in a simpler configuration with a shorter boom, then the operator would not need to be re-evaluated (assuming that the tasks are similar).
natarajan.joann@dol.gov
512-374-0271 x232


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