If I am NCCCO certified do I still need crane operator training? This was the question I was asked today. And after yet another conversation with that customer, it is clear that there is still a lot of confusion about what the rule changes for mobile crane operators in the construction industry mean as far as crane training is concerned. In this day and age, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. But we will try.
Does NCCCO Certification Satisfy OSHA Training Requirements?
Short answer: No
Long answer: No, no, no.
NCCCO certification is simply a series of additional examinations. OSHA, on the other hand, still requires operators to be trained as to the principles of safe operations and as to the common hazards in their workplace (see 1926.21, training; OSHA Act of 1970, OSHA2254-training). To avoid further confusion and a barrage of the “he said/she said” finger-pointing, let’s use the words provided by the NCCCO as well.
In his 2014 press release, Tom Sicklesteel, the president of the NCCCO, clarified this further by saying “it’s just as important to remember that employers are still responsible for ensuring their operators are trained and competent to operate cranes.” Easy enough. You have to train.
But just in case, there is still confusion, the NCCCO states that “Although training is not required for NCCCO certification, NCCCO recognizes training as a key element in the certification process, and it encourages professional instruction in the knowledge and skills that define competency for those who work in and around cranes.” By “not required for NCCCO certification,” they mean training is not a prerequisite to take their examination. Anyone designated to operate a crane in construction can take their exam whether they’ve been trained or not. But, according to OSHA, that NCCCO certificate only means they passed the exam; that they knew the answers. It has no bearing on how safely they can operateo. For this reason, before they actually operate the crane OSHA requires they must receive training and be observed operating the machine safely.
Additional comments by the NCCCO: “The decision on whether or not to train your employees is one that OSHA, industry standards, and just plain good sense have already made for you as an employer.”
And finally: “To preserve its status as an independent, impartial testing authority, NCCCO does not offer training (and therefore does not count as training). Certification does, however, provide an objective means of verifying that training has been effective—that learning has, in fact, taken place. Key features of CCO certification programs are that they: actively encourage training, yet are separate from it; and that they verify that training has been effective”
As far as training goes, all crane operators, riggers, and signal persons must receive training and then be tested through a written or oral test and a practical test. These examinations must be documented.
Other Facts to Consider
Fact: NCCCO certification (under OSHA 1926.1400) covers only cranes in construction. For crane work in general industry, refer to OSHA 1910.180. There are no federal operator certification requirements at this moment in general industry. The same goes for maritime. However, operator training is still required.
Fact: the rule changes requiring mobile crane operators in the construction industry are not yet in effect federally. In many cases, they are still considered “proposed,” while the kinks are worked out. Technically, the law took effect in 2010. Because of the confusion it caused, among other things, the official federal adoption of the law was postponed until November 10, 2017. As it stands now, all crane applicable crane operators have until then to become NCCCO certified. But there is a good chance it will be postponed again or redefined to make it more clear and more relevant.
Fact: Yes, some states and some larger cities have take it upon themselves to adopt it already, thus requiring their construction crane operators to become NCCCO certified. Here is an updated list.
Fact: The standard defines a crane as “power-operated equipment that, when used in construction, can hoist, lower, and horizontally move a suspended load.” So what about excavators, telehandlers, or other equipment that may be used to lift a load but that was not designed as a crane? The NCCCO states, “OSHA has excluded many lifting devices, among them: excavators, backhoes (even when used to lift suspended loads), concrete pumps, aerial lifts, tow trucks, digger derricks, gantry systems, and forklifts. All tree trimming and tree removal work is also excluded.”
Fact: Not all articulated cranes used around construction are considered in the construction industry. The NCCCO states that, “When used purely to deliver materials, articulating/knuckle boom truck cranes are excluded. However, when they are used to hold, support, or stabilize material to facilitate a construction activity, or they are handling prefabricated components (such as roof trusses or wall panels) or structural steel, they are covered by the new rule.” Confused still? You are not alone. Check out the NCCCO Articulating Crane Operator Certification Requirement flowchart for guidance on whether certification is required for your particular job.
Fact: Riggers and Signalers do not need to be NCCCO certified. They, instead, simply need to be trained and qualified by a competent person, or what is often called a qualified evaluator. According to OSHA, this means someone who has demonstrated they are competent enough to accurately assess the crane operators and riggers and signalers. It is the employer’s responsibility to designate someone as competent or qualified enough to train and assess crane operators and rigger signalers.
Fact: Furthermore, according to the NCCCO, a qualified rigger is defined as a “qualified person” who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated the ability to solve and resolve problems relating to rigging.”
Fact: According the the NCCCO, “OSHA does not require trainers to be accredited to teach rigger or signal person training.” The trainer can and should be appointed by the employer. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure the trainer is competent in the material being presented. This is why so many companies hire our master trainers and master riggers to do the training or use the rigger signal person training kits or rigger signal person training online course built by them.