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New Crane Laws: Confusion and the NCCCO

New Crane Laws: Confusion and the NCCCO

Take this for what it’s worth: I’m all for safety, but I am not all for the new crane laws. Simply put, we are putting too much faith in an exam, thereby diminishing the value of training. To make it clear, contrary to popular belief, 1926.1427 certification is just an exam and, yes, while it will be accepted as proof of training in terms of hiring operators, don’t for one second think it will be accepted as sufficient proof of training in the event of an accident. The OSHA Act, OSHA 29 CFR 1926.20-21, other federal and state standards, and even the NCCCO require and recognize the need for initial and on-going crane training in addition to the additional crane certification exams.

In light of that, here is an email written to a customer who, like so many before him, was confused by the new crane laws:

Good to hear from you. The crane laws are getting extremely confusing for companies, aren’t they?

The Crane Law:

In answer to your question, the simple answer is our programs don’t fall under any of those options. Of course, it’s more complicated than that. Here are a few things we explain to our customers:

  1. The alignment date for and official adoption of 1926.1427 as it now stands have been postponed until Nov. 10, 2017. The reason for this is there is a lot of confusion. They will most likely be doing away with the “by capacity” requirement and further clarifying the confusion surrounding “certification,” “qualification,” who can certify, etc., etc.
  2. That said, some states and/or cities have already adopted as part of their state program (Washington, New York, etc.)
  3. Interesting to note, even though New York adopted it a couple years back, they are on track to have their most fatal year yet regarding crane accidents. Personally, I don’t think the new crane law is going to change much in terms of the safety culture and points 4, 5 and 6 address why.
  4. The proposed certification under 1926.1427 only consists of two exams (a written and a practical exam), and these exams must be administered by an accredited agency (NCCER, NCCCO, CIC, etc.). We were accredited to administer the exams for a while, but we opted out after a year because we did not like the lack of control we had. In essence, we were there to simply sit operators down in front of a computer to take the test and proctor the exam.
  5. The test consists of a number of questions pulled at random from a large pool of them, and neither we nor the test-taker were allowed to know what questions they missed. It was frustrating for us because we wanted to be able to help the operators and train them in terms of the principles they did not understand, so they could, in fact, become safer on the job.
  6. To try and avoid this, a lot of companies look at option 2 as a possibility, but even option 2 is somewhat misleading because for an employer to have their own program approved, they will need to send an employee to become accredited by the NCCER or NCCCO so they can administer the exams on a computer like we did. It is a long, complex, and somewhat expensive accreditation program.

So where does our training fit in?:

The simple answer is our materials (training kits and/or online courses for crane operators) should still be used for training. The law does consists of only an exam. Training still needs to take place, and it is still the employer’s responsibility. More specifically, here are a few things that are causing confusion and our response to them:

  1. As mentioned, the proposed certification law only consists of an exam, and not training. So training still needs to happen and employers are still responsible for training their employees.
  2. A lot of confusion arises from this statement on “NCCCO certification programs are specifically built around the ASME/ANSI B30 crane standards and OSHA’s crane regulations. OSHA has officially recognized NCCCO programs as meeting its requirements for crane operator qualification and will accept CCO certification as proof of training.” And this statement by the NCCCO only adds to the confusion:  “Further, OSHA requires all operators of equipment be trained in their safe use. CCO certification can serve as an effective, legally-defensible verification of that training.”
  3. I say it adds to the confusion because in that same section the NCCCO adds this: “Although training is not required for 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.”
  4. They also go on to say: “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. How to provide that training, however, requires a careful evaluation of your company’s resources and a thorough review of the options available” and “With a curriculum and reference sources in hand, how do you then go about identifying a source of training? Among the first questions you’ll want to ask is: Do I have the resources to develop and teach an in-house program, or would I be better off hiring a professional trainer?” … “The commitment necessary to develop an in-house crane operator training program can be formidable; it takes time, funding, and expertise. Once established, however, an in-house program allows scheduling of employees for training to be done entirely at your convenience. Using some of the crane-specific textbooks and audio-visual materials now available can accelerate the process. Some training firms also offer “train-the-trainer” courses that include tutoring in teaching techniques, as well as materials that may be used as the basis of your in-house program.”
  5. Also, 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”.
  6. On top of all that, you have the OSH Act of 1970, OSHA 29 CFR 1926.20-21, specifically 21(b)2 and other federal OSHA Requirements that specifically require on-going training and put the sole responsibility to train employees on the employer. These are the “catch-all” for OSHA, and they will fall back on them to cite a company in the event of an accident.

So our materials are for the purpose of on-going training and not NCCCO certification–because the 1926.1427 certification is just an exam and, contrary to popular belief, it will be accepted as proof of training in terms of hiring operators but very rarely will it be accepted as sufficient proof of training in case of an accident. Any one of those New York crane accidents this year is proof of that. Those operators had their NCCCO certification but fines are being levied by OSHA still because the operators had not been initially and continually trained in regards to their job and the potential hazards.

The bottom line is, if OSHA comes in to investigate an accident, employers have to be able to prove they trained their employees and show exactly what topics were covered during the training (eg, by way of furnishing a copy of the training outline and employee’s exams/scores). Sa
ying an employee knew better because he passed an exam alone will not be enough.

Phew! I hope that helps. It’s a lot of information and hard to explain to companies. Between me and you, I am somewhat concerned for the crane industry because the new crane laws have only caused more confusion, because it is a significant added expense for companies, because I don’t see the exams as being beneficial long-term (I’ve seen poor operators pass them and great operators fail them), and because I am seeing a lot of employers justify not training anymore, believing that the “certification exams” will be enough.

Whether you use us, another 3rd party, or do the training yourself, it’s extremely important you still train your employees regarding crane and rigger/signalman operations. If interested, we do make all of our training materials available on CD, on USB or via download. That way companies can easily and cost-effectively train their own employees in-house. The kits retail for $395, but I’d be happy to offer a discount if needed. We also offer online courses which can be a great way to supplement your in-house program or train remote employees, new hires, or for refresher training purposes.

As always, don’t hesitate to call or email with questions. If I don’t have the answers, I’ll do my best to find them.