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Photo Courtesy of Clear Sign & Design
Photo Courtesy of Clear Sign & Design

Crane Evaluation FAQs

What am I required to do under OSHA's new Evaluation requirement?
The Rule states that, effective February 7, 2019, an employer must conduct an evaluation of each operator to ensure he/she is qualified by a demonstration of (i) the skills and knowledge necessary to operate the equipment safely, and (ii) the ability to recognize and avert risks associated with the operation. An employer also must document these evaluations and maintain records of these evaluations.

My crane operators already have obtained a third party certification. Why is that certification not enough documentation for OSHA?
In OSHA's own words: "Just as an employee's driver's license does not guarantee the employee's ability to drive all vehicles safely in all conditions an employer may require, crane-operator certification alone does not ensure that an operator has sufficient knowledge and skill to safely use all equipment. The record makes clear that employers need to evaluate operators and provide training when needed to ensure that they can safely operate cranes in a variety of circumstances. Similarly, and also consistent with many employers' current practices, employer evaluation of a crane operator's experience and competency with respect to the particular equipment assigned is essential to ensuring the safe operation of cranes on construction sites. This final rule accordingly continues the common-sense requirements that employers train operators and assess their competence and ability to work safely."

I don't remember learning about Employer Evaluation when I first studied about Crane Operator Certification. Did I miss that part of the requirement?
Not necessarily. The "Cranes and Derricks in Construction" Rule was published in 2009 and required crane operator certification by a 2014 deadline. (That deadline later was extended until November 2014). During the interim period before operator certification took effect, OSHA required that employers evaluate the qualifications of their operators. But that requirement was intended as a temporary measure that would sunset after the operator certification deadline. In May 2018, OSHA revised this interim requirement and made it permanent. As such, OSHA inspectors are much more focused on employer compliance.

What does OSHA mean by "skills and knowledge"?
The skills and knowledge OSHA has identified include those specific to the safety devices, operational aids, and software the crane is equipped with. Most importantly, the evaluation must take into account the size and configuration of the crane he/she plans to operate including (but not limited to) the crane's lifting capacity, boom length, any attachments (such as a luffing jib), and counterweight set-up.

What else must the Evaluation consist of?
The Evaluation must also cover the operator's ability to perform the hoisting activities required for the work he/she is assigned, including, if applicable, blind lifts, personnel hoisting, and multi-crane lifts.

Can I just not go by OSHA's standard definition of a "qualified person"?
No. The Rule is very clear on this. OSHA states that the definition of "qualified" in §1926.32 does not apply here. In other words, possession of a certificate or degree cannot, by itself, qualify an operator to operate cranes.

Who can conduct the Evaluations?
They must be conducted by someone who has the "knowledge, training, and experience necessary" to assess equipment operators.

Can I delegate these Evaluations to someone else?
The evaluator must be an employee of yours or be acting as your agent. If you do delegate the evaluations to an agent you are still responsible for ensuring they are done correctly. Numerous third-party firms that offer crane operator training in preparation for the NCCCO or NCCER certification testing also offer evaluation services.

How long does an Evaluation take to complete?
It depends on the complexity of the equipment, the work tasks required by the company, and the skills of the operator. Several third-party firms suggest that an Evaluation can be completed at a rate of approximately one per hour, if the employee is able to demonstrate the required skills and knowledge on the first attempt.

How specific do the Evaluations have to be?
Once you have successfully evaluated an operator for the necessary skills and knowledge for the size and configuration of crane he/she plans to operate, you may allow that operator to operate other equipment that you can demonstrate does not require substantially different skills, knowledge, or ability to recognize and avert risk to operate.

Do I have to document the Evaluation?
Yes. The documentation must be available at the worksite and must include: the name of the operator and the evaluator; the date of the evaluation; and the make, model, and configuration of the crane used in the evaluation. The evaluator also has to sign it.

Do the evaluations I have already done count?
Yes, for operators employed prior to December 10, 2018, you may rely on your previous assessments in lieu of conducting a new evaluation of that operator's existing knowledge and skills. The documentation must note the date of the assessment and the make, model, and configuration of the crane on which it was done.

How often do I have to do these Evaluations?
Re-evaluations are required whenever you provide retraining to an operator. And you must retrain an operator whenever you believe it's necessary based on an operator's performance or an evaluation of the operator's knowledge. The re-evaluation need only focus on the area(s) which the retraining covered.