Proponents of a new
standardized test for tower crane operators hope to advance
industry safety and accountability in the midst of a controversial,
national push for certification in the U.S.
The National Commission for the
Certification of Crane Operators unveiled its test Sept. 25
at its rigging conference in Chicago hosted by Specialized
Carriers and Rigging Association, Fairfax, Va. The test follows
an older mobile crane program and includes a 50-ques- tion
written exam. A second, hands-on exam lasts an hour.
Kinser says tests increase public safety. (Photo by Tudor
Hampton for ENR)
Fairfax, Va.-based CCO spent a
year and $50,000 to create the exams. Operators will pay between
$100 and $225 to take them, depending on their existing certification
status. Free course materials are available online at www.nccco.org.
"It is incumbent upon owners
to make sure that when operators get into a crane, they can
operate it," says Phillip R. Kinser, CCOs manager
of program development. "The test should determine whether
the operator is qualified or not." The crane exam "is
an excellent program," says Bill Smith, safety director
of Maxim Crane Works, Pittsburgh.
Some say the test is unfair. Operators
can qualify on a self-erecting crane, where they sit near
the ground and look up, or a hammerhead crane, where they
sit high and look down. Robert Hileman, president of Baltimore-based
United Crane and Rigging Co., asks, "are we passing them
on the self-erector because we cant find enough hammerhead
cranes to do the tests?"
Kinser agrees that crane availability
is a problem, but claims the basic job function is the same.
There are about 1,000 tower cranes in the U.S., but many more
mobile cranes, he says.
CCO, a nonprofit organization,
says it has received strong industry support despite some
employers who question the need for exams to be independently
audited (ENR 8/2 p. 18). The U.S. Occupational Health and
Safety Administration is studying the economic impact of certification.
If OSHA decides to mandate it in a new crane and derrick rule,
regulators say they may leave the door open for various testing.
Some states are moving ahead on
their own. California has mandated that all 20,000 mobile
and tower crane operators in the state be certified by an
independent testing organization by June 2005 and has approved
CCOs programs. "Its a little overwhelming,"
says Larry McCune, Cal/OSHA principal safety engineer. The
state currently has only 30 volunteers to administer thousands
of hours of practical exams. Several other organizations now
are applying for accreditation, McCune says.