Whoa! First things first…

Don’t just jump into that crane and start driving! OSHA 1926.1427: Operator Qualifications and Certifications says that employers must ensure that operators are qualified or certified before operating any equipment.

So how do I get legit?

You have three options for getting certified.

Option #1: Certification by an accredited crane operator testing organization. Accredited organizations get their bona fides from a national accrediting agency, which makes sure their written testing materials, practical examinations, test administration, grading, facilities/equipment and personnel are up to snuff. Get out your #2 pencil, because you’ll have both a written and practical test to make sure you know how to safely operate specific types of equipment: controls and operational performance characteristics, how to calculate load capacity on a variety of configurations, procedures for preventing and responding to power line contact, and the technical know-how for your specific equipment.

Option #2: Certification through an audited employer program. In this scenario, an accredited crane operator testing organization still develops the written and practical exams which test the same elements mentioned above (Darn! No shortcut!). The auditor also must be certified to evaluate tests by an accredited crane operating testing organization (those guys again!) and cannot be an employee of the company needing the certification. The audit must follow nationally recognized auditing standards.

 Uh-oh! If the auditor finds a deficiency in the program, the employer gets a big to-do list before anyone from the company can get certified. Here’s what the employer needs to do:

  • Fix It—no operator can be qualified until the auditor gives the A-OK and confirms that the deficiency has been corrected.
  • Schedule a Do-Over—the program must be audited again within 180 days of the confirmation that the deficiency has been corrected.
  • Report It—the auditor files a documented report of the deficiency to the regional OSHA office within 15 days of the deficiency.
  • Keep It—the employer keeps records of the audits for three years and makes them available upon request.

Option #3: Certification through the U.S. military. An operator who is an employee of the U.S. military is considered qualified if they have current operator qualification issued by the military for operation of the equipment. (Finally, a shortcut!)

What about rigger regulations?

Actually, there aren’t any that specifically address the standards that make a rigger qualified. It’s up to the employer to qualify their employees. That means riggers must be trained to understand and recognize hazards associated with the task at hand. They must be qualified to do assigned work and comply with proper procedures.

What could go wrong?

Quite a lot, it turns out. That’s why worker safety is super important when performing rigging tasks. Riggers should be able to anticipate problems before they occur and stop the job whenever any unsafe conditions are present. Improper rigging of a load or a rigging failure can expose riggers and other workers nearby to lots of potential hazards, including injury and death.

Keepin’ it all straight

Riggers have to think about the cranes, too. They have to be aware of the surface conditions where a crane is operating. Here are some details riggers need to pay attention to:

  • The surface level should be 1% grade and firm enough to support the crane and load.
  • Pay attention to where the load will be set, remove unnecessary blocks, equipment or other materials that can injure workers if struck by the load.

Plus, riggers should be familiar with the various and correct rigging techniques and equipment, including slings, shackles, hooks, hoists, and blocks. They must be aware of the weight of the loads they are working with and understand the rated capacities of the crane and any rigging gear.

The following topics should be discussed with riggers prior to operation:

  • Hazards associated with rigging operations;
  • Role and responsibility of each rigger;
  • Weight of the material and equipment being hoisted;
  • Lifting limitations of gear and hoisting devices;
  • Proper communication by all personnel; and
  • Disconnecting techniques used to complete the task.

These topics along with how to prevent damage to lifting gear, lifting equipment, vessel components, and other loads are critical information that should be discussed prior to rigging operations. Got all that?

Whew! That’s a lot of info. Can I get a recap?

Because the use of cranes and rigging equipment on construction sites is common, it’s easy to forget about the hazards associated with them. That’s where employers have to take the lead and make sure their operators are certified and know their responsibilities. And even though riggers don’t have to be qualified by an outside agency, employers need to make sure that their riggers fully understand what’s expected of them prior to operation—lives depend on it! Ignoring proper training can mean setbacks, including destroying the load, voiding a warranty, destroying whatever is below the load, and possibly fatally injuring any employees working below a load.