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OSHA's crane operator certification requirements will take effect Nov. 10

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) crane operator certification requirements, first proposed in 2010, are set to take effect Nov. 10. The agency has made final a May 2018 proposed rule modifying the original requirements.

The OSHA rule now describes crane operator qualification as a three-step process. An operator must:

  • Be trained to perform the crane activities
  • Be certified/licensed in accordance with subpart CC of the construction regulations
  • Be evaluated by the employer regarding competency to safely operate the equipment used


The final rule continues the operator training provisions of Subpart CC.


The original proposed rule contained—as a main operator certification option—the requirement that operators be certified by the type of crane in addition to the crane's lifting capacity. However, two of the four crane operator testing organizations do not offer certifications based on capacity, so OSHA delayed implementation of the rule to resolve regulatory language related to that issue.

In May, OSHA proposed a new rulemaking to address the capacity issue, along with requirements for employer evaluations of operators, among other revisions. With the release of this final rule, OSHA has removed the requirement for operators to be certified by type and capacity and is allowing certification by crane type only (although certifications by type and capacity are fully compliant). This provision of the rule will take effect Dec. 9. OSHA issued Interim Compliance Guidance with the final rule, stating until the effective date of the new rule, OSHA will accept operator certifications issued by type only, or by type and capacity.

OSHA denied further extending the time for employers to comply with the certification requirements, which contains specific provisions that have just now been made definitive, stating: "Employers have had ample notice since 2010 that certification requirements were going to go into effect." The rule is silent regarding any grace period for current operators who do not have any formal certification. The language of the final rule indicates those operators are ineligible to operate a crane as of Nov. 10. NRCA is seeking clarification from OSHA regarding the status of those operators.


Regarding the employer evaluation of operators (the third step of the operator qualification), OSHA sets out specific evaluation criteria, minimum qualifications for the person conducting the evaluation, documentation and re-evaluation requirements. The revised rule retains the performance-based character of the previous proposed evaluation requirements but clarifies that the operator must possess the necessary skills and knowledge, as well as the ability to recognize and avert risk to operate the equipment safely. Such skills, knowledge and abilities must be relevant to the piece of equipment that will be operated.

The rule allows employers to rely on "previous assessments of the operator in lieu of conducting a new evaluation." So, if an employer has evaluated a certified operator before the new rule took effect based on the listed abilities, a new evaluation is not required.

The requirements related to evaluations take effect Feb. 7, 2019.


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