European industry association ESTA’s plans to develop a European Crane Operator Licence (ECOL) have received strong support from experts and members in Norway following the latest fact-finding visit.

ECOL is being created by ESTA – the European Association for Abnormal Road Transport and Mobile Cranes – with financial support from the European Erasmus+ programme that backs education, training and lifelong learning with the aim of boosting economic competitiveness.

The ECOL Working Group now plans to meet industry experts in Poland and Spain as the project gathers pace. ESTA has already had what were described as “extremely positive” meetings in Germany and the Netherlands.

The updates were revealed following the latest meeting of the ECOL Working Group in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on 1 June.

In addition to the fact-finding trips, ESTA will submit a new report by the end of the month to trigger the next tranche of European Erasmus+ funding and is considering offers from companies to devise the certification system for the authorised examining bodies.

Haydn Steele is safety and training manager at UK ESTA member, the Construction Plant-hire Association, and one of the experts driving the project. Steele commented, “We are continuing to make very good progress, and we have had positive and constructive support from all the national groups we have spoken to.”

Next steps include setting up the ECOL Foundation to oversee the future running of the whole project. ESTA plans to have the ECOL Foundation in place in the first half of 2017.

The foundation will supervise and monitor the system of education, examination and maintenance. It will set the criteria for becoming an ECOL-educator and for becoming an ECOL-examination institution in this field. Only when an organisation is ‘ECOL-approved' will it be able to train and test operators for the ECOL licence and have use of the ECOL logo.

The meetings with national experts focus on the scheme’s learning outcomes – that is to say, what the operator needs to know – and the training plan, a framework which sets out how those outcomes will be delivered.

The European licence will supplement, rather than supersede, existing national qualifications and is likely to be set at a higher qualification level than currently exists in many member states, thereby countering the fear amongst some in the industry that ECOL could become a “lowest common denominator” qualification.

ESTA will draw on the experiences of similar initiatives in the USA and Australia, organised by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) and the Crane Industry Council of Australia (CICA).

Steele added, “Having everybody trained to the same benchmark will lead to higher standards, improve site safety and boost employment opportunities for qualified operators.”

ESTA said the licence will reduce training and education costs and help make the European crane industry more competitive in global markets.

Members of the ECOL Working Group are: Ton Klijn, ESTA secretary; Giovanni Pauwels, Comokra; Lion Verhagen, VVT; Philip Grootenboer, Mammoet Europe; Haydn Steele, CPA; Jörg Senn, ASTAG; Jochen Genausch, BSK; Christoph Behmueller, Liebherr and FEM; Pia Metsola, Finnish Crane Association and INFRA; René van der Steen, Vakvereniging Het Zwarte Corps; Alexandre-Jacques Vernazza, UFL; Kim Hvolbøl, The Danish Crane Association; and Knut Nordås, Norwegian Crane Association.

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