Debbie Dickinson on the development of crane certification in the USA

30 October 2012

Part of the obstacle course used for testing during the Crane Operator Rodeo event held in Syracuse,

Part of the obstacle course used for testing during the Crane Operator Rodeo event held in Syracuse, New York, at the Empire Crane facility

Debbie Dickinson, executive director at Crane Institute of America Certification, speaks to Euan Youdale about the development of certification in the USA and how it impacts on the rest of world

IC: What is the latest certification legislation in the USA?

Dickinson: The OSHA 2014 requirements come into effect in 2014 from a federal standpoint. This was the biggest update in over 30 years from OSHA, which will require an accredited certification nationally recognised by NCCA or ANSI in the USA. However, there are state municipalities and major employers who have already adopted the 2014 requirements. CIC is certified by NCCA and has received a letter of preliminary approval from them, as we are being dually accredited.

IC: What does the new legislation cover?

Dickinson: The law requires certification by type and capacity – that is just one of the very important stipulations in this law. Machine type means mobile crane, tower crane, overhead crane and it also encompasses different equipment used in a manner that makes it function as one of the types of equipment covered by the regulation. The certification goes up in capacity breaks from 1 tonne all the way up, covering all the different equipment types. They look at that the operator’s card and say, ‘this operator is using a piece of equipment and it matches by type and matches by capacity’. The certification tests are built on a multi-point testing process that accesses the operator’s knowledge skills and abilities. The relevance of the questions, problems and the practical exam is determined by subject matter experts.

IC: Are you happy with the OSHA 2014 requirements?

Dickinson: We are happy with it. We did not know what a strong part of it type and capacity was going to be, but our subject matter experts had already determined the best way to access operator skills was by type and capacity, so when our first test became available to the market place in early 2008, they were by type and capacity, so we saw that and smiled. The regulation is a great step forward in defining the expectations for the industry, although I think there are still some points that we have questions around. Another point of alignment with OSHA is that from day one they agreed that if an operator proved competent on a higher capacity machine we would automatically certify them on lesser capacity machines. Again, we have done that since 2008, and that rule got written into law.

IC: How does OSHA develop new requirements?

Dickinson: At CIC, I report to a governing committee and advisory board entirely comprising subject matter experts in every equipment type and every field of the crane and rigging industry, as well as testing professionals who are members of the board. You don’t have one, two or three persons making decisions that are going to impact on thousands of candidates. You have agreement and all the decisions are made by committee as to what is relevant. We protect the actual exams, the process is very secure, but we also have to let the candidates know the domains and we supply outlines and sample questions. From the OSHA standpoint, there was a crane and derricks committee that met for years and they laboured – all volunteers. It works side-by-side with the OSHA officials, so the committee and the OSHA officials deserve a lot of credit. Is it perfect, is it crystal clear in every letter of the word, no, but what regulation is? Overall, they did a very good job.

IC: How is the industry reacting to the new regulations?

Dickinson: The major companies in the industry are jumping on the bandwagon now; they don’t want to wait until 2014 because that will create a bottleneck in the industry and they don’t want work to be slowed down. They don’t want to be looking at their best operators, riggers and crew members, and saying, ‘What, you are not certified – you are not OSHA compliant?’ I see this happening from an international standpoint as well, because a lot of companies , whether they are operating in the US or operating outside of the US, if they are a US-based company, they are putting these regulations and requirements in as a policy.

One of the OSHA requirements is that if operators took a test and were certified prior to the OSHA 2014 regulations, they must be recertified. Our business doubled last year and we are on track to come close to that mark this year. So we are very excited about that.

IC: Is there interest from other countries in the regulations?

Dickinson: The interest from other countries in US standards is increasingly significant. We have had enquires from Canada, Brazil and a lot of enquiries from India. We have been pretty surprised, but we are very pleased to see the interest growing. When people go about their business they have a job to get done. That’s not to say that one country values human life or quality of life more than another but people in all countries will push the envelope because of the pressures of a job. Let’s face it, this is not the most stellar economy in the world, so people feel the pressure, but when you have a regulation that makes safety at the forefront and they see the good business sense, then it becomes part of business decisions and planning.

We are also working on reciprocity agreements for other countries that have licensing and other crane certification requirements and ironing things out to make sure that our certification is recognised by other countries and, as reciprocity indicates, we recognise theirs where appropriate.

IC: What percentage of your business is outside the USA?

Dickinson: It’s a relatively low percentage but it is growing. At CIC, for example, we had some work with different US and UK-based companies in Venezuela. We had our exams translated into Spanish – we did this before the OSHA law came out and said that any operator may test in the language they speak. They do not have the same teeth as the federal law but I think it’s very encouraging that these companies are making an effort to have an assessment of knowledge, skills and ability. When people have a verified skill level, that makes jobs more productive, more efficient, more profitable and the greatest benefit of all is that we save lives and preserve the quality of lives.

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