Safety and responsibility go hand in hand. While regulations can spell out what should be done, the implementation depends on the people responsible for carrying out the requirements and monitoring the results. In keeping with that, the NCCCO (National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators) plans to remove the physical (medical) evaluation requirement for candidates for its certification exams. The change is effective Jan. 1, 2020 and applies to all NCCCO operator certifications.
The decision was taken because the physical demands placed on a certified crane operator change according to such factors as the type and configuration of the crane and the environment it is working in, facts known only to the employer rather than the certification body.
This change doesn’t minimize the importance of seeing that an operator is physically qualified, since physical examinations are a critical part of qualifying an operator. Certifications are based on crane type; physical requirements are based on the specific crane to be operated and can be materially different for various cranes even within the same crane type.
Employers are required to qualify their crane operators by determining whether they are able to operate the specific crane they will work on, perform the type of work they will be assigned, and address any accommodations that may or may not be provided. Certification bodies simply cannot know this information and so are not able to determine whether or not an operator is physically qualified.
Beyond the applicability of the physical qualification, the ASME B30.5 standard requires physical examinations to be done more frequently than the established recertification schedules. And due to privacy and legal concerns, physical qualifications are not portable between employers.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Admin.) requires employers to conduct evaluations of all operators in the context of the equipment they will use and the work they will be doing. Therefore the employer can also best make the determination of each operator’s physical abilities. The role of certification is to demonstrate a baseline level of knowledge and skill necessary to operate equipment safely, as well as the ability to recognize and avert risks associated with the operation. OSHA requires that the certification-issuing entity (in this case, NCCCO) be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency (ANSI or NCCA) so as to be sure that industry-recognized criteria for written testing materials, practical examinations, test administration, grading, facilities/equipment, and personnel have been met.
By OSHA rules, the employer’s evaluation must take into account the size and configuration of the crane the operator plans to operate, including (but not limited to) the crane’s lifting capacity, boom length, any attachments (such as a luffing jib), and counterweight set-up, which are factors that are not relevant to the operator’s certification. Once the operator has been evaluated on a specific size and configuration of crane, that operator may operate other equipment that does not require substantially different skills, knowledge, or ability to recognize and avert risk to operate.
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