Training is pivotal for crane operators all over the world. But there is a wide historic disparity in how their skills are assessed and certified. In the US, some cities and states have local schemes, and there is an on-going (25- year) programme to develop a national scheme, via the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO). Roles are defined in the ASME standard B30.5:2007; a revision of its 2004 standard, it assigned responsibility for many aspects of crane operations to several different parties.

Graham Brent, chief executive officer at NCCCO explains that for Lift Director, the listed responsibilities in B30.5 were a major factor in developing the content outline of NCCCO’s certification scheme. “At the time of development, B30.5 was really the only authoritative source that defined Lift Director along with B30.3 for tower cranes,” Brent says. “While Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does somewhat define the qualifications of a Lift Director and when they should be used, B30.5 is far more expansive in defining that particular role. Also, a major component of the LD testing is related to the individual roles and responsibilities of personnel that the Lift Director interacts with.

“Lift Director certification primarily addresses the roles of the crane owner, site supervisor, and lift director, in the exam items. It does also address riggers and signalpersons, but it is probably far more focused on the OSHA requirements than B30.5 in regards to those roles.

“The Lift Director program, particularly in the lift plan scenario questions, also addresses things like optimal and safe placement of personnel such as the signalperson. “With respect to the Signalperson program, roles and responsibilities are tested in a more limited manner. The lift director would probably be the primary “non-operator” that gets referenced on the exam. The utility owner and dedicated spotter also are periodically referenced, though a dedicated spotter is technically also signalperson. Overall, for Signalperson, while B30.5 does address signal persons, OSHA’s requirements and assigned responsibilities are more expansive, and I think more influential in any recent revisions of the program and exams.”

Regarding Riggers, exams include questions related to the B30.5’s listed responsibilities for Lift Director. In the EU, there is a project underway to develop a European Crane Operators’ Licence (ECOL).

As managing director of Wagenborg Nedlift, director of mobile crane association ESTA and the leader of the ECOL project, Ton Klijn explains that the ECOL system is only geared for mobile crane operators.

“We envisage that in future there will be more categories of licenses developed, such as tower crane operator, or an operator license for a big lattice boom crane with a luffing fly jib,” Klijn says.

“However, in order not to complicate the whole exercise too much, we decided to start with this one license first. Personally I think the next license we would want to develop is a rigger and slinger certificate. This would be based on the experience that a large number of incidents with lifting on construction sites find their cause in faulty rigging methods. It is also our ambition to do a training course for supervisory personnel on lifting operations, but this will be in a later stage.”

Peter Brown, technical manager at the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) explains that there are variations in training in every country and skill requirements are different as well.

“The ECOL programme is combining the skills and knowledge requirements from each country involved in the project, although the starting point was the learning outcomes from the UK’s premier plant certification scheme, CPCS,”

Brown says. “In the UK some companies already bring cranes or equipment over from other countries and for the specialist equipment, they may bring over the drivers. However, they may need UK certificates because the UK contractors specify UK-based certification, predominately due to the need to have local health and safety knowledge. The aim of the ECOL programme is to minimise the burden on the employer in terms of re-certification for each country.”

Regarding rigging operations in the UK, there is no a “formal qualification” for mobile cranes such as crawlers and mobiles. Brown says: “Rigging operations are usually carried out by trained plant mechanics who become specialist in these activities. The exception being tower cranes where, in the UK, a specialist training programme and competence-based qualification has been available for tower cranes operators and was devised by the tower crane employers through the CPA.

“In terms of slinging, this is a separate occupation and is one of the supporting roles within a lifting team. Formal training and certification for slingers goes back to the early 1990s from which large numbers have been certificated since.”

For apprenticeships, the UK government has introduced the newstyle ‘trailblazers’. “The main changes from the previous apprenticeships is the fact that employers devise the training content and assessment process for each occupation and advise how it should be delivered as well,” Brown says. “We are supporting our employers for a lifting technician apprenticeship at the CPA. In terms of formal training, this is the person who will operate a tower, crawler or mobile crane. Lifting technicians also have a slinging duty, so it’s a combined role. Employers are also asking for an apprenticeship for the crane installer and this is being looked into.”

CPA training and safety manager Robert Squires explains that, “The benefits of certification are essentially related to legal duties and safety”. Employers have to ensure employees are correctly trained for the roles, and that they are competent to carry out their duties within the workplace.

Brown adds, “The one thing about the UK is that there is no requirement through legislation and regulations to mandate any particular form or length of training, only that sufficient training has been carried out.

“But the construction industry has a voluntary certification programme through card schemes, where any card used in the construction sector needs to have a CSCS logo. To get the CSCS logo, the card schemes should have a national competence qualification as attainment criteria.

“These competent qualifications are based on National Occupation Standards and these standards are devised by industry. Anybody who devises a competence-based qualification such as a national or Scottish vocational qualification, should use these standards as a basis.

“The key thing about vocational qualification is that it’s not a training qualification. It’s actually an evidence-based qualification. That means the person has proven that they can do the job in that workplace against the standards.”

Brown says the biggest challenge for the construction industry is to entice new people to work in it. “Many plant employers are trying their best to show the opportunity of career progression in the construction industry.”

“Working as a crane operator can be hard due to long hours and the travelling involved but for many, good salaries are being paid. Some employers have gone into schools and shown the young people how machinery such as a crane operates. This kind of activities could stimulate children’s interest in the construction industry. As there are no age limits for the apprenticeships, we are even involving people in their 30s or 40s. “Another challenge for us in getting new people into industry is that we need trainers to do these training courses. Most of the trainers, like the crane operators, are getting older, with more retiring. It however is the soon-to-retire crane operators that would make good trainers, able to share their strong experience with trainees.”

Squires says the UK government has recently introduced an apprenticeship levy. Employers have to pay a percentage of the wages bill to the government to support the apprenticeships. However, they can claim the funding back to pay for apprenticeships, with additional funds paid for those up to 18 years of age. The funding applies to employers who have a total wage bill of below ?3m, with those below this threshold able to claim up to 90% of the cost of apprenticeship by the government. The amount to be claimed by the employer is capped by the government for each apprenticeship.

“The other source of funding is an organisation called Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and the Sector Skills Council for the construction industry in England, Scotland and Wales. The aim of CITB is to work with the construction industry to encourage training, which helps build a safe, professional and qualified workforce.

“There is a levy system, based on your PAYE staff members, and employers have to pay a percentage in terms of levy to the government. They can draw down grants to support their workforce to support training in accordance with their own business training plan.”

“The presence of two levies is some concern across the construction industry,” Squires says. “Specifically, there is the traditional CITB levy grant payment system, which has existed since 1964, but now the addition of the apprenticeship levy is to fund solely the apprenticeship side. This new funding system started in April 2017, so a lot of employers in the crane industry still have to adapt themselves to the new rules.”

In terms of lift planning the appointed person plans the lift with the lift supervisor who is responsible for supervising the lifting operation. In certain circumstances these roles can be combined and allocated to the same person.

According to the UK’s Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER), the lift has to be properly planned and properly supervised. There are National Occupation Standards for both roles, supported by qualifications and card schemes.

Brown says: “The training qualification applies to all cranes, as the same principles apply. For the competence qualifications each crane type is listed and you need to provide evidence of your experience on each type of crane that you need on the certificate. A lift planner doesn’t necessarily need to be present at the lift itself and they can delegate the duty of the supervisor to somebody else, but they remain legally responsible if something goes wrong or if the plan needs to change. The lift planner however has to inform the supervisor of how the lift needs to be undertaken. It is expected that the lift planner should be on site on a complex-type lift such as two cranes working in tandem.”

Squires adds that they are encouraging the career progression such as from a crane operator to the lift supervisor, and eventually up to the lift planner.

According to LOLER the lift has to be properly planned and supervised. As legislation says the job must be done safely, the CPA and its members help define the skills for things like the National Occupational standards to provide that information that is consistent for our industry.

Australian license programme

Brandon Hitch, chief executive officer at the Crane Industry Council of Australia (CICA) explains that Australia has a license program. CICA advocates for the use of a certification program that is in the form of a two-year Certificate III in Construction Crane Operations (CPC32912).

However, most doggers (banksmen), riggers, and crane operators get a license that can be achieved in three to five days. The Certificate III pathway is CICA’s recommendation for industry. Within the program the relevant licenses are obtained through on the job training and the assessment is completed by at Registered Training Organisation when the employer deems the trainee ready to take the license exam, not on day three or day five. CICA has shown intent in offering a scholarship program where CICA pays for the first license obtained in the Traineeship program for a number of trainees in each state.

“The license programme is developed through the use of a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) made up of subject matter experts from industry,” Hitch says. “This TAG then feeds their recommendation to an industry reference group that is made up of industry employer groups, trade unions, and regulators for review and endorsement. The content for each license is made up of two components: general topics of skills training that the TAG considers important to perform work safely as authorised under the Work Health and Safety Regulations and a specific set of questions with accompanying answers that are to be successfully completed by each applicant in order to receive the license. The registered training organisations are typically separate entities from a crane hire company, so the equipment or training environment may not be representative of the equipment in use by employers.”

Hitch adds that the Traineeship pathway is CICA’s recommended pathway for a safer industry, but it has not received traction because the two-year timeframe for the traineeship is competing with a career path of three-five days. CICA is introducing CrewSafe, a new program that will provide machine-specific validation of operation competency. CrewSafe can provide assurance to crane hirers or their customers that operators have demonstrated the ability to safely operate specific cranes. CrewSafe can be the capstone achieved during the traineeship because the trainee is working with employer’s equipment or the follow-up after a license is obtained from a random RTO. “CICA believes that a certification program (traineeship) provides practical skills, through repetition, using real life job scenarios and working under a mentor improves the safety in industry.” Safety has improved in several ways including the decision-making by using reallife scenarios under supervision of a senior member of a working crane crew; external influences at the job site are part of the training environment; training is being provided by mentors that are working beside you, so a sense of comradely and “look after each other” is formed.

Hitch also explains how a certification programme for these skills can help promoting a career in lifting.

“Making the distinction that the Certification III Traineeship is different than a license, I think that going through a program over two years requires a commitment born out of genuine interest in the industry,” Hitch says. “Having a pathway of three or five days creates a genuine interest to make more money. I don’t believe these statistics exist in Australia, but the number of people that get a license after having another trade would be quite high. This is an uphill battle for the Certificate III that would lead to a career in lifting when there are multiple exit points from the Certificate III Traineeship program to just obtain a license and get paid more. Testimony from companies that have trainees indicate that the existing employees that went only through the license path see the increased knowledge and experience that the trainees are receiving. The traineeship isn’t just about dogging, rigging, and crane operation, but other skills like reading drawings, working at heights, scheduling, etc. “CICA is working with members to create a program of standardised documents. CICA has created standardised lift plans and lifting equipment registers for members to use. These standardised documents are going to be utilised in the Certification III Traineeship program to familiarise trainees at their point of introduction to the industry.”

New Zealand qualifications

The Crane Association of New Zealand (CANZ) was founded in 1975 and is the national organisation representing companies that own cranes of all types. The association is focused on training and safety and is continuously raising the standards within the crane industry.

The Crane Safety Manual has been rewritten and the Approved Code of Practice for Pressure Equipment, Cranes and Passenger Ropeways Regulations 1999 is to be re-written late 2017, early 2018. The association works together with the Skills Organisation regularly reviewing the qualifications and unit standards. The New Zealand Certificate qualifications are under review and should be confirmed by the end of 2017.

CANZ chief executive Rodney Auton explains that they produced a guide to “NZ Crane Industry Qualifications” in conjunction with their Industry Training Organisation Skills, which explains the qualification process. “We currently have a competency assessment that is conducted as part of the formal training and also as an individual company process that ensures qualification and competency. The construction industry as a whole is in the process of developing a verification of the competency programme that the crane industry will participate in. We have approached the regulatory authorities about licencing crane operators but in an election year there is very little political will to add compliance and so we are researching other options to achieve a rise in crane operator standards.”

CANZ and the Skills Organisation have developed the crane industry qualifications. The industry’s training framework consists of 37 unit standards, which are combined to form eight different NZ Certificates. Many of the unit standards can be cross-credited between different qualifications.The certificate in crane supervision includes planning and managing skills. The supervisor has to plan and manage the resources required for crane work including scheduling the resources and supervision of crane activities on the worksite; plan and manage complex crane lifts, and direct all members of the team during the lift; carry out risk assessment and hazard identification procedures in the crane workplace for workers, operators, and the work site