In the USA, for example, regulator OSHA recently announced that it is going to interpret the country’s new federal cranes and derricks rule’s mention of certifying operators for the ‘type and capacity’ of cranes they operate to mean that certificates should cover operation of specific capacity cranes.

That has provoked significant concern among crane users in the country: it’s the focus of one of our features next month. Relying on a certificate alone to judge whether an operator can work on a 50t or 1500t crane could, certifiers and crane owners say, add as much as $1bn to industry costs. However, for certification bodies that already issue cards based on practical tests on specific capacity cranes, OSHA’s move has presented an opportunity to argue that their scheme is better.

Even when a country has an operator certification scheme agreed on and running successfully, problems remain. Over the last three years, New Zealand has worked under an approved code of practice that mandates qualifications for operators.

That has meant that the country has, as Crane Association of New Zealand president Grant Moffat told me, an admirable record of training and upskilling operators. But, now, the country’s industry faces the problem of these trained operators being lured to leave the country for the rewards available in Australia’s much bigger economy.

While international crane owners are competing to attract skilled operators trained under schemes like New Zealand’s, certification bodies are competing in new markets to present their approach as a good way to certify operators.

At our most recent event, Cranes Asia in Singapore, we had a presentation from Geoff Holden of LEEA, explaining the work his association is doing to develop the UK-orginated TEAM Card for engineers for international use. At previous events, we’ve had presentations from other groups making similar arguments for their own programmes.

It is undoubtedly a good thing that trainers and certifiers around the world look to learn from, and to influence, the global market. But competition between radically different approaches (or for operators trained under foreign programmes) will only breed confusion. Maybe it is time for the industry to begin working towards an international baseline for assessing operators?

Will North Editor