OSHA Guide – Cranes and Derricks in Construction

Section 1427 – Operator Qualification and Certification

IMPORTANTOn September 26, 2014, OSHA published a final rule that extends the deadline for crane operator certification in the cranes standard at 29 CFR 1926.1427 for three years, to November 10, 2017 (published in the Federal Register, available at www.regulations.gov). The proposed changes also extend the employer’s duty to ensure that operators are competent to operate the crane safely for the same three year period. During this extension, OSHA will consider addressing operator qualification through additional rule making. OSHA will provide updated information about the crane operator certification and qualification requirements as it becomes available at www.osha.gov/cranes-derricks.

Q1: What must employers do before the operator certification requirements go into effect to ensure the competency of their operators?

A1: Employers must ensure that equipment operators are competent through training and experience to operate the equipment safely (see 2CFR 1926.1427(k)(2)). If an employee assigned to operate a crane does not have the required knowledge or ability to operate the equipment safely, the employer must train that employee before allowing him or her to operate the equipment and must evaluate the operator to confirm that he/she understands the information provided in the training (see 29 CFR1926.1427(f) training requirements).

Q2: Does OSHA require operators to be certified under existing state, county, or city licensing programs?

A2: The answer depends on whether the licensing criteria meets the minimum requirements (“federal floor”) in 29 CFR 1926.1427(e)(2) and (j). If a state or local jurisdiction has a licensing program that meets the federal floor, OSHA requires the employer to ensure that all operators operating within that jurisdiction are licensed by that state or local jurisdiction, unless they are qualified by the U.S. Military (see 1926.1427(a)(1)). This requirement went into effect in November 2010. Note, however, that the crane standard’s operator certification requirements do not supersede state or local licensing laws. If the licensing program does not meet the federal floor, OSHA does not require operators to be licensed in accordance with that program, although the operator may still be subject to action by the state or local authority for failure to comply with its requirements.

Q3: Who will determine if a state or local operator certification process meets the “Federal floor” requirements in new 29 CFR 1926.1427?

A3: Initially, states or local governments are responsible for determining if a state or local operator certification program meets the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.1427(e)(2)(i-ii). OSHA does not require compliance with a state or local licensing requirement unless the state or local authority that oversees the licensing department/ office assesses that program and determines that it meets the minimum requirements in 1926.1427(e)(2)(i) and (ii), including satisfying the substantive testing criteria of 1926.1427(j) through written and practical tests and providing testing procedures for re-licensing. OSHA does not intend to require compliance with a state or local licensing requirement absent a public statement by the authority with oversight responsibility for the licensing office that the licensing program meets OSHA's minimum requirements and the reason for that determination. However, OSHA has the final authority in determining that the program meets minimum OSHA requirements.

Q4: Is the option for qualification by the U.S. Military available to employees of private contractors working under contract to the Department of Defense?

A4: No. This option is only available to civilian and uniformed employees of the Department of Defense. When the operator certification requirements are in effect, private contractors must use one of the other options for operator certification/qualification available under 29 CFR 1926.1427.