OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.

April 20, 2016

Mr. Hershell H. Peck
2834 Rod Schaffe
San Antonio, Texas 78219

Re: Cranes; 29 C.F.R. § 1926.1427; crane operators; certification.

Dear Mr. Peck:

Thank you for your December 4, 2014 letter to the U.S. Department of Labor, which has been forwarded to the Directorate of Construction of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a response. In your letter, you question whether time restrictions in the testing methods used by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) for its crane operator certification programs are prohibited by OSHA standards that require that crane operators must be certified or qualified to operate cranes beginning in November, 2017. See 29 C.F.R. § 1926.1427(b).

You state that you have been operating cranes since 1974 and have never had a crane incident resulting in injury, and you describe yourself as a cautious crane operator who has a "heaping load of common sense" and takes his time calculating lifts. You have also worked as a superintendent on several construction projects. You recently took the written portion of an NCCCO crane-certification test. You passed the "Core Test," but you failed the "Specialty Test." According to your letter, you believe you failed the Specialty Test–which you took using a computer–because you "freeze[] up" in testing situations and are relatively unfamiliar with using computers, which resulted in you "struggl[ing] to complete the tests on time." You disagree with NCCCO's decision to include time limits on load calculations during the test, which you believe could create an unsafe work environment on an active construction site.

Under 29 C.F.R. § 1926.1418, crane operators may refuse to handle loads when a safety concern exists. Employers must also ensure that operators comply with manufacturer procedures, including compliance with the rated capacity for the equipment and the proper application of load chart information. See 29 C.F.R. § 1926.1417(a) and (o). On a jobsite, if an operator does not have sufficient time to make required calculations using information from the load chart to perform his or her job, it would constitute a safety concern.

However, OSHA's crane-operator-certification requirements neither require nor prohibit crane operator testing organizations from setting time limits for completing a crane-certification test. As long as workers are not exposed to occupational safety or health hazards during the testing process, time limits on answering test questions do not appear to affect workplace safety. We note that NCCCO's literature indicates that it allows test takers to request an accommodation in the event that he or she has a disability preventing him or her from completing the test within the prescribed time limits. We suggest that you raise your concerns with NCCCO and its accrediting organization. We also note that NCCCO is not the only organization that provides certification testing for crane operators.

OSHA is sensitive to experienced operators, like you, who may have difficulty with the testing process. OSHA notes that operators who have difficulty with the testing process may continue to operate cranes under supervision in accordance with the operator-in-training requirements specified in § 1926.1427(f).

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA's requirements are set by statutes, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements; they instead explain existing requirements and how those requirements apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed herein. From time to time, letters are affected when OSHA updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To ensure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Directorate of Construction at (202) 693-2020.

Sincerely,

 

Dean McKenzie, Acting Director
Directorate of Construction