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Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1926.1427; 1926.1427(a); 1926.1427(j)

This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any situation not delineated within the original correspondence.

August 31, 2012

Mr. James T. Callahan
General President
International Union of Operating Engineers
1125 Seventeenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036-4707

Re: Cranes; Operator Certification; 1926.1427(b)(2)(iv) and (e)(2)(iv); Whether a practical test is required for recertification.

Dear Mr. Callahan,

Thank you for your April 6, 2011 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in which your former president, Vincent Giblin, asks for guidance regarding the application of Subpart CC of 29 CFR Part 1926, Cranes and Derricks in Construction. More specifically, you ask whether an independent testing organization's recertification of a crane operator could meet the requirements of 1926.1427 if the recertification process includes a minimum number of hours of crane experience in place of a practical exam. The answer is yes.

OSHA requires employers to ensure that their crane operators are certified (29 CFR 1926.1427), which mandates that the operator demonstrate sufficient knowledge and skill through both written and practical tests. See § 1926.1427(a). With respect to the independent certification programs addressed in your letter, OSHA does not specify different requirements for recertification of operators who have already been certified, stating only that the testing organization certification program must have "testing procedures for recertification designed to ensure that the operator continues to meet the technical knowledge and skills requirements in paragraphs (j)(1) and (2)" of § 1926.1427. § 1926.1427(b)(1)(iv); see also §§ 1926.1427(c)(4) (parallel requirement for audited certification program administered by employers) and (e)(2)(iv) (parallel requirement for certification administered by government entities).1

As you note, OSHA intended this provision to be a performance-based requirement that provides some flexibility to the nationally recognized accrediting agency and the testing organizations it accredits to determine the appropriate recertification testing procedures. OSHA explained in the preamble to the proposed rule that the negotiated rulemaking committee that developed the provision "believed that testing for recertification would not need to be as rigorous as for initial certification," and that the recertification language in the rule "was therefore included so that recertification procedures appropriate for those who have already been certified would be available." 73 Fed. Reg. 59714, 59812 (Oct. 9, 2008). OSHA adopted the language without change in the final rule and without further explanation. 75 Fed. Reg. 47906, 58019 (Aug. 9, 2010).

The Agency notes that the recertification procedures must still ensure that the operator possesses the "technical knowledge and skills requirements" in § 1926.1427(j)(1) and (2). Paragraph (j)(2) requires:

A determination through a practical test that the individual has the skills necessary for safe operation of the equipment, including the following:
  (i) Ability to recognize, from visual and auditory observation, the items listed in § 1926.1412(d) (shift inspection).
  (ii) Operational and maneuvering skills.
  (iii) Application of load chart information.
  (iv) Application of safe shut-down and securing procedures.

While the Agency contemplated that recertification could be less rigorous than the initial certification process, at a minimum, there must be some valid assessment of the operator's performance during the time following the previous certification, such as completing the requisite number of hours without any incident that would call into question the operator's skills in the specified areas. In order to provide an effective measurement of the operator's current technical knowledge and skills, as required by § 1927.1427(j), OSHA recommends that any determinations based on demonstrated experience should factor in how recent the operating experience is and count only time spent operating a crane and not time accrued while performing other crane-related activities. Ultimately, however, when a nationally recognized accrediting agency determines that a requisite number of equipment-operation hours are sufficient for verifying an individual's operating skills, no practical exam would be needed for recertification purposes.

Please note that in addition to the practical exam, the recertification process must:

  1. include a written exam that meets the requirements of § 1926.1427(j)(1);
  2. be for the same crane type and capacity for which the operator was previously certified;
  3. be for an operator who has not otherwise demonstrated during the previous certification period that he or she lacks the required knowledge or ability to operate the equipment safely; and
  4. satisfy all of the other applicable requirements of the cranes standard.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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 and to view all OSHA's standards, you can 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.


James G. Maddux, Director
Directorate of Construction

1  Note that it is inherent in the meaning of "recertification" that an operator hold a valid certification at the time of "recertification." Employers must ensure that each of its operators obtains a new certificate through the initial certification process if that operator's certificate has expired.   [Return to Text]

Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents

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