October 2010 – While OSHA allows for a four-year implementation period for crane operators to be certified under its new rule published in August, the requirements for signalpersons and riggers to be qualified take effect on November 8, 2010, just 90 days after the new rule (29 CFR 1926, Subpart CC) was made final.
While the new OSHA rules state that signalpersons need to be “qualified” (rather than “certified,” like operators), qualification can be either through an accredited certification body such as the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) or through an employer’s qualified evaluator.
OSHA defines “qualified evaluator” as someone who has demonstrated that they are competent in accurately assessing whether individuals meet the qualification requirements in this subpart for a signalperson [§1926.1401]. To be deemed “qualified,” all signalpersons must be tested through a written or oral test and a practical test, and the qualification must be documented. NCCCO Signalperson certification meets all these requirements, so signalpersons currently certified by NCCCO are already in compliance with the new rules.
Similar to signalpersons, riggers must also now meet OSHA’s criteria for a “qualified person” to be considered a “qualified rigger;” however, OSHA does not require testing and documentation, as with signalpersons. A “qualified rigger” is defined as a "qualified person who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated the ability to solve/resolve problems relating to rigging.”
NCCCO certified riggers already meet the new requirements for qualified riggers. The new rules specify that qualified riggers are required during assembly/disassembly of cranes [§1926.1404(r)(1)], when employees are engaged in hooking, unhooking, or guiding the load, or in the initial connection of a load to a component or structure and are within the fall zone [§1926.1425(c)(3)].
Because of the new rule’s detail and extensive preamble, those affected will continue to have questions, so NCCCO is maintaining a list of questions and answers relating to the personnel qualification requirements under the new OSHA standards. These frequently asked questions (FAQs) are continually updated as additional questions arise; references are provided with all answers. Visitors to the NCCCO website at www.nccc.org are invited to submit questions on personnel qualifications issues. Each question will be responded to personally and may also be posted in the FAQ section. NCCCO verifies the answers with OSHA when necessary, but OSHA remains the sole authority for interpretations of federal labor standards and should be consulted accordingly.
Other jurisdictions, such as the city of Philadelphia, are enacting even more stringent requirements than OSHA, requiring not only that operators be certified, but also riggers, and signalpersons. Effective October 10, all tower crane operators—as well as all riggers and signalpersons involved with tower crane operations—working in Philadelphia will be required to be formally trained and certified by NCCCO (or another organization that is NCCA or ANSI accredited and has equivalent testing and certification requirements). NCCCO’s operator, rigger, and signalperson certifications all meet or exceed Philadelphia’s new requirements, even though the city’s new rules go beyond the requirements set forth in the new OSHA rules. Similarly, Pennsylvania’s new state-wide Crane Operator Licensure Act requires a license to operate a crane, effective October 9. Under the act, certification from NCCCO is considered a valid form of certification. The NCCCO website also maintains a state-by-state listing of crane licensing requirements.