National Commission for the
Certification of Crane Operators
Committed to Quality, Integrity, and Fairness in Testing since 1995


Industry Resources

New Federal Rule for Cranes in Construction

Your Questions on Personnel Qualifications Answered Here

Crane Operator Qualifications

Will all crane operators need to be certified nationwide?

Operators of most cranes above 2,000 lb. capacity when used in construction will need to be either certified by an accredited crane operator testing organization, such as the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO), or qualified through an audited employer program [§ 1926.1427(a)].

Where in the rule can I find this information?

Section 1926.1427 of the new rule describes crane operator certification/qualification requirements. Option 1, which is anticipated to be the most commonly used, requires operators to be certified by a nationally accredited crane operator testing organization that tests operators through written and practical testing and providing levels of certification based on equipment capacity and type.

I am currently a CCO certified crane operator, what do I need to do?

Nothing. CCO certification provided by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) fully meets the new OSHA rule. This applies to certifications of operators of all the crane types NCCCO currently offers (Mobile Cranes, Tower Cranes, Overhead Cranes, Articulating Cranes). 

How does OSHA define a "crane" in the new rule?

The standard defines a crane as "power-operated equipment that, when used in construction, can hoist, lower, and horizontally move a suspended load" [§ 1926.1400]. updated 10/15/10

Operators of which cranes are included in this rule?

Cranes covered by the rule, when used in construction applications, include: mobile cranes, crawler cranes, tower cranes, boom trucks, articulating boom (knuckleboom) cranes, floating cranes, cranes on barges, and locomotive cranes. Also included are industrial cranes (such as carry decks), pile drivers, service/mechanic trucks with a hoisting device, monorails, pedestal cranes, portal cranes, overhead and gantry cranes, straddle cranes, and variations of such equipment. It also includes multipurpose machines when configured to hoist and lower (by means of a winch or hook) and horizontally move a suspended load [§ 1926.1400].

How about articulating cranes (knucklebooms)?

When used purely to deliver materials, articulating/knuckleboom truck cranes are excluded. However, when they are used to hold, support, or stabilize material to facilitate a construction activity, or they are handling prefabricated components (such as roof trusses or wall panels) or structural steel, they are covered by the new rule [§ 1926.1400(c)(17)]. See the NCCCO Articulating Crane Operator Certification Requirement flowchart for guidance on whether certification is required for your particular job.

How about cranes with attachments?

The rule applies to cranes when used with attachments such as hooks, magnets, grapples, clamshell buckets, orange peel buckets, concrete buckets, draglines, personnel platforms, augers or drills, and pile driving equipment, whether attached to the crane or suspended [§ 1926.1400(b)].

Are any lifting devices excluded?

OSHA has excluded many lifting devices, among them: excavators, backhoes (even when used to lift suspended loads), concrete pumps, aerial lifts, tow trucks, digger derricks, gantry systems, and forklifts. All tree trimming and tree removal work is also excluded [§ 1926.1400(c)].

However, in some circumstances, many of these normally excluded from the new rules can be included when used for certain specialized tasks. For more information, please consult OSHA 1926.1400(c) Exclusions. updated 09/24/10

If I am not yet certified, when is the deadline?

The rule was published in the Federal Register on August 9, 2010, and took effect November 8, 2010. There is a four-year compliance period for the crane operator certification/qualification requirement, i.e., employers must be in compliance by November 10, 2017 [§ 1926.1427(k)]. updated 10/31/14

How is my state license affected?

Option 4 of the personnel requirements of the new rule allows states with their own programs to continue requiring a license as long as their exams are at least as strict as the federal rule. This includes requirements such as written and practical tests and providing levels of certification based on equipment and capacity and type. These jurisdictions have six months from the date of publication in the Federal Register to come into compliance. Most state and city programs recognize CCO certification [§ 1926.1427(e)]. updated 1/26/11

If I am not certified, can I still operate cranes?

If you are not certified, you may only operate cranes covered under the rule after November 10, 2017, if you meet OSHA’s definition of an “operator-in-training,” which includes having received sufficient training from your employer to operate the crane safely and being continuously monitored by an “operator’s trainer.” There are also restrictions on the types of lifts you can make. [§ 1926.1427(f)]. updated 10/31/14

Do I have to be tested in English?

OSHA permits tests to be administered in any language the operator understands, but there are conditions. The certification card must note the language used on the test, and all the materials that are required to be on the crane (e.g., operations manual) must be in the same language as the test [§ 1926.1427(h)(2)].

Does OSHA specify what the written and practical crane operator tests must include?

Yes. OSHA lists the information necessary for the safe operation of the type of crane to be operated for the written test, and it outlines which skills the practical exams must test [§ 1926.1427(j)].

I operate cranes for a crane company contracted to do military work. Am I covered by the military option for qualifying crane operators?

No. The so-called “Option 3” only covers employees of the United States military (Department of Defense or Armed Services). All contractor companies with crane operators on site need to meet the certification, qualification, or state licensing requirements listed [§ 1926.1427(d)(1)].

I work in general industry as a crane operator. Do I need to be certified?

OSHA 1926.1400 covers cranes in construction only. For crane work in general industry, refer to OSHA 1910.180. There are no federal operator certification requirements at this moment in general industry [§ 1926.1400(a)]. updated 01/26/11

How does this rule affect electric utility personnel that operate digger derricks and small cranes (e.g., 15 ton) on power line construction?

Digger derricks are specifically excluded from the new rule when used for auguring holes for poles carrying electric and telecommunication lines [§ 1926.1400(c)(4)]. Note that when used in other construction lifting duties, digger derricks are not excluded [Preamble p.70]. updated 1/26/11

I operate a crane with a maximum lifting capacity of 10 tons, but I never pick up loads larger than 1,500 lb. Do I need to be certified?

The exclusion for cranes of 2,000 lb. and below refers to the maximum manufacturer-rated capacity. Even if you lift lighter loads, it is the crane’s maximum-rated capacity that must be 2,000 lb. or less for you to be exempt from the requirements of 1926.1427. Employers are still responsible for training their operators on the safe operation of the type of equipment the operator will be using [§ 1926.1441(e)].

Are sideboom cranes and derricks covered by the new standard?

Yes, sideboom cranes and derricks do fall within the scope of 1926 Subpart CC. However, the operator certification requirements in OSHA 1926.1427 do not apply to these two specific types of cranes [§ 1926.1436(q) & 1440(a)]. posted 12/12/11

Do operators of a dedicated drilling rig need to become certified or qualified?

Dedicated drilling rigs are specifically excluded from the requirements in 1926 Subpart CC. This would exclude them from the operator certification requirement as well [§ 1926.1400(c)(11)]. posted 12/12/11

Signalperson Qualifications

Do signal persons need to be certified?

While the rule states that signal persons need to be qualified (rather than certified) by a "qualified evaluator," certification by an organization such as NCCCO meets this requirement.  Qualification can be either through a third-party qualified evaluator (such as an accredited certification body) or through an employer’s qualified evaluator. All signal persons must be qualified and tested through a written or oral test and a practical test, and the qualification must be documented [§ 1926.1428].

All workers who will participate in signaling or flagging a crane, giving direction as to where and what will be lifted, must be qualified when:

  • Point of operation is not in full view of the operator
  • View of direction of travel is obstructed
  • Site-specific safety condition

[§ 1926.1419] updated 1/26/11

I am currently a CCO-certified signal person, what do I need to do?

Nothing. As an CCO-certified signal person, you have already met the requirements of the new federal rule.

I am a CCO-certified crane operator. Do I also need to meet the signal person qualification requirements?

As long as you are not giving hand or voice signals to another operator, you do not need to be qualified as a signal person. CCO crane operator exams cover hand signals from the operator’s perspective. If you will be out of the seat and giving signals, however, then NCCCO strongly recommends that you become certified through NCCCO in the appropriate program(s). Please visit the signal person and rigger sections of the NCCCO website for more information. updated 10/15/10

As a trainer do I need to be accredited by OSHA to teach rigger and signal person training courses?

OSHA does not require trainers to be accredited to teach rigger or signal person training.  However, a "qualified evaluator" is required (either third-party or employer) to determine that a signal person (but not a rigger) meets qualification requirements. posted 8/18/10

What does OSHA mean by a "qualified evaluator"?

Under section 1926.1428(a), OSHA requires that signal persons be evaluated by a qualified evaluator. Under section 1926.1401 Definitions, OSHA defines this as someone who has demonstrated that they are competent to accurately assess whether individuals meet the qualification requirements in this subpart for a signal person. OSHA does not have a requirement for a qualified evaluator for riggers. posted 8/18/10

Rigger Qualifications

Do riggers need to be certified?

Riggers need to be qualified rather than certified. 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. updated 1/26/11

I am currently an CCO-certified rigger, what do I need to do?

Nothing, as long as the level of rigging certification is appropriate to the type and complexity of rigging being performed. Personnel with a CCO Rigger Level I certification will meet OSHA's requirements for many common rigging tasks. For more complex rigging, personnel may require a CCO Rigger Level II certification to be considered qualified under the new federal rule. updated 1/26/11

When is the deadline to be qualified as a signal person and/or rigger?

All signal persons and riggers must be qualified as of the effective date of the rule, November 8, 2010. There is no additional compliance period as there is for crane operators.

Do riggers need a test and documentation like signal persons?

Riggers must meet OSHA’s criteria for a “qualified person” to be considered a “qualified rigger,” and while they still need to be trained (and therefore evaluated), they do not have the same specified requirements for testing and documentation as signal persons [§ 1926.1401 “Definitions”]. updated 10/15/10

When is a qualified rigger needed?

A qualified rigger is needed during assembly/disassembly of cranes, 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. [§ 1926.1404; 1926.1425].

Other Questions

Will NCCCO be reviewing its examinations to ensure they meet the new OSHA requirements?

Yes. Each of NCCCO’s seven Exam Management Committees have reviewed their respective written and practical exams to ensure all CCO tests are fully in compliance with the new rule.

What is the difference between cranes in general industry vs. construction? We are a crane rental company and do jobs in a lot of different environments.

If crane work does not fall under one of the special standards, such as Construction or Maritime, then OSHA usually considers it to fall under general industry (29 CFR 1910.180). OSHA generally considers construction to include the building, altering, or repairing of new or existing structures. Construction work also includes demolition and deconstruction of a portion or all of a structure. Maintenance may also be considered construction depending on its complexity and scope. Since similar work can fall into either category depending on the exact nature of the job, the general approach often adopted is: Go with the stricter standard. [See pp. 23-24 for OSHA's further interpretation of "construction" vs. "maintenance."] updated 1/26/11

Have a question that hasn't been addressed above? Email NCCCO’s Personnel Rule Task Force.

This information is provided as a public service by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO). Although every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in this response, no responsibility can be assumed by NCCCO for errors. OSHA remains the sole authority for interpretations of federal labor standards and should be consulted accordingly.

OSHA Fact Sheets

Subpart CC - Cranes and Derricks in Construction:

updated 7/24/14